Joseph Cornell dedicated his work to exploring the creative mind. Always, his perspective and creative process is apparent in his boxes, just like an author can’t seem to escape their own outlooks when writing a novel. Cornell, although he would not agree with the categorization, is often considered to be a surrealist. This style of art emphasizes the process an artist goes through to arrive with the finished piece. “Within this overall approach, the function of art is very much to reveal to the creator (as much to anyone else) the actual workings of the mental and creative processes” (Blair 18).
In my blox representing Light, I wanted to embody the theme of hope that is common almost throughout the novel. First of all, the picture is framed by a chalkboard; significant to Njoroge’s obsession with education. He believes if he goes to school he can return to help his family and country regain their lost land. His education = his future, like the words written on the board. I have a background of a sunrise, a universal symbol of hope. There is a faint shadow of a couple holding hands to signify Njoroge and Mwihaki; their love always growing for each other. When Njoroge looses all other hope, he still relies on her. There is a cross in the center to represent Njoroge’s deep faith in Christianity which adds to his ceaseless positivity for the majority of the story. The coexist label shows Njoroge’s desire for everyone to get along. He sees how life can be when men treat each other as equals. I feel that Njoroge’s positivity adds lightness to the novel. Despite the incredible atrocities being committed around him, he can look towards the future. The reader sees this through his eyes and forgets the actual heaviness of the country’s problems. Regardless, this positivity is seen as a flaw in Njoroge therefore my blox has a bit of irony to it. For example, the sunrise could easily be a sunset representing a close to Njoroge’s hope. He does loose it by the end. Also, the coexist label it placed on a significantly larger cross as if to imply that even if people are tolerant of others, they still see themselves as right while everyone else is wrong.
The way I tie this all to Cornell is the process I went through to create this blox. Honestly, I didn’t think out each aspect of the collage. I saw something I found to be significant and tried it out. If it fit, it stayed. If something was off, I’d delete it and return to Google images, never knowing what I was looking for and what to type into the search box to find it. I’m still amazed with this blox because I really do think it is perfect to how I felt about lightness and the novel, all the while making me look like a wiz with photo editing software (trust me, I’m not). Only upon describing it to my unknown reader do I fully describe it to myself, which makes it all the more satisfying.
In order to adapt a novel into a picture, one has to focus on their feelings rather than the plot. A film is able to compile thousands of pictures together but the blox is just one. It is easier when focusing on something specific like the aspect of lightness within the novel.
Seger recommends keeping the story simple when writing an adaptation. “Novels can handle complex stories and themes…For a film, it’s often necessary to simplify the story…I believe an audience should be able to understand much of a film by looking at the moving pictures” (Seger 107). “Weep Not, Child” can be very complex relating to Njoroge’s thoughts and actions. When I think of this novel in relation to lightness, I am compelled to think about Njoroge’s outlook on life. He is so hopeful, always thinking about the promises of tomorrow. However, this personality trait is a flaw for him. He refuses to accept the negativity around him and instead distances himself. This is the focus for my adaptation. Unable to include all themes in the blox, I concentrate on Njoroge’s feigned lightness which is revealed to be what holds him down in the end.
Italo Calvino sought to remove weight from his writing, as he explains in “Six Memos for the Next Millennium.” Weight, he says, is natural to a writer. He must seek lightness in order to be successfully light. “Maybe I was only then becoming aware of the weight, the inertia, the opacity of the world—qualities that stick to writing from the start, unless one finds some way of evading them” (Calvino 4).
Would I call “Weep Not, Child” a light novel? In the class discussion on the book there seemed to be a general consensus that it was written from the perspective of a child. The narrator is 3rd person omniscient which tends to follow Njoroge, a youth. It is not directly his words, however. Unless the author is a child, can it ever be a child-like perspective? I think that rather than being elementary, it is written simply. That’s not to say that it can be read by a child. Yes, the sentence structure and vocabulary are light. No, the content is not. Torture, war, death, broken dreams; it’s some pretty heavy stuff. What makes it even heavier is Njoroge’s inability to escape it all. Even with the move away from his village to a secondary school, he is dragged back to face the mistakes of family members. I believe the themes may be too much for a child to follow. When you put the book down upon completion, it seems as though there was no resolution. Everyone dies; everyone is miserable. What can we take away with that? It requires reflection and thought, possibly a discussion with others.
“He ran quickly out, away from the light into the night. It was only when they turned their eyes to Ngotho that they knew that he too would never return. Nobody cried” (Thiong’o 125). This sentence represents the simplicity of the style and, simultaneously, the complexity of the story.