November 6, 2015
Here's the link to my first draft of this paper. /oneworld/changing-our-story-2015/betrayal-and-forgivness
The themes of betrayal and forgiveness lie at the core of All Over Creation, with Yumi present at both the receiving and inflicting end of these phenomena. Although these terms are largely based on individual perception, betrayal has been defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, as "a violation of trust or confidence, an abandonment of something committed to one's charge." Forgiveness, on the other hand, has been called the "Act of Forgiving, pardon of a fault, remission of a debt." In my analysis of the complex relationship between Lloyd and Yumi, inundated by betrayal and forgiveness, I will explore the last part of this definition, and how the deepest human emotions can sometimes be reduced to mere obligations and an almost mechanical exchange.
What is trust? Is it taking someone into confidence, or is it an unfair expectation that we impose on those close to us, whether or not they accept it? In Yumi's flashbacks, she reiterates the belief that it was not her fault but "life filtering into your(her) prattle at the supper table, that so offended him"(19), posing the subsequent events as inevitable. Lloyd had expected Yumi to conform to his ideas of right and wrong, an expectation he justified by referring to them as Yumi's morals(22), disregarding the fact that Yumi had only clung to them until she had the ability to think for herself, and to discover what her principles were. Thus Lloyd may have set precedence for the betrayal he received at the hands of his daughter, by breaking Yumi's trust in his eternal, unconditional love, leading in her running away "because I(she) loved him. And somewhere along the way, when he couldn’t control me(her) anymore, he just stopped." Maybe if Yumi had more faith in his affection, than in his "shame"(37) she would have stayed, and not betrayed him by running away.
With all these justifications for Yumi's actions, one may think Lloyd had it coming. However, as Cass later says, her "daddy did worse to me (her). There were times when I(she) hated him at least as much, but I(she) never left. I(she) just put up with it."(241) So in a way, Yumi too, betrayed her father, maybe not by breaking his trust, but as Lloyd says, by leaving "because you(she) couldn't face your(her) mother and me after what you(she) had done."(147). Indeed, at times it is our sense of remorse on hurting someone, instead of our personal views about our actions that lead us to feel that we have betrayed someone, and broken their trust. However Yumi says in a letter to her parents, that she didn't mean for her parents to find out(37), implying that more often than not, it is only when the concerned person finds out, and reacts, that we feel like things have gone wrong.
But what role does betrayal play in the act of forgiveness? Does it give the person who feels deceived power over us, or as suggested by the Oxford English Dictionary's definition of the word, does it make us indebted to them? The answers to these questioned can be attempted by analyzing the initial exchange between Yumi and Lloyd about the doctor's recommendation that Lloyd be put in a nursing home. We can see that Lloyd continues to keep his power over Yumi intact, by dismissing her expression of care by saying how he doesn't "see how it is in any of your(Yumi's) business" and asking her to take those children of hers and go back (102). However, as he begins to realize the gravity of the situation, and the fact that he would need Yumi in order to go back to his house and keep Momoko there, he succumbs, and asks Yumi to stay(104), in a way finally accepting what Yumi owed him. What it seems to me, then, is that betrayal is analogous to a debt that can only be paid back at the creditor's terms and conditions.
However, the notion of forgiveness is a little more complex, as even when the score has been evened out, there is still some way to go before things go back as close to the way they were, if they ever do. In one of her letters, Yumi said she wanted Lloyd to not forgive her, but to at least talk to her(40), which is the level of closeness she received, after she had done Lloyd a favor by staying with him when he needed her. But, at Yumi's exasperation at the fact that Lloyd had never forgiven her(240), in her exchange with Cass, one can see that deep down, she never could have remained intent with Lloyd merely talking to her. In my opinion, even if we fulfill our obligation to someone we have betrayed, we cannot expect entire forgiveness, as we often do. For it takes time, after we take that first step, and it is just as it might have been unnatural for Lloyd to expect Yumi to completely follow his beliefs, it is unnatural for us to expect forgiveness as soon as we think we had made up for our mistake. It is only when he affirms that she was also in the dream he has on her deathbed(367), that we can see the matter being resolved, and the slate being cleaned. One can argue that this concept of forgiveness is selfish then, and though there are no clues in the book as to why Lloyd forgave Yumi, but maybe he only did so because he was about to die, and wanted to hold no grudges before he died. Similarly, it can also be that gaining someone's forgiveness is not about us wanting the person we hurt, deliberately or inadvertently, to feel okay, but for us to assuage our own guilt.
However, what happens when there is no direct exchange about ideas of trust, or there is no concept of forgiveness? In this book, Ozeki mentions environmental concerns and even though the earth cannot tell us if we have broken it's trust, does it mean that we cannot betray it? Is the idea similar to Yumi only realizing how hurt her parents would be, only when she knew they had found out? Towards the end Will asks "how can they(the Seeds) be so disrespectful of all those plants" and the fact that the plants, or the earth cannot react may serve as a possible explanation as to why humans continue exploiting the earth's resources.
All Over Creation, Penguin, 2004.