Exact Blox

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Cornell and the Concept of Exact

Joseph Cornell had the tendency to leave his works unnamed and undated, never wanting to commit to a finished product.  He was, however, extremely detailed in his notes as part of his dossiers. 

“In a significant entry in his dossier he includes a quotation from Jean Renoir: ‘I believe that during the past 50 yrs man has been losing contact with his physical senses and is becoming too intellectualized.  The artist’s mission today, he noted elsewhere, is to recreate a direct contact between man and nature’, and Cornell goes on to discuss exact times and places where he experienced direct contact with nature” (Blair 48). 

In order to draw upon his experiences, he needed to have exact notes.  I like to think of the novel “Weep Not, Child” as my own dossier of exact evidence that I use to create these bloxes. 

Calvino refers to the city as a complex emblem for exactitude.  “A more complex symbol, which has given me greater possibilities of expressing the tension between geometric rationality and the entanglements of human lives, is that of the city” (Calvino 71).  I decided to borrow this emblem from Calvino for the purpose that it expresses my feelings towards exactitude in Weep Not, Child.  I chose London specifically because, for Njoroge, it is that far away promised land of education and opportunity.  The colonists of Kenya are British so this would be a natural place for him to aspire to go.  After all, they act as though they are better than him so he wants to learn from the best.  In all the craziness of a bustling city, there is still an exactness about it.  This is why if viewed closely, you can see a map of London over the picture of it.  Every street corner is documented.  That takes away some of the monstrosity of it.  I also include a picture of Oxford, a British university with a cartoon finish.  He’s never actually seen it, he only has an imagination of what it might be like.  Lastly, I included some of the dialogue between Njoroge and Mwihaki.  It shows how little he cares about the exactness of the city he travels to.  All the land dominated by white people is the same to him.  They speak English and are Christians.  He models his life after this.

Adaptation of Exact

An important aspect of adaptation is choosing a workable storyline.  There can be many different stories following one person’s life.  “There are many stories within one life; a life defies cinematic neatness and creates difficulties for anyone choosing which story to show” (Seger 49).  This novel focuses on the adolescence of a fictional boy during a historical conflict in Kenya.  It already is focused to one story line rather than every small thing that happens within his life.  By isolating the novel to one specific main conflict, it is easier to adapt.  “Weep Not, Child” makes things a little easier.  Even though it may not be obvious, all of the conflicts in Njoroge’s life are tied to the Mau Mau uprising and its effect on him.

Taking exactitude to heart, I decided to focus more specifically on a single aspect of the novel in my blox.  I looked at the critique of the education system of Kenya that Thiong’o poses.  Njoroge believes he can return to Kenya after college to help regain the lost land.  What he doesn’t see is that he is maintaining white supremacy by studying English literature and Christianity.  He would rather learn about Europeans that his own culture, which no one else takes an interest in either.  He gives up his mother’s stories for the white man’s.  Njoroge does not have knowledge of who’s who among the educated whites, only that they have better schools and he wants to be like them.

Experience of Exact

According to Calvino, exactitude means:

  1. “A well-defined and well-calculated plan for the work in question;
  2. An evocation of clear, incisive, memorable visual images;
  3. A language as precise as possible both in choice of words and in expression of the subtleties of thought and imagination” (Calvino 56).   

To be exact means to be precise and detailed.  Calvino tells us how in trying to escape vagueness he becomes tangled in an infinite amount of details.  Where is the compromise?  That is really more of a preference of the writer. 

I can’t say that I believe “Weep Not, Child” to be an exact novel.  The amount of time and conflicts covered in the short amount of pages doesn’t leave room for much detail.  In some situations, the reader is left guessing what the author means due to the round-about way in which the scene is described.  “And Ngotho had now for days been tortured in all manner of ways, yet would tell nothing beyond the fact that he had killed Jacobo” (Thiong’o 119).  This sentence, which is also its own paragraph, is all that is described of Ngotho’s torture.  We later see him on his death bed when he has been released but that is all that the reader knows about the extent of the horror he faced.  Nothing more is needed, especially since Njoroge’s torture is briefly described.  We can infer what Ngotho endured. 

Despite the lack of specific details I find it amazing the way the novel flows together.  Sometimes the information Thiong’o gives us seems irrelevant but in the end everything was connected to tell the story of the Mau Mau uprising as it effected a boy and his family.  This is just as much a part of exactitude as details are.  The author has a purpose behind every word and nothing insignificant moves on to the published work.