Q&A: Compare and contrast two stories based on the language, parent-child relationship and the protagonist’s character.
For Malaysian Form 6 students
Q: Compare and contrast two stories based on the language, parent-child relationship and the protagonist's character.
The Dream of Vasantha by K S Maniam
No Visitors Allowed by John Machado
The Dream of Vasantha by K.S. Maniam and No Visitors Allowed by John Machado are both stories that deal with parent-child relationships in a Malaysian setting. Though sharing a similar theme, the stories differ in various aspects, such as language, the relationship between the parent and child of the protagonist and the protagonist’s character.
Firstly, the use of language present in Maniam’s The Dream of Vasantha and Machado’s No Visitors Allowed is easy to understand. However, in The Dream of Vasantha, Maniam uses a lot of descriptive terms of the things and environment of the story to give the readers a vivid view of the situation actually unfolding before their eyes. Machado did not use as much description as Maniam in his story but instead, connects to the readers by his clever but necessary use of dialogues. Maniam’s amount of description and slangs like “Tch Tch, and Cold water is turning green,” tends to give readers the actual situation of the story and making the readers feel as if they are in the story with the characters experiencing first handed whatever is happening. However, for some, assuming that the conversations may have been in Tamil, some may not understand the logic behind some phrases but in reality, some phrases do make more sense when directly versed in Tamil. Because The Dream of Vasantha speaks so much of the environment and conversation between the characters, the readers are left to think to themselves of what may be Vasantha’s and Ganesh’s inner thoughts be.
On the other hand, in No Visitors Allowed, the story seems to be coming from one person’s perspective, that is the Son himself and his experience with his father during his last days. Unlike A Dream of Vasantha, this story heavily focusses on the Son’s views of things and how he interprets things and how was his personal experience with his father during his final days. This cleverly fits the concept of the story being cold as the protagonist’s recalling of his memories, as if it is an inner monologue of his. This allowed the reader to get an insight of the protagonist’s feelings and thoughts as he weaves through past and present events, seeing how he connects the unfolding of his father’s passing to his memories with his father. For example, when he meets his father’s old colleague at the hospital, a comment about him frequenting his father’s office as a child brings back memories of him meeting his father at the office after his English Grammar test. This shows us that, the protagonist’s relationship with his father was a close one in his childhood, but also showed that his father’s high expectations of him had induced some fear in him out of respect. All these are made obvious in No Visitors Allowed, but in The Dream of Vasantha, we are left to interpret it ourselves because the story was not from a single perspective but of many other perspectives from other characters as well.
Next, the parent-child relationship of the protagonists in both stories is one that tells of a soured relationship moving towards reconciliation. In The Dream of Vasantha, Ganesh, Vasantha’s son, is portrayed as being wilfully independent of his Mother’s care until his friend, Chan’s death makes him realise that he should cherish the moments with his loved ones while they are still alive and well. In No Visitors Allowed, the relationship between the Father and his son, the main character of the story got better when the Father was sick in hospital. Despite the son did not inherit his Father’s “rubber plantation,” the Father eventually accepted his son for who he is and this can be seen when Father finally calls his son by name, which signifies that the father no longer sees him under his control but a self-made man of virtue and pride. In The Dream of Vasantha however, the parent-child relationship is different because Ganesh is still a little boy. In one scenario, Ganesh was disrespectful towards his mother, calling her “as fat as a bamboo stick,” and did not appreciate his mother’s efforts to feed and clothe him well, and earning to ensure he has a better and brighter future. It should be noted that the boy is not disrespecting his mother on purpose but, as a child, he does not see the importance and significance of his mother going out to work and his mother’s love in making sure he would succeed despite being mocked at by almost everyone else in the story. Even when Ganesh used his mother’s hard-earned money to play truant at the cinema despite claiming that he needed the money for school fees and schoolbooks, his Mother, never did put her foot down and demanded control but instead, always believed her boy would one day change for the better. In No Visitors Allowed, the parent-child relationship is completely different because the child is an adult and so as his father. This gives the child years’ of experience and thoughts of his childhood and how the father has played a role in what he is today. That was why the son was diving in and out of his memories with his father because it was only at that time, when he realised he was losing his father, he remembered the moments of security and his personal moments with his father. Throughout the story, the protagonist had always respected his father as a symbol of leadership and seniority possibly due to his high expectations of him, as seen when he was crying when he wrote “foots” for “feet” in an examination. However, as he matures, he begins to have his own ideals, enjoying writing than inheriting his father’s rubber estate. Even so, he deals with this by proving to his father that he is not cut out for the job, showing up with lacerated thighs and raw hands.
Apart from that, the protagonist’s characteristics have their similarities and differences. Both of them are shown to have a creative streak in them, in Ganesh it is building paper houses and making fishing rods out of the materials he could procure, while in No Visitors Allowed the protagonist has a flair for writing, having written a novel at the age of 17. However, Ganesh is playful, which befits his teenage status, wanting to play with tops rather than study. He goes off to play truant on a whim, catching fish with Suleiman even though Suleiman rebukes him by saying everyone else is in school. The protagonist in No Visitors Allowed is more level-headed, possibly because of his maturity and having experienced life and having a stable job. The protagonist in No Visitors Allowed always maintained his character and despite when he knew his father’s situation was degrading, he still tried his best to calm the people around him, especially his mother. However, what truly mattered was, despite whatever ideas the father may have had of him, he was still the only son, to have been by his father’s side, up till the moment of death, and it is very scenario which signifies how much he respects and loves his father.
In conclusion, The Dream of Vasantha and No Visitors Allowed are similar thematically but are still very different in terms of language, the way the parent-child relationship is explored and the protagonist’s character. This is mainly because, in The Dream of Vasantha, the storyline is basically between a boy and his parent, and a child-like personality is expected of the boy thus the developments of the story and for No Visitors Allowed, because both child and parent are adults and having been through life, they both understand the reason for certain actions and are way more matured than children, thus the different kinds of development in this particular story.