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 Just a Girl - DISCUSSION

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milkaddict
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PostSubject: Just a Girl - DISCUSSION   Mon Oct 10, 2011 5:01 pm

Ok guys, let's discuss "Just a Girl". I'm sure a lot of us don't really understand what this story is talking about, myself included. But I will share some of my ideas here and I hope you guys can chip in too. Pls contribute some of your interpretations to help everyone understand the story better.

Anyway in my opinion I think the main character (who is blind) is someone who is very innocent, trusting of ppl, curious and desperate for love from her parents. Because she is blind, she "feels" instead of "sees", therefore she is very dependent on her parents. Before her brother left she would at least have her mother with her, but now her parents are forced to leave her alone at home while they work.

Therefore, the only person she can relate to is Che Hasnah. However, Che Hasnah seems to have an ulterior motive in being close to the girl. She uses some sort of black magic to bind the girl to her (possible something to do with the wise Keramat as well) - I have an assumption that the black magic is related to the monkeys but I will explain that later. - Either way, the girl does not suspect Che Hasnah in the beginning, but somewhere at the end of the story I think the girl realised the Che Hasnah was not the good person she appeared to be. I will explain this later too.

Another conflict within the girl's family is that they are extremely poor and owe rich people rice (debt). Her parents (especially her father) are getting old, and without her brother, there will soon come a time when the parents are no longer capable of supporting her. The sad thing about the girl is she is not only blind, she seems to be suffering from strange black magic (odd dreams, laughing to herself, "something heavy" pressing on her, "spirit" leaving the "body"...etc etc). The father initially thought that he could ease his financial burden if someone else from the village was willing to "have" her -I am not sure what "have" means...is it to adopt her or marry her? Either way it is clear that no one wants a blind daughter/young wife who also has problems with black magic.
However, the girl's mother is reluctant to send the girl away. In the end, the mother suggests that the girl is given to Che Hasnah. It is here that we learn the possible reason on why Che Hasnah put black magic on the girl. On page 103, the girl's father says:

Quote :

"Curse be upon her. The old witch. Do you know she put a black curse on me when I would not have her and took you instead. Allah, if my son returns, I'll forgive him everything. The black witch! The black witch!"

From this passage we can infer a few things:
- Che Hasnah wanted to marry the girl's father
- The girl's father married the girl's mother instead.
- Che Hasnah used black magic on the father as revenge.
- Che Hasnah most probably also used black magic on the girl's brother so that he would run away from home (or even worse, killed?? But that is an assumption that I will explain later)
- Last assumption: Considering all the above points, now I come back to the blind girl.
So why did Che Hasnah want her? Is it as a final act of revenge? To take away the only child left of the man she used to love as a daughter? Or was it only superficial love? Why did Che Hasnah use black magic on the blind girl if she truly wanted to love her? (That is a question for you guys to debate....haha)

The ending of the story is the most confusing part of the story. It is a dream sequence where the girl's "other body" goes to Che Hasnah's house and encounters Che Hasnah, the wise Keramat and her brother. Outside the house, she hears her brother's voice and

Quote :
...peals of laughter. A good one and a bad one. (pg 103)

earlier on page 102, the girl mentioned that

Quote :
She did not know why, but the laugh was funny. She liked to hear Che Hasnah laugh. It was so clean.

By now the girl is starting to get confused about who is the "good" person and who the "bad person". Think from her point of view, if you were blind like her, how would you know if a laugh was a "good" one or a "bad" one? There must have been something about the laugh that made her categorize them into good and bad.

In the end (pg 104), the girl said that the "good laugh" and "bad laugh" become mixed up - an indication that the girl finally realised that Che Hasnah, the person who was so good to her, had planned to use her as revenge all along. Even an innocent girl like her understood that she could not allow herself to be put into the hands of such a wicked person who used black magic for her own means. However, the girl did not want to be sent away from her house as well. All she wanted to do was to stay with her family, but to do so would be a burden to her old parents. In the end, she decides to search for "kindness" and "love" in the moon. Because she could not find it in the sky, she decided to go looking for it in the river - ultimately drowning herself.

Was the girl aware that by going inside the river she would drown herself? Most probably yes - remember the dream in the beginning of the story: the one about the girl floating in the water and she cried and cried? Maybe she had already had images of drowning herself earlier. However, as an innocent and naive child, she did not understand why she had these dreams of drowning. I have reason to believe that these images of drowning were caused by Che Hasnah using black magic, and I will explain at the end of this essay.

But what we can conclude is that the girl initially had no thoughts of killing herself until she found out the truth about Che Hasnah, and the reason why she was getting these images of drowning. Once she realised that, she decided to end it once and for all.

Extra interpretations - Symbolism of the tiger-man story, the wise Kramat and the monkeys.

Refer pg 101, 102 whereby the girl hears about the story of the tiger man and the mirror from the wise kramat. The tiger man is depicted as character that changes into a old man when you show him a mirror, keeps treasures and fallen stars from the sky. However when the girl visits Che Hasnah's house again at the end, the "treasures" mentioned earlier have now morphed into strange and evil things. Che Hasnah says:

Quote :
"He'll show you your father, and how strong he was and how weak now. The wise kramat will beat him up and throw him to the tiger-man. Ha-ha! And after that, your mother. Ha! Ha!

From here it is quite evident that the treasures that Che Hasnah means is most probably the sweet success of a revenge that was well planned out. By taking away the girl's brother and the girl's spirit, Che Hasnah has made sure that the girl's parents will never have a happy family ever again.

Now about the monkeys. I have a feeling that the baby monkey is actually a representation of the girl, while the mother monkey is Che Hasnah herself. When Che Hasnah first gave the baby monkey to the girl the girl had asked:

Quote :
'Che Hasnah, what shall I do if it runs away? Would it die?'

Che Hasnah replied: 'I've got a little chain for you at my house. And you can bring it to my house everyday and let it play with the mother.'

By this passage we can imply that:
- The girl's fears about the monkey running away are actually representations of her own fear. She is like the baby monkey, small and fragile, desperate for protection and love. She knows fully well that if she goes too far from home she cannot survive. Therefore, Che Hasnah becomes like a protective figure for her...until she learns the real truth. So in some way (at this point of the story) Che Hasnah is the mother monkey, a person that the girl (baby monkey) will go to everyday in search for the 'superficial love and kindness'.

At the end of story, however, the monkeys take on very sinister meanings. In the dream sequence, when the girl reaches Che Hasnah's house, the mother monkey actually ties her legs up with a chain.

Quote :
She was climbing the steps when the monkey moved round her, tying her legs up with its chain.

This can be interpreted as:
- Che Hasnah (the mother monkey) trapping the girl. In other words, Che Hasnah was making sure that the girl could not escape from her black magic.


Then when the girl enters the house, Che Hasnah asks the girl to sit down and gives her "something".

Quote :
The smooth little thing crawled into her hand and then began to give a loud wail. The wise Kramat laughed and laughed. Che Hasnah put something like a string into her hand. 'Tie it up'

Quote :
The thing on her lap whimpered, and someone - and later she knew it was her brother- wailed in her ear. Then a long rope was dropped over her neck.... As the rope was pulled tight she could hear the rush of waters and felt great heat in her cheeks and smelt the flowers in her nose.

So what is the thing? In my opinion, it is the baby monkey - again a representation of the blind girl. When Che Hasnah asked the girl to 'tie it up', it meant that the girl was putting the noose around her own neck. The girl is now trapped, she hallucinates and imagines herself drowning. So now we can conclude that by using black magic, Che Hasnah most probably put these images of drowning and suicide in the girl's mind. After this incident the girl wakes up and

Quote :
Suddenly she knew what she had wanted to do all these nights.

So what did the girl know? That she had wanted to kill herself all along. But was it bad - to kill herself? From the girl's point of view: maybe not. She was killing herself out of love for her parents. She didn't want to be a burden, but she couldn't bear the thought of being seperated with her parents either. If she couldn't have both, why not just kill herself? Maybe she could finally find peace after struggling all these years as a blind child. In the end, she is just a girl - a girl that needs and wants love and protection so desperately, a girl who like any other child is curious and innocent, a girl who longs to see the world and not just feel it.
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PostSubject: Re: Just a Girl - DISCUSSION   Mon Oct 10, 2011 6:25 pm

wow... this is really an eye-opener... i haven't found anything to comment on yet, just wanna thank ya for sharing this.
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PostSubject: Re: Just a Girl - DISCUSSION   Mon Oct 10, 2011 6:36 pm

No problem! At first I didn't understand anything when I read the story, but as I started writing this interpretation the ideas just came to me and they made sense. I'm just hoping maam will read it and correct any ideas that I have wrong.
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PostSubject: Re: Just a Girl - DISCUSSION   Tue Oct 11, 2011 4:54 pm

Well, awesome interpretation. But Qing Ying, in my opinion it is not bcoz of the black magic but more to mental illness. This is why she kept on hallucinated.
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PostSubject: Re: Just a Girl - DISCUSSION   Tue Oct 11, 2011 5:36 pm

Update from Dr.Prema, reposted from MLE facebook group:

Quote :
Premalatha Nair thats
a long interpretation of the story. You have got most of the points in
order so far. but I associate the Mum Monkey to the girl's mother
instead of Che Hasnah. the girl's act of not separating the baby and
the mother reflects her relationship
with her own mother (remember, she overheard her parents talking of the
house). The mother also in a way was the cause of the girl being lonely
without love(remember the mother monkey tying her leg with the chain
incident?). It could be a sign of danger lurking (similarly the girl's
mother has told the girl not to go to Hasnah's house).
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PostSubject: Re: Just a Girl - DISCUSSION   Wed Oct 12, 2011 2:15 pm

More updates from maam. I asked her some questions about the tiger-man, the brother and the black magic/psychological problems interpretation and this is her answer.

My question:
Quote :
Thanks for replying maam. I have afew questions to ask. I'm still not very clear on the significance of the tiger-man story. Is the tiger-man supposed to be good or bad? And did the brother just run away or is he already dead (possibly due to Che Hasnah as well?) After discussing with a few friends in class today some of them seem to think that the girl is not suffering from black magic but just mental problems/psychological problems due to her blindness. What is your opinion on that?

Maam's answer:
Quote :
Lee Kok LIang obviously uses spirits/bomohs in his writing. this is due to that time when the society believed in it and still exist now. Based on your interpretation that cHe Hasnah is a double headed snake, the tiger man could be a replica of her. the brother is mentioned to run away from home; could be due to poverty hence in search of a better life, but the parents believe that che Hasnah has charmed him.
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PostSubject: Re: Just a Girl - DISCUSSION   Wed Oct 12, 2011 4:29 pm

Finally, I can make sense of the story XD
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PostSubject: Re: Just a Girl - DISCUSSION   Thu Oct 13, 2011 11:57 pm

Wow,it is splendid!! Tnxs qing yi..
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PostSubject: Re: Just a Girl - DISCUSSION   Fri Oct 14, 2011 8:41 am

Thank you so much for an excellent explanation Qing Yi~~ It helps me a Lot~~ Thanks again ^^
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