MLA Sample Cultural Encounters In Bella Makes Life By Lorna Goodison |

MLA Sample Cultural Encounters in Bella Makes Life by Lorna Goodison

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Cultural Encounters in Bella Makes Life by Lorna Goodison
An Anthology of Short Stories from Five Continents is perhaps one of the most outstanding
juxtapositions of cultures and traditions from the five continents of America, Africa, Asia,
Australia, and Europe. It is a collection of fifteen short stories written by some of the most
outstanding writers in the respective cultures within the last fifty years. When individuals from
any of these cultures migrate to another continent, the obvious outcome is a cultural encounter
with variances in experiences concerning dressing, religion, gender roles, societal expectations,
and the expected standards of societal conformity. This is exactly what An Anthology of Short
Stories from Five Continents is about: a connection between characters of varied cultures
experiencing cultural encounters that result in shocks and other trends in varied ways (Prescott).
Bella Makes Life by Lorna Goodison is no exception to this trend. The whole story in Bella
Makes Life is about a cultural encounter. The character Bella is married to Joe and they appear
contented until she travels to America. At the beginning of her life in America, she keeps the
conservative Jamaican culture and works for a better future. However, an encounter with the
American culture produces a transformed woman who believes in personal goals and will work
for a better future no matter the views of the husband (Howard238). Cultural encounters make
both Bella and Miss Blossom incompatible to their previous cultures to an extent they cannot
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keep their previous relationships because of the original perceptions of those with whom they
The Concept of Cultural Encounters in Bella Makes Life
In this short story, the concept of cultural encounter is generally treated as transforming for the
characters involved in it. As Shaw (95) explains, Bella appears transformed in all contexts and
generally departs from her culture to adopt a foreign one in all perspectives. The first time she
goes to New York, she is ‘good’ in the perception of her husband and in conventionality with
traditional Jamaican expectations. This is the reason she writes to Joe and tells that she does not
want to get involved with other Jamaicans in the United States because the woman who
sponsored her says they engage in evil and illegal activities (Prescott80). However, during the
next few weeks she witnesses changes that remove her conservative personality to a transformed
one in which she goes out to picnics with friends and socializes.
Fister (30) also helps in noting this transformation. Bella becomes increasingly
materialistic and develops the desire to amass increasing amounts of wealth in the claim of
wanting to “Make it…” when it is still possible. Shaw (95) further notes increasing elements of
this transformation in her ever-growing large body, increasing number of the merchandise during
her travels back to Jamaica, and her increasing disregards for her traditional culture and lifestyle.
This does not only apply to her but to two other women in the story, Miss Blossom and the
Yankee woman living with the Rasta man named Joe (Prescott87).
Author’s Awareness and Manifestation of Cultural Encounters in Bella Makes Life
The author Lorna Goodison is much aware of the theme of cultural encounter in Bella Makes
Life. It almost looks like a deliberate making and an intentional engagement of this theme to
achieve the goal of the novel, which is probably this elemental transformation. To begin with,
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Goodison writes in a language typical of the Slang used in Jamaica. Both Bella and Joe, and
other characters use this language in their communication.
The first instance in which Goodison proves this awareness of a cultural encounter is the
letters from Bella to Joe. Initially, Bella writes in the original Jamaican slang. However, when
elements of transformation begin to emerge in her character, she writes in a more American way.
Worse of, the letter in which she tells Joe that she would like their lives to transform from the
point of living from hand to mouth displays a language that is aware of not only the cultural
transformation Bella has undergone but also the change in attitude towards her husband and life
in general (Benson and Conolly 1453).
Characters’ Awareness of Cultural Encounters in Bella Makes Life
A consideration of the characters in the short story also indicates that they are all portrayed as
aware of the theme of cultural encounter. Joe develops animosity with Bella because he notes the
changes she has encountered. As Goodison explains in his tone, there are things he likes about
Bella, yet there are those he does not like because of the transformations she has undergone.
Even Bella herself is aware of these transformations and lives with the desire to soldier on with
her newly acquired dreams. In the analysis by Brown (80), the opening of the short story is an
elemental indication of this awareness in two main characters, Joe and his brother as they go to
receive Bella at the airport. He quotes the ideas of Joe as he watches Bella approach them at the
“He was embarrassed when he saw her coming towards him. He wished he could have
just disappeared into the crowd and kept going as far away from Norman Manley Airport
as was possible” (Prescott, 2008: 87).
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This is a clear indication of the fact that Joe is aware of the transformation Bella has
The Role of Clothes in the Light of Cultural Encounters in Bella Makes Life
Clothes and the last encounter with Miss Blossom are elementally central in evidencing cultural
encounters in Bella Makes Life. We encounter clothes immediately the text opens. Bella’s
dressing raises many issues with Joe. Episodes in which clothes are involved include dressing the
children, selling off clothes by Bella, and the ultimate meeting with Miss Blossom. Overall, they
are the immediate definition of cultural encounters and transformations (Carnegie, 2002: 70).
This is perhaps because dress codes remain integral parts of all cultures to the extent one who
joins a culture has to dress as the culture does (Erickson & Mcdonald 95). Miss Blossom’s last
encounter with Joe is merely a confirmation of the effects of cultural encounter he witnessed in
Bella before.
The Final Encounter between Joe and Miss Blossom in the Light of Cultural Encounters
When Joe interacts with Miss Blossom after her long period of disappearance, this element is
again clear. Just by looking at her, he noticed she had become larger, an elemental similarity to
the case of Bella. Additionally her dressing style made him know she had traveled and been
influenced by another culture (Goodison81). Perhaps, the only lack of awareness is portrayed in
Joe when he says he wants an American Yankee woman who just wants a simple life. Perhaps,
the woman with the Rasta man he uses as a reference has also undergone cultural transformation
from her American culture to the Jamaican one. This makes cultural encounters universally
transforming in all perspectives (Philip's High School 1).
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In conclusion, Bella Makes Life by Lorna Goodison is a deliberate depiction of the effects of
cultural encounters when cultures clash. Drawing from the conservative Jamaican culture and the
American expressive culture, Goodison indicates the influence of cultural encounters on
dressing, work life, and gender roles in the society. This elemental depiction makes the book
qualify as an entry into An Anthology of Short Stories from Five Continents.
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Works cited
Benson, E., &Conolly, L. W. (1994). Encyclopedia of Post-Colonial Literatures in English.
London, Routledge.
Brown, S. (1990). Caribbean New Wave: Contemporary Short Stories. Oxford, Heinemann
Carnegie, C. V. (2002). Postnationalism Prefigured: Caribbean Borderlands. New Brunswick,
NJ [u.a.], Rutgers Univ. Press.
Erickson, T., &Mcdonald, D. W. (2008). HCI Remixed Essays on Works that Have Influenced
the HCI Community. Cambridge, Mass, MIT Press.
Fister, B. (1995). Third World Women's Literatures a Dictionary and Guide to Materials in
English. Westport, Conn, Greenwood Press.
Goodison, L. (1992). Baby Mother and the King of Swords. Harlow: Longman. Publications.
Howard, D. (2005). Kingston: A Cultural and Literary History. Oxford, Signal Publishing
Philip's High School. (2016). Philips High School's Complete Resource for the WJEC
Anthology: Bella Makes Life - Lorna Goodison. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 29 Apr.
Prescott, L. (2008). (Ed). A World of Difference- An Anthology of Short Stories from Five
Continents. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan in association with Open University.
Shaw, A. E. (2006). The Embodiment of Disobedience: Fat Black Women's Unruly Political
Bodies. Lanham, MD, Lexington Books.

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