Discuss the representation of Others (Palestinians and women) in “Facing the Forests”
Compare Yehoshua’s engagement with Others to other works we have studied.
Trace the appearances of the young Palestinian girl and think about her role in the story.
Revisit the connectios between poetics and politics in the story.
1. Opening discussion – women and Palestinians in “Facing the Forests”
Since Jake has written about the representation of women in the story while Staci and Katie have written about the representations of Arabs, let us recap your comments and try to think comparatively about the representation of different Others in the story. What are the differences and similarities between the representations of women and Palestinians in this story? What can we say then of Yehoshua overall mode of representation of Others? (A few important notions from the comments that we would want to engage with here – Staci: the Other within, Katie: the Orientalist gaze, Jake: Yehoshua as participating in a Male-centric tradition)
2. Comparison of Yehoshua to Yizhar and Oz (Hand-out provided)
Looking at excerpts from Yizhar’s story “The Prisoner” and Oz’s “Nomad and Viper” in comparison to Yehoshua’s “Facing the Forests,” what can we say about the modes in which these three canonical Hebrew authors represent Otherness?
3. The Arab girl as the Other in “Facing the Forests”
First, it would be good to hear from Jake more about the girl as an anomaly in comparison to the representation of other women in the story.
Then, let us look at the different instances in which she appears in the story and think about the role of her character in this story. How is she represented? What imagery is attached to her? What patterns can we observe in her representation? What process can we observe? What can we say about her in connection to our discussion of the representation of the Other?
210 – “In the dark room, its windows ablaze with the last light, the fire watcher shakes a heavy hand, bends to pat the child, who flinches terrified.”
212 – “At noon his mind is distracted from the books by an imaginary flame flashing among the trees. He remains tense for hours, excited, searching with the binoculars his hand on the telephone. At last, toward the evening, he discovers that it is only the red dress of the Arab’s little daughter who is skipping among the trees.” What could be the significance of him mistaking the child to be a flame of fire?
215 – “The Arab is seated on a pile of rocks, his hoe by his side. The child is talking to him excitedly, describing something with animated gestures… the two remain behind, petrified. The child’s joy has shriveled halfway through her interrupted story…” The girl, in contrast with her father, has a voice, but we can never hear her actually speak? Why?
226 – “Suddenly she [the woman visitor] rouses herself. The soft voice of the little Arab girl sends a shiver through her. What is she doing here?” Indeed, what is the child doing in this scene?
228 – “Who is sitting on the chair behind the book-laden desk? The child. Her eyes are wide open, drinking in the dark. The Arab has put her there to replace the loving fire watcher. It’s an idea.”
229 – “In order to sooth his conscience he sits the girl in his chair. It has taken less than a minute to teach her the Hebrew word for ‘fire.’ How she has grown up during his stay here! She is like a noble mare now with marvelous eyes. Unexpectedly her limbs have ripened, her filth become a woman’s smell. At first her old father had been forced to chain her to the chair, or she would have escaped.” What do you make of this sudden change of the girl described here? What are your thoughts about the violence inflicted on the child? How does it fit into the story?
230 – “The Arab has disappeared, has been missing since yesterday. The child is miserable. From time to time she raises her voice in a thin, ancient lament” What do we make of the child’s voice here?
“Towards evening the Arab disappears again. The child has gone to look for him and has come back empty-handed. Gently the hours drift by. A single drop of rain. The fire watcher prepares supper and sets it before the child, but she cannot bring herself to eat. Like a little animal she scurries off once more into the forest to hunt for her father and returns in despair, by herself. Towards midnight she falls asleep at last. He undresses her and carries the shabby figure to the bed, covers it with the torn blanket. What a lonely woman she will grow up to be. He muses. Something is flowing between his fingers, something like compassion.” What do we make of the fire-watcher relationship with the child in this scene?
231 – “Suddenly he is aware of another presence in the room. Swiftly he turns his head and sees the girl, half naked, eyes staring, the light of the fire playing over her face. He smiles and she weeps”
232—“He seizes the trembling child by the hand, goes down and begins his retreat.”
235 – “Suddenly he walks over to the forest manager and boldly demands a solution for the child.”
4. Concluding discussion: What are the political the questions/issues that this story invokes? And how are these questions manifested through Yehoshua’s literary choices?