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Not Challenging The Authority

Alison's picture


ESem Paper #2
September 11, 2015

I still remember the day when I was playing a piano in the common room for my theater audition and a girl came in. She just set beside me and waited for me to finish my practice. After the last song, she said to me with enthusiasm:” The music you played is so beautiful! I really love this song!” 

As I have not played any instrument since I went to high school, I know my music was not as good as she said thus I did not take her sentences seriously at first. However, she compromised my music and my skills for a while and asked me the name of the song. I could feel her passion about music and the ingenuousness when she talked to me. We set together and had some discussion about music that afternoon.

Nevertheless, I do not think that there is a contact zone described in the Art of the Contact Zone wrote by Mary Louise Pratt between the girl and I in some way. We are not the representatives of the strong party and the weak party in a highly asymmetrical relation of power. We might have different cultures, and the culture might meet when we had the conversation, but they did not clash or grapple or cause some negative influence.

The encounter is very meaningful for me, though. The girl not only shared her opinions about music with me, but also gave me more confidence to go to the audition. Moreover, this thing reminds me of my experience of leaning piano when I was small. 

I started leaning piano who I was at the age of three. It was very difficult for a child to find either the meaning or the joy when I had to play piano for at least one hour per day. I thought it was boring and frustrated as I kept making mistakes coordinating my fingers to play a piece of song. I wanted to learn it as an interesting activity, not a learning task. Thus I always came up with some wired ideas as I’m playing instead of practicing. But my teacher thought I was supposed to treated it as serious as study in school. So she taught me what should do and what shouldn’t do when I’m performing, there are some activities such as moving the body is not allowed and when I had different interpretation of the music, she always corrected me and wanted me to follow her instructions. I did not remember when I stopped this kind of ideas and be a good students, but the truth is, I cannot feel that free when I’m playing piano right now.

Now I realize that the relationship between me and the teachers actually created a contact zone. The power between us is highly asymmetrical and we have different point of views towards music and learning, which is similar to the different culture. However, instead of letting these opinions crash, I chose to be silent, trying to be a good student and totally follow the rules set by the teacher. Since she talked to me seriously for several times, I was afraid to say no to her and did something that could let her down. I certainly did not choose  something that could make me happy, but I did think that this is the best solution for me, my teacher and my parents who expected me to be good at music.

So I can truly understand the choice Gan makes at the end of the Bloodchild. He experiences the process of being innocent, seeing the truth and becoming mature and accepting the reality while sacrificing for his sister. It seems that he has choices when Gatoi asked him if he want to give birth to her baby, but these choices are all highly limited. There are somethings that push us to make the decisions that we do not want to make, and that is the morality according to my opinion. We are still in the unbalanced relations, and we can do nothing about it. 

By analyzing the Bloodchild, I am able to understand my experience about learning piano more objectively: me and the main character in blood child have the similar process when we engage the authority. We are in an unbalanced relationship, try to fight back but compromise at the end to do the morally right things. I was supposed to learn piano following my teachers instruction and I thought that is something that could make most of the people happy. Similarly, by reading Bloodchild and reflecting on my experience, I found that people are unable to challenge the authority sometimes as we are in the highly limited environment, and we cannot always judge something and regarded them as right or wrong simply as well.


Mary Louise Pratt: Art of the Contact Zone. Modern Language Association (1991)

Octavia E. Butler, Bloodchild and Other Stories, The Washington Post, 1995