Kyle Matthew Q.

Santelices MA Literature English 275 August 19, 2011 Su-chen Christine Lim “Rice Bowl” Introduction Rice Bowl, the first novel by Su-chen Christine Lim talks much about Singapore—locales, events and characters. This account is not one that is typical though. In most ways, the novel touches on a critical manner the cityscape of Singapore that is “rougher” than what it seems. This is not the picturesque novel that functions as part memoir, part story and part travel guide to one who is not familiar to Singapore. Lim takes the account of many of Singapore’s faults as a country born out of many an inheritance and of devastating situations. In this book, she writes of the dreams of a young nun and the pressures of her idealism in hopes of thriving and changing a corrupt society in 1960 Singapore—a time of political uncertainty and insecurity. The Author Born in Malaysia in 1948, Su-chen Christine Lim lived there till she was 15. A third generation descendant of Chinese immigrants in Malaysia, her grandparents came from Tangshan, China, and settled in Malaysia. She was schooled at the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus (CHIJ) in Penang and Kedah. In 1963, her family moved to Singapore where she continued her English education in CHIJ Katong, Singapore. Lim first started writing fiction when she was attending a literature honours course at the National University of Singapore. As a result, Ricebowl, her first novel, was published in 1984, with a theme that questions the regulated and pragmatic politics of Singapore in the '60s. Between this and her second novel, Lim co-penned a short play in 1986. Titled The Amah: A Portrait in Black and White, the play earned her the Merit Prize in the National University of Singapore - SHELL Short Play Competition. Lim wrote her second novel, Gift from the Gods, in 1990. Lim's personal ancestry had an influence in her literary works. The history of Chinese immigrants, for instance Chinese tin miners in Malaysia, had interested her since her teenage years. This is reflected in her fourth novel, A Bit of Earth, which is about the relationship between Chinese immigrants and the Malays in colonial Malaya.

. which leads to a riot. In addition to being an acclaimed writer. the American missionary. Lim has also taught at Catholic Junior College. passionate and idealistic. Sister Marie rejects the conformity of her first love. Singapore.Her third novel. There are twenty-three chapters in the book. The historical events depicted in the novel include the rickshaw riots of 1900s. and the last gala ball held at Raffles Hotel. the police inspector.000 Singapore Literature Prize (Fiction) in 1992. writer's conferences and arts festivals locally and internationally. Her novel was described as outstanding by the panel of judges. The Novel Rice Bowl is divided into different organized sections for chapters—Convent. University and Jurong. Ser Mei. A Fistful of Colours. Paul Tan. meets a tragic death. Hans Kuhn. They organize a protest march against the Vietnam War. when politicized Chinese rickshaw pullers demonstrated against the Japanese invasion of China's Shantung peninsula. her student and the daughter of a prostitute. She embraces the liberalism of her second love. comprising Edwin Thumboo. Ser Mei. and contributes towards curriculum development at the Ministry of Education. and leads a group of students to question the values of a nation gripped by fear of the government and loss of their rice bowl. Lim was awarded a Fulbright Foundation award to study at the International Writer's Programme. The book centers on the activities of a nun and Singapore mixed in. She has participated in creative writing workshops. received the distinction of being the first novel to be awarded the inaugural $10. A Fistful of Colours. Young. Filipino writer and publisher Francisco Sionil Jose and Australian writer Geoffrey Dutton. detention and deportation of the workers she tries to help. She became the University of Iowa's International writer-in-residence in the spring of 2000. The Important Characters Sister Marie-Therese Wang – the young nun (protagonist) who seeks to change the ways of Singapore through idealism and by establishing with others a student worker alliance project. University of Iowa in 1996. a fictional work about a woman's decision to allow her husband to have a concubine. incorporated and brought to life events in Singapore's early history.

Hans joins Marie as they fell in love and establish the student worker alliance in hopes to change order in the society. Summary With Sister Marie fresh off from the convent and into the university. Along with this. who was suspected as a Maoist Communist. He influenced Marie in making the protest regarding the Vietnam War. Paul wishes for her to change her views but Marie stays firm with her decisions and departs from Paul. agrees to have it with a man who eventually dies almost immediately. The day after the event. all the family and nearest to them were in mourning as Sister Marie was contemplating on why Ser Mei died. She ultimately finds out that they cannot take the teachings and get out from them and are under the influence of the Ministry. He declares for a much larger and more radical solution for this. who is a student of Sister Marie. who is an intelligent Chinese believer in Maoism. Paul Tan. Hans Kuhn – The American missionary who was to become Marie’s second love in later parts in the novel. She is constantly moved by her mother to be the next prostitute in the family as she needs money. Mer Sei – She is a daughter of a prostitute and one of Marie’s students. Upon her notice of such. Mak Sean Loong – The Chinese speaking character in the novel that acts upon the purpose of student worker alliance project through his influence of the Chinese communities. realizes her position and is haunted by the fact that her mother is a prostitute and is having problems dealing with it. Ser Mei. Along the way.Paul Tan – Marie’s first love and a government scholar turned high-ranking police inspector. who is a police investigator in Singapore. Going further in the novel. Marie establishes her positions in the form of a student worker alliance project with Mak Sean Loong. It is here that she disvalues the position of her lover. Marie’s heart was hardened further as she believes this was the result of the corrupt government. Ser Mei does not want it but with further complaints from her mother. . This leads to a public anti-war demonstration that goes awry as the opposition was displeased by its process. Mak Sean Loong. A story is given to her background as a prostitute and her untimely death. Loong states that there is much conspiracy in Singapore. With a young vigor and idealism. she encourages her students to question the values of their government and consistently prays for such reinforcement. Ser Mei runs away and commits suicide. she realizes that students have become more static than dynamic. then went crazy as he pissed off in front of the American embassy as a sign of breaking further boundaries in establishing the movement.

This strengthens the parallels between Marie and the government—the former an individualist. Su-chen says that it essence. The lens that she carries is that of a godhead that speaks to many as a preacher but instead of preaching. made a riot and as a result. the latter is recognized as utilitarian. But anyone can relate that this is not simply the . is a strong sense of not only a religious change in order but of a strong individualism that she sees in Singapore—that it is lacking it. This is taken as a sign of release from a terrible fate in life dealt. But there is what lies deeper below the surface in criticism and that is of individualism against utilitarianism. she acts upon such preaches. that Singapore “was a piece of hard rock. a greater piece of rock that had no heart and in more cases. many of the people who Marie wanted to help and free. he feels the empty loneliness of the Nassim Road. she deals heavily on the rituals of prostitution and haunted by her mother’s request of helping her through following such a path. Marie uses poetic imagery of prayers and the situations in hopes for a better day and age. due to her belief that each and every individual is more important than the rest and that they are simply not part of a utility belt. Ser Mei in the end commits suicide. it could not be moved by something as miniscule as student unrest. Marie comes from the convent. In theory. watches the scene.” It was in all her honesty. who speaks of injustice. Marie’s course and path differs in essence from Loong as relevance to background is taken into consideration. it makes the subject matter much larger than what it happened to target. It was a criticism of what Singapore was in those raging times. one can certainly see there is a great shout towards an anti-war movement in the minds of both Marie and Mak Sean Loong. raised by a world other than human politics but of the transcendental —to God. Aptly placed is the title of the novel which is a figurative “rice bowl” which functions as a practical tool for the many people seeking to fill their rice bowls with a satiating heap of grain— satisfying the hunger of the stomach and their unrest. got detention and were put to exile (deportation) with Marie and Hans as part of this decision. What ruled the land was economic instability and needed a counterbalancing philosophy of economic survival—an aspect of utilitarianism. Analysis The novel in justification is a story of Singapore and all the mutations that happen alongside a timeframe of insecurity—in money and in identity. This dream of a fill is made a great impossibility in a weightier condition in the Vietnam War. The student Ser Mei certainly is a part of such feminine whims. It was a target much larger than a religious dogma or student’s rights. As Paul Tan. When Suchen speaks of the historical background of the novel. Behind her motives. In a section devoted to her life as a daughter of a prostitute. In many parts of the novel.At the end of the novel. The novel ends like so. This is once again. The constant pressures made by the two forces creates catastrophe for others including the women. making a written word.

the situation leads the subjects to activate their rights of freedom and choice by making an anti-war demonstration. the educational system enforces "docility. despite being an American over Paul Tan. A. This is symbolic but a justifiable renewal of the opposites between people against government. levelling harsh criticisms at Singapore's pragmatic. This is to no avail as the efforts are thwarted by a mightier position in the government. An example of such is a critical paper showing views on Singaporean Society principally in Rice Bowl. particularly for the way its educational system produces conformists rather than thinkers. In the complexity of the Vietnam War. This establishes the impossibility of an idealistic dream in a society where practicality lords over idealism—the purposes of utility defeat the individual. Love is also not left outside the boundaries of power and dispute as Marie chooses Hans later in the novel. Rice Bowl begins polemically. Criticism about the Novel There has been quite a good amount of criticism in the novel. obedience to authority and acceptance of hierarchy" in students . This momentary joy is given credit by speeches that Marie makes as a form of encouragement.dealing of the mystics but one that is the product of a long system of wrong doings by higher positions and powers. She justifies this of course and finds this resolve in Hans Kuhn. M. According to Gopinathan. This rightly so as Marie is against the figures of power and Paul becomes a symbolic representation of such being a high ranked investigator serving the dogma rather than the true purpose of God. regulated democracy. Su-chen Christine Lim's Three Criticisms of Singaporean Society Lim Siew Yea. Of the greater value that they are exiled and the war ended up hurting the workers rather than helping then.

Built on fear. Marie watched. They have become mere processors. In doing so. the fear instilled by crisis mentality sustains the political arder. Singapore. the crisis mentality keeps the people in psychological bondage. students remain merely passive recipients. or among the students themselves. Critical Sources . Marshall Cavendish Editions.(Gopinathan. for everyone else took up their pens and began to write. Political opposition is successfully marginalised here as students are indoctrinated with the belief that any attempt on their part to question the authority would weaken the stability of the country. Here. as shown by Lim. they have stunted their own psychological growth: "People like you cling to the old structures because you don't believe enough in man that he can rebuild" (49). is thus echoed in Lim's first novel: She hated this society they had built. Rice Bowl also attacks Singapore for the systematic depoliticisation of its students by perpetuating a crisis mentality. which Baratham's works also mention. the development of a socio-political consciousness is subsequently deemed to be of secondary importance. which renders the whole process of critical thinking dysfunctional. simply acceptance!" (Rice 55). Rice Bowl. They were misers grasping. The obsession with security. Any possibility of weaving a web of interaction between the teacher and students. (257) In this passage. and as a result. No question. the hallmark of Singapore's political system. serves ironically to mirror the transformation of mankind to mechanical automatons. incapable of critical intelligence. 2009. The substitution of a machine for a teacher. Pragmatism. condemns them to a state of intellectual impoverishment. Su-chen Christine. Here. Interaction among people that involves dialogue and questioning can widen their mental horizons but when an automated machine acts as a hub controlling the flow of information. 1985: 226). they want money in the banks and they're getting them under this system' (144). All these qualities appear in a scene in which a tape recorder easily substitutes for a university lecturer: "As Dr Jones's voice came over the speakers loud and clear. Bibliography Primary Source Lim. claustrophobic as garrison with walls going up higher and higher. also comes under the attack in Rice Bowl. the pragmatic culture is shown to cultivate a nation of materialistic people: "They want flats. amazed. they want houses. is left totally untapped: their inarticulateness. perpetually fearing the loss of their hard-won treasures. Print. characters are shown to fall back on their rigid and decrepit ways owing to the fear of change. not innovators. no argument. In Rice Bowl. Their fears condemning the rest to live in prison. accumulating. they want cars. the political leadership has risked turning its citizens into people who are incapable of versatility. In this pursuit of material wealth.

19 August 2011. Shakila Abdul Manan. The article by Philip Holden gives light to the situations and tensions created by the author through the interview.” Asiatic. 2009. Landow. The area of concern in this article is on the fiction of Su-Chen Lim and in particular to her novels that depict radical feminist issues in Singapore. The work provided by Professor George Landow gives account to the final section of Christine Lim’s novel. This article gives a comparative analysis of two of Su-chen Christine Lim’s novels and tackles on the issues that they present to the reader. Lim Siew. “Rice Bowl and a Bit of Earth. PostColonial Website. “Writing Historical Fiction: A Dialogue with Suchen Christine Lim. Yea. Canadian Academy of Oriental and Occidental Literature. “Su-chen Christine Lim’s Description of Jurong. Web. Philip. Web. Rice Bowl.” Asiatic. is analyzed formalistically to understand the patterns and parallels of the political themes . Angelia. This account on Jurong. Asiatic International Islamic University Malaysia.” Studies in Languages and Literature.Poon. Ramdas. which is a place of memories for the principal characters but also the place of revolt and uprising to the immovable Singaporean government. “Su-chen Christine Lim’s Three Criticisms of Singaporean Society. Post Colonial Website. Santhi Mathi. Web. Here the authors tackle on the many depictions of feminine injustice and inequality through the analysis of Lim’s principle characters. Web. 2009. 2010. Holden. Poon uses a variety of approaches and treats the novel through the lens of a formalistic reader and analyzes on theme and relevance to historical context. and Elangkeeran Sabathy.” PostColonial Web. The critical essay comes from a paper on critical grounds in Singaporean Literature and the problems exhibited through the novels of Suchen Christine Lim and Nopal Baratham.” PostColonialWeb. “Resistance and Oppression in Su-Chen Christine’s Novels: A Radical Feminist Analysis. Asiatic International Islamic University Malaysia. George. An example of which is Rice Bowl’s Sister Marie Therese Wang and her role in the radical feminist idea of oppression and being oppressed. The questions provides specific contextual evidences of the happenings in the fiction of Suchen Christine Lim and enhances further the understanding of the reader through the writer’s views and thoughts on the subject matter of Singapore in her times and in the modern times. The essay tackles on Lim’s Rice Bowl as a reaction to Singapore in the time of political and economic unrest and deals with the criticisms of the author as placed in her novel. 19 August 2011. Web.

Landow uses pieces in the work to establish the local element of Jurong. .presented in the form of convincing rhetoric by the author. In essence.

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