Feed on

“Character” might be one of the shorter poems in the set we read for class, but it has one of the clearest voices.  “You’re a girl/ and you’d better not forget…” Nasrin writes in the opening lines, sounding both accusatory and commanding at the same time.  As the poem continues, though, we learn that she is simply informing her subject of the way things are.  And that reality is a harsh and degrading one.

“If you’ve got no character/ you’ll turn back,” she continues, “and if not/ you’ll keep on going, as you’re going now.”  These lines are a clever way of saying that there is no way for a woman to have honor or respect in the place Nasrin is writing about.  A girl can turn back and go inside her house to avoid harassment if she does not have character, but staying outside and going about her business also insinuates that she has no character.

According to her biography at the beginning of the PDF, we learn that Nasrin was forced to leave her home country of Bangladesh because of her writing, and that many of her books have been banned because of their anti-religious commentary.  “Character” reflects what I have come to understand about her personality from the short descriptions I have read: Nasrin is not afraid to speak her mind, no matter the cost.  She writes about the inequality of men and women in “Character” because it is unjust and needs to be addressed.

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