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Betrayal and Forgiveness

aayzahmirza's picture

Aayzah Mirza 

Paper 6(final) 

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.  

Work Cited 

All Over Creation, Penguin, 2004. 


Anne Dalke's picture

Aayzah --
Two technical bits to start: don't forget to use correct citation form in these web events. And your handling of the quotations is very awkward (you should just say, early on, that Yumi speaks about herself in the second-person, and then omit all subsequent intersertion/corrections).

I think that reframing your questions about betrayal and forgiveness in terms of "debts" gives you some very good traction here. 
In forcing you to consider the ways in which we are "always already related," obligated to one another in a network of shared responsibility, this framework lets you analogize betrayal "to a debt that can only be paid back at the creditor's terms and conditions." (This suggests that some debts are not payable, some betrayal not forgiveable? Do you think so?)

The question you ask about whether things can "go back to the way they were, if they ever do" puts me in mind of various projects of Restorative Justice, which are grounded in such claims, and aim @ repairing the harm caused by criminal actions. If you'd like to learn more about this work, see

You also speak here about forgiveness being "selfish," sometimes enacted not to help another, but to "assuage our own guilt." These binary questions, about whether forgiveness is other- or self-directed, get unpacked in that section in "Take Back the Market" on gifts--which I think I had suggested in conference (if not, I'm suggesting now) might be helpful to you in continuing to work through these challenging questions. Gifts, those authors say, are never freely given, but always with an expectation of reciprocity.
So in doing for others, we are always doing for ourselves, and vice versa. It's all connected.

It also won't surprise you to know that I really! like! the! way! you 'get out' of the essay, by opening it up WAY beyond the question of interpersonal relations. In asking us to think about our obligations to the earth and other species with whom we share it, and asking further what constitutes betrayal, in a relationship where there is no conscious or reciprocal commitment, you start to shift the discussion where we'll be taking it in class tomorrow: beyond the short-term, humancentric focus we've held so far. I like your question, "even though the earth cannot tell us if we have broken it's trust, does it mean that we cannot betray it?" and am intrigued by your answer, that the absence of a response from earth may have allowed us to continue exploiting her.

And now the earth responds with climate change....
to be continued!