Like other books we have read in this course, Dancing in the Baron’s Shadow and

Like other books we have read in this course, Dancing in the Baron’s Shadow and Dog Heart are set in the Caribbean. Both books highlight the impact of social forces from outside upon the inner lives of our main characters. In fact, in these texts (as in others) we can clearly see how such forces shape the lives of the characters and propel the action of the plots of both novels. In Dancing in the Baron’s Shadow, the Duvalier regime is the driving force propelling the actions of Raymond as he attempts to free his brother from Ft. Dimanche. That point is clear and, arguably, unambiguous. However, in Dog Heart, the actions or inactions of the state (or the system) are less obvious in their immediate impact upon Dexter’s life, but no less insidious or life shaping.
I am hoping that in removing these overtly political issues from the USA context, students will be able to look closely at the ways in which politics, poverty, classism, colorism, racism and gender intersect to create social oppression that leads to criminality in Jamaica and Haiti, as in the USA and elsewhere. Furthermore, for this essay, I want us to look at maleness and/or manhood as gender constructs that are no less important than womanhood or femaleness, which is where our focus has been thus far. How does masculinity as a gender construct intersect with other social constructs such as race, class, ethnicity, color, etc. to predetermine life outcomes and expectations for our main characters in these two books? For example, the Tonton Macoutes, some of whom are the prison guards we meet in Ft. Dimanche, are impoverished Haitian men who find their sense of manhood and power as well as their livelihood in working as strongmen for the Duvalier regime. Though born in the same social class, Raymond and his brother, eventually come to belong to two different social classes due to certain choices they made earlier in life. Raymond is a taxi driver and his brother is a college professor. Even within their own intimate familial settings it is clear to see which brother is most respected and which one has to struggle for respect and/or to define himself within the patriarchal framework where notions of manhood are tied to the role of economic provider and family protector.
In Dog Heart, where there is no man present in either Sahara’s middle class household or in Dexter’s inner city home, the issues vis-a-vis masculinity and class may be even more complexly nuanced. Dexter and his brother have no stable or positive male role models, whatsoever. Sahara’s son’s dad is missing for most of the plot, but when he appears towards the end he becomes a positive influence for his son. Dexter becomes disillusioned with school (his only avenue to class ascendancy) because no matter how hard he tries, he is unable to transcend the stereotypes middle class Jamaicans impose upon him as a dark-skinned male child from the Jamaican ghetto. He finally gives in to the streets and joins a gang with the intention of finding his manhood there rather than continuing on the path of class ascendancy via education which he views as futile because he is not the son of the Jamaican middle or upper classes.
Based on the above discussion you can go in several directions for this thesis. Below, I am giving you two possibilities to choose from. Take papers to the writing center to get help with thesis building, support for your argument from both primary and secondary sources, as well as revising and editing for grammar, coherence, punctuation, etc. https://case.fiu.edu/writingcenter/ (Links to an external site.)
Prompt 1: You may pick a character from each book and discuss how social forces beyond their control determine their life choices and/or outcomes within each novel. Please be specific in your thesis statement. Identify two or three social forces to provide a roadmap for the reader as to how you intend to build your argument. For example, in Dog Heart, if you want to look at how state sanctioned violence overdetermine economic and social outcomes for individuals as well as families you may look at the rigid class structure in Jamaican society that informs where Dexter and his mother may live, work and even shop–as opposed to Sahara and her son who may move about the society without restrictions. What impact does this class division that is sanctioned by the Jamaican society have upon impoverished Jamaicans? How does it affect their self-esteem and, ultimately, their life choices and outcomes? This may not seem to be a fair comparison to the more obvious state violence of the Duvalier regime in Dancing in Baron’s Shadow, but the point is to compare socially and/or state sanctioned violence of different kinds in nuanced ways in order to see how they may impact individual life choices and outcomes. In other words, political violence is one form of violence and economic violence is another, but they often intersect. They may be separated by degrees of severity, but both may have profound social and personal impact upon the lives of citizens of a given state. Take my previous comments and feedback on your papers into consideration. I do look to see if you are making the same mistakes from paper to paper. https://case.fiu.edu/writingcenter/ (Links to an external site.)
Prompt 2: Formulate a thesis looking at how notions of manhood are defined in both books and how gender constructs around masculinity intersect with notions of class, race and color to determine personal and/or political or social outcomes for two characters, one (or two) from Baron’s Shadow and one (or no more than two) from Dog Heart. Colorism is clearly an issue in Dog Heart and no less so than in the film Shadeism or in the first book we read, The Bluest Eye. However, we never looked at the implications of this issue for boys. This book gives us an opportunity to see how colorism applies in a society that where economic status is tied to light skin privilege for both genders. Do a google search on skin-bleaching in Jamaican society and you will see what I mean. Take my previous comments and feedback into consideration. I do look to see if you are making the same mistakes from paper to paper.
Prompt 3: You may come up with your own independent and original thesis statement, but follow the guidelines below. Take my previous comments and feedback into consideration. I do look to see if you are making the same mistakes from paper to paper.
Plagiarism is strictly prohibited and using any part of someone else’s writing without giving credit will result in a ZERO on your paper and/or an official report to the Student Conduct Office if this behavior persists. This applies to all students and to all sources used even if you paid to download a source from the internet. When in doubt about whether you are properly citing a source, please take the paper to the Writing Center and get help.
You will turn in a total of 6 Response Papers for this course. Response papers should be 2-3 pages double-spaced. (Times New Roman/12 point-please limit papers to 3 pages if you want me to read and return these to you in a timely fashion). You need an introductory paragraph and a well-developed and coherently written thesis statement (all skills you were taught in 1101/1102 and ENG 2012) which should act as a roadmap to the points you plan to cover in your argument. All subsequent paragraphs should begin with strong topic sentences, and clear transitional phrases between paragraphs, and must support your thesis statement using examples from the novels and secondary sources. You are required to write on at least 2 primary sources (novels) from our reading list and a minimum of two secondary sources per Response Paper, one per novel. In other words, both secondary sources should not be on the same book. Use the MLA guidelines for citing sources (quotation, paraphrasing, and Works Cited).
This Bridge Called My Back, Feminism is for Everybody, and Sister Outsider are excellent secondary sources for the themes we will cover in this class and so are the two documentaries. However, you are not limited to these texts as secondary source material. You may also find articles on the individual novels from Project Muse, MLA, First Search, and other research databases on the FIU Library system.) Do not rely on google for secondary sources.
Plagiarism is strictly prohibited and using any part of someone else’s writing without giving credit will result in a ZERO on your paper and/or an official report to the Student Conduct Office if this behavior persists. This applies to all students and to all sources used even if you paid to download a source from the internet. When in doubt about whether you are properly citing a source, please take the paper to the Writing Center and get help. This is a good rule of thumb, in general. If you have not consistently earned 90 points or above on your response papers, take papers to the writing center and get help with revising and editing before turning them in for a grade.

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