Atwood and Suu Kyi
Atwood/Suu Kyi comparison
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The most apparent distinction between Margaret Atwood and Suu Kyi is the freedom of speech factor. Here we have Atwood, who is a liberated woman from Canada, willing and able to speak her mind without having to tip-toe around the issues in her speech. On the other hand, and on the other side of the world, Suu Kyi is faced with crippling oppression and political persecution that prohibits her from directly addressing the issues she is concerned with, that is without putting herself in harms way. While Atwood faces disapproval from a critic, or more likely an affronted feminist, she is in no immediate danger and this, I think, is where the background of the two women can clearly be differentiated. Nevertheless, both Atwood and Suu Kyi are highly educated and have proved themselves to be exceedingly competent orators. Atwood is known to have a history in campaigning for women??™s rights since the 1960??™s. Although she is a fervent supporter of women??™s rights she has, in the past, expressed ill feelings towards the feminist movement. Similarly, Suu Kyi has been strongly influenced by the idea of equality between the sexes, something not evident in Burma as of yet. She fights not only for women, but for tolerance, peace and ???a few brave men??? who also desire Suu Kyi??™s objectives for a better world. Atwood is an internationally renowned novelist, and has received the Booker Prize (among others) for her novel, ???The Blind Assassin.??™ Suu Kyi has won the prestigious 1991 Nobel Peace Prize ???for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights,??? while being held under house arrest, which resulted simply from her popularity, and carried on for 6 years.
A feature which I think ties in with the context of the speech is its tone. Margaret Atwood is not burdened by the threat of danger that Suu Kyi faces on a daily basis for plainly speaking her mind, therefore, the tone of Atwood??™s speech is humorous and tongue-in-cheek, and while I recognize that the purpose of the speeches are entirely different, the fact that Suu Kyi is living in such oppression and is only able to allude to the irrational Junta government as incompetent, effects the way she communicates. Atwood uses humorous metaphors, asserting that the process of writing a novel is more realistically comparable to ???wrestling a greased pig in the dark,??? rather than the popular perception that it is similar to ???paint-by-numbers.??? These metaphors serve as tongue-in-cheek comparisons. Suu Kyi also uses an important metaphor, comparing women to brave ???lionesses??? with endless useful qualities, capable of anything. She also uses inclusive language which aims to bring about a sense of unity among the listeners at the conference and establishes rapport. Suu Kyi refers to women as a whole as ???sisters??? and also uses ???we???, ???us??? and ???our.??? Atwood uses inclusive language several times. She addresses a particular comment to the audience saying ???None of this means that you, personally, cannot find happiness.???
Atwoods speech, while seemingly haphazard at first glance, is cleverly structured and sectioned into particular issues. We are lead through one topic or idea, and before we know it, we are on to the next with the previous still in our mind. Atwood finds a way to bring us back to the main ideas of the speech between informal banter and personal anecdotes. Although a wide range of Atwood??™s thoughts on ???female bad behaviour??? in literature, are explored, somehow the audience is not swamped with too much information to handle. Atwood uses the rhetorical device of Anaphora to bring us back to a previous topic, or emphasize an important point in her speech. This repetition, often humorous, helps us remember key moments in the speech. Suu Kyi adopts a more formal structure and with the serious manner of the speech, she is less likely to veer off into other issues without fully addressing each point. The fact that it is a political speech also prevents her from making any unplanned remarks, so as not to get into any sort of trouble. While both speeches are highly planned, it would be more likely of Atwood to improvise while speaking to the audience, hence the ???given in various versions??? in the title of the speech.
The purposes of Suu Kyi??™s and Atwood??™s speeches are both similar in some places and radically different in other areas.
For Suu Kyi??™s speech her goal is to illuminate issues such as freedom, equality and women??™s rights both in her homeland, Burma and other under-privileged countries in the rest of the world. She encapsulates her objective in the beginning of her speech with the line ???I want to try and voice some of the common hopes which firmly unite us in all our splendid diversity???. On the other hand Atwood??™s speech seeks to re-evaluate the role of female characters in literature especially a female villain (villainesses) and her feminist movements have affected a novelist??™s process of creating a female character. She uses villainesses as a device to explore the changing roles of women in society and it relates when pen is put to paper.
In their subject matter both speeches are comparable in their general concern for equality and the role of woman in modern society, yet, their area of interest is entirely different. Atwood expresses her view that women in literature need to be more three dimensional rather than just a plot device. She also criticizes the feminist movement for causing this effect, whereas Suu Kyi??™s speech leans more towards politics and the issues that stem from intolerance. Suu Kyi believes that the participation of women in politics and governments will bring major change to the world. She relates this to her experience which she suffered in her country, being stripped of her basic human rights. However she does not dwell on the negatives, and hardly speaks of her imprisonment. Instead she adopts a positive attitude and boosts morale with her language, and hopes for the future. In her speech she also alludes to her religion, Buddhism, and speaks of the traditional Parvarana ceremony, which involves monks asking for forgiveness. Suu Kyi identifies this act as a council of truth and reconciliation which could be the origin of the parliament and that there is a place of mutual understanding and peace in inside all men. Linking her purpose to her religion??™s ideals. Atwood also used religion in her speech, by comparing a novel??™s process to god??™s creation demonstrating that prose writing is not as easy as most people think. On the subject of feminist groups, she challenges extreme feminist groups by saying that they influence writer to be viewed as anti-feminist simply by casting females in villain roles and display her idea that ???bad behavior should not only be ???reserved for men??? but for women too, as it is the case in reality that women could be just as flawed as their counterpart. She reinforces her idea by reintroducing classic villainesses to her audiences including her favorite, the evil queen of snow white and the seven dwarves which she described ???what power, what untold possibilities???. Conversely Suu Kyi??™s speech chooses to embrace women in a more positive way, by comparing mothers to brave lionesses when it comes to protecting their young, by referencing research which shows that they are better at verbal communication then men and telling by their scores in academics are strong. Those points are all employed to strengthening her point that significant development in areas such as peace can only be made if women, whom make up other half of the world??™s population are permitted to participate.
Suu Kyi??™s speech was well received with her audience at the conference as it was well suited to her position as one of the world??™s leading human rights activists. Furthermore, her comments can be related to by both the Burmese women, and men and those all over the world who are suffering. Her distinctive status also reinforces some of her points regarding the importance of females in a government as she is someone who had and still is suffering from the inhumane treatment of her male-dominated government. Atwood??™s speech too was mostly well conceived with her ability to balance negativity with positive points. Critics applauded the fact that it was clear and articulate but not monotonous, informative but not forceful and also for not being tempted to create an argument ,it however created controversy due to her comments about feminist groups