Longest Memory

1 January 2017

The meaning of “the other” is the quality or condition of being considered an outsider or different. With my chosen text, I believe “the other” is identified through society and status, as society believes these couples are opposites, where as they see themselves as equals. Although, both parties are from different social backgrounds fate brought them together. Romeo and Juliet met at a ball, while Lydia and Chapel met on the plantation they both lived on. Both couples consider themselves as equals and race or status was never a problem and that is why they are considered “the other”

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Like Romeo and Juliet, Chapel and Lydia were both “star-crossed lovers” and there love was strictly forbidden. Romeo and Juliet were born doomed apart as an ancient grudge between two families both alike in dignity, caused major disputes between them therefore the parents clearly would never approve. When the parents heard about their relationship, they prohibited them from seeing each other. Chapel and Lydia although brought up on the same plantation were from two completely different worlds.

Chapel, being a slave and Lydia being the daughter of the plantation owner Chapel’s family were slaves for. The reason for their forbidden love was the racial discrimination of Chapel being black and Lydia being white. When Mr Whitechapel saw Lydia associating with Chapel, he lashed him with his belt and warned him they were never to associate again. Therefore it was impractical for the two couples to be together. Society is stopping both couples from being together, however in the eyes of these young couples they are considered equal.

Chapel can be identified as “the other” in The Longest Memory as he is the young, black slave, falling in love with the high society, white Lydia. Although black slaves were stereotyped of not being educated, Chapel was educated and interested in poetry and philosophy and didn’t exactly fit into the life he had been introduced to for that reason. However he could also be considered “the other” because he was a half cast, even though he didn’t know this, and therefore could explain why he didn’t fit in.

Although a gentleman, he still finds his way of sneaking out to meet up with his beloved Lydia, who introduces to him more poetry and memorises novel extracts to teach him, as she is the one who taught him to read in the first place. This parallels with Romeo and Juliet, as they sneak around in order to see each other, and eventually Romeo proposes to her and they organise to be married secretly. They both do not fit in the lifestyle they’ve been portrayed in, as they do not care about the duties held upon them from their royal families.

They mainly struggle against public and social institutions that either openly or completely oppose the existence of their love. For them to have conquered, all they wanted was to be together, and they weren’t letting anyone or anything stand in their way. Tragedy emerges for both parties, and love was the cause of it. Romeo and Juliet take their lives together, because if they cannot be together, than they figured they might as well die. Chapel on the other hand, is killed by a whipping because he secretly left the plantation, all to seek freedom and possibly be with his adored Lydia.

The intertextuality displays some irony too, because Chapel and Lydia studied Romeo and Juliet when Lydia was teaching Chapel to read and write. This perhaps gave us the idea that Chapel and Lydia’s relationship wasn’t going to be a ‘happy ever after’. Mr Whitechapel is another prime example of “the other. ” He gets mocked by his fellow plantation owners as he is merciful and humane in his treatment of his slaves. He quotes “the slave who bears his name is living proof that slaves are equal in every way”. He also states that he “treats his slaves with humanity”.

In other words, he is fair and treats them with respect. Most believe he should behave like the labelled plantation owner and show no compassion towards his slaves, but he refuses. He has a strong belief in Christian values and cannot see a contradiction with the existence of slavery. In conclusion, we return to themes explored- fate, forbidden love, the strain of secrets, and elements of tragedy- and we see how they have helped to expand our understanding of the concept “the other”. By Nicholas Paras, Yr 11.

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