How have class distinction and the indignities perpetrated upon the oppressed classes been demonstrated in the childhood accounts of Zitkala-sa and Bama? [5 marks]


The title 'Memories of Childhood' is very appropriate and suggestive. The chapter aims to showcase the bitter memories of the childhood of two women of different cultures through their autobiographical extracts of social discrimination and oppression and the resulting feelings of rebellion in them later in life. Zitkala-Sa and Bama, both look back at their childhood reflecting upon the indignities and conflict between races and cultures respectively, which they had to face as children. Though the women were young, they knew well of the injustice and oppression that prevailed and were determined to face the odds and stand against it. The atrocities they faced as children, propelled them into becoming rebels against the marginalisation of the underprivileged section of the society, and they went on with their fight against injustice.
Both the accounts of Zitkala-Sa and Bama refer to the universal theme of exploitation and oppression of the socially marginalized classes. These autobiographical accounts deal with women of marginalized communities, narrating instances of prejudice faced by them thanks to the ignorance and petty-mindedness of the mainstream cultural groups. The girls in Zitkala's school were carefully scrutinised, they were made to wear clothes and shoes which were ill-fitting and suffocating. This disciplinarian system was extended to dictate the length of hair so much so that girls with long hair had to get them shingle and submit to the authorities who were quite cruel. Zitkala was terrified when she was informed of the impending hair loss because it was an infringement on her liberty to make these choices about the length of hair she wanted to keep. Zitkala's long hair was her own choice, something personal that could not come under the ambit of regulation on the part of the school authorities. When she refused to comply, she was dragged out and tied to a chair. She resisted but in vain and felt anguished after the hair cut. She felt that her spirit had been broken, it wasn't just her hair but her life spirit that had been pruned into submission.

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