In what ways does Moniza Alvi examine themes of identity in 'An Unknown Girl?
Moniza Alvi was born in Pakistan. Her father was Pakistani and mother English. She left Pakistan when she was a baby for England. The poet is caught between two worlds and her poems exemplify her quest for her cultural identity. The prescribed poem appears to be set in India. Pakistan was a part of India before the partition, therefore the setting may be a symbolic thirst for her motherland. The title of the poem is “The Unknown Girl”, though it may refer to the girl in the poem, it may be a pointer to the poet herself as she is unknown to the roots.
The poet states how her neon studded jewelry glared at her in the evening bazaar. A woman in India is closely associated with elaborate jewelry and embellishment. This forms a part of her individuality, and her femininity. The act of hennaing is a form of body decoration with the dye of a plant. With the act of Hennaing, she seems to impart to the speaker significant feminine aspects of the culture. The hennaing comes out of a nozzle, slowly descending on her as her tradition was. The semi-solid henna is cool and a good conditioner, and therefore the girl feels her hands being ‘iced’. The warmth of the hand of the girl applying the Henna steadies or balances the effect, echoing the equilibrium of the ethnicity there. The salwar-kameez is a loose fitting garment that is like her shadow, larger than herself. Nevertheless, it may also point to the shadow of her identity that she cannot deny in spite of herself.
The poem hasn't got any stanza and doesn't rhyme. This makes it sound like a story that is told. The author might have wanted to do that to give the impression of only talking about her memories and making the reader focus on India. It shows that she gives importance to her father's country and therefore means she wants us to known where she comes from, putting forward her identity. Moreover she uses enjambments like in these...
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