“Power is everywhere and comes from everywhere so in this sense is neither an agency nor a structure.” (Foucault, 1998:63)
Social and gendered subaltern voice due to the misuse of power has been waged largely and long embedded over cultural practices, historical accounts and literary texts of both Asian and Western. Social discrimination advocates such ideology that the rich, is by nature superior and the poor inferior. The rich are the one who rule while the others are being ruled. This distorts the relations between the rich and poor. In that bygone era, the rich are endowed with power for every aspect and they manipulate their power to control their opposites to satisfy their desire, greediness and life. Additionally, ideology of social discrimination isolation also plays a crucial role in dealing with gender problem. Due to the wealthy and higher status issue, sexual abuse indirectly comes along whereby young women from low social levels are persecuted by rich and powerful men. According to Bertens, “ideology distorts reality in one way or another and falsely presents as natural and harmonious what is artificial and contradictory….If we succumb to ideology we live in an illusory world, in what in Marxism has often described as a state of false consciousness”. Since these assumptions have been a traditional standard of ideology for centuries, the rich and the poor conform to the cultural ideas that the poor will be discriminated and isolated as what has been established for them by the society itself.
The Bondmaid is a Novel written in 1988 by Catherine Lim which tells of a tragic love story. Although it is fictitious, it evocatively captures the ethos of a wealthy and powerful Chinese household and the shocking physical and sexual brutality towards the bondmaids and prostitutes in that bygone era. It is actually a reflection of the attitudes and social values of the Singapore traditional Chinese life in the 1950’s. As in the story, Ah Bor, a seventeen year old young lady, is sold as a slave to the wealthy house of the Grandmother, and being so she is owned both in body and soul by her (the Grandmother). All the bondmaids in that house are treated harshly. They receive milder form of every day punishment, such as the “pinching, slapping and caning”. Besides physical violence, sexual assaults and rapes also happened and this leads to the death of Ah Bor. She is raped by the Half-Uncle and dies after the abortion. Later, she returns to haunt him in the form of a ghost. His greediness of asking a lucky winning number from her (the ghost) leads him to his death. After knowing the summary of this story, I will discuss in details the literary elements such as plot, characters, setting, theme and moral values in the following essay. A literary theory in relation to the story will also be touched on.
2.0 Literary Elements
At the beginning of the story, the character of the Grandmother is introduced. She has a business in bridal furnishings whereby she sells and rents “satin bed sheets embroidered with flowers”, “satin pillows”, “bolster”, “tasseled bed curtains” and “beaded slippers” for the bride and groom. As it is a successful business, she needs many workers who are skillful in sewing and stitching to work for her. Additionally, she is sick with cancer which has been tormenting her for ten years. She wants to earn as much money as she could during the remaining part of her life. Those are the real purposes of her buying and owning bondmaids. However, she threats the bondmaids harshly. Due to her own greediness for earning more money, she wants the bondmaids to work hard like labours or else they would be punished in different forms like pinching, slapping, canning, hitting, smacking their mouths, stray out of the house and so on. Even names without any dignity and grandeur such as “pig”, “smell”, “bun” and “female” are given.