Fault Lines Prompt
In this story, use of language is the most important tool used to convey to the reader the sense of brokenness felt by the author. She, Meena Alexander, feels torn by her past, pulled and tied into so many pieces and knots that she can no longer even really see herself. She uses language to portray this feeling of ‘fracturedness’, a feeling which, she feels, is an integral part of her past.
Alexander makes use of vivid, contorted analogies to her own flesh and body to explain how she feels about her past: “And what to do with the crookedness of flesh, thrown back at my eyes?” She feels that she is being twisted, deformed by this divergence of histories. She reminisces about how it might have been, on occasion; when doing so, she uses far smoother, more natural analogies: “Sometimes in my fantasies, … I have imagined … my life perfect as a bud opening in the cool monsoon winds”. Alexander considers her life to be completely unnatural, to be crooked, contorted; she dreams of it being cool, smooth, and calm.
The tension of the fragmented nature of Alexander’s memories is shown using a direct contrast: sentences are crushed together, all in one long string of thought. “Malayalam, my mother tounge, the language of first speech; Hindi which I learnt as a child; Arabic from my years in the Sudan—odd shards survive; French; English?” But the same thing applies to her descriptions of her fantasies, and in fact, in any of her memories. The only short, concise part in her writing is her analysis: “What could I ever be but a mass of faults, a fault mass?” Alexander uses this difference in complexity to illustrate the turbulence of her thoughts, while also showing that her mind is still capable of clear thought.
Throughout this entire tale, one can trace a line of faults or fragments. This trail is a clear arrow pointing to its end, with the whole concept of a ‘fault mass’. But it is also a trail back through Alexander’s mind. It highlights the parts of her life that exemplify her ultimate fragmentation: a “broken geometry” of homelands, “odd shards” of language lodged in her brain. But she is not completely fragmented; there is still an “inner part coiled within” her that refuses to break, that gives her fantasies of an ordered life. Alexander uses language to discover where she is fragmented and where she is still whole.
In this passage, Meena Alexander explores the fragmentation of her history and her life. Language, in its many variations, balanced and redrew the ideas in this history into a comprehensible form. Careful use of wording, of analogy, of vivid emotional imagery are what let this piece bring out her fault lines, what let them ultimately be understood.