Farrukh Dhondy was born in 1944 in Bombay, India. After getting an engineering degree in Bombay he travelled to England. Here he achieved a BA and MA from the Cambridge and Leicester university. He became a full time author in 1980 before which he taught English in various schools in London.
Most of his books were written for children, for example ‘East End at your feet’, and ‘Poona Company’. He went on to write plays for stage and television.
In ”Kiss Miss Carol” Dhondy shows the problems children from ethnic minorities that live in Britain have to face. The struggle for their identity; adapting to western ways while respecting their parents and maintaining their cultures.
‘Kiss Miss Carol’ is the story of a young boy Jolil who comes from an eastern background and is living in a western society. When he is given the part of a cripple in his Christmas play he knows his father would disapprove as he would see the offer of the part as racism and prejudice. ‘Kiss Miss Carol’ follows the mental struggle Jolil must face in order to decide where his loyalties lie. In the east or the west?
This, like the ‘Son’s Veto’ is set in a different time era to our own. Even thought the time is more recent the family situation is still different. Set in East End London, Jolil’s story takes place at a time when the East End was known for its many ethnic minority residents. It was common for these families to live on a street with only other ethnic minorities and work, as the Miahs did, in a tailoring factory.
The Miah’s were originally from Bangladesh therefore their way of living differed to the locals of that era. The foreign families had a choice. Some families westernised their way of living. Others kept as strictly as possible to their eastern roots. Mr Miah was one of these families, living in the west but not letting his family become westernised. Mr Miah was brought up in a society where traditions were sacred and family the topmost priority and he didn’t want to change this. Mr Miah was strict in his ways.
” When he got back <from work> he’d say his sunset prayers” even though it was long after sunset. He was not just strict in his religious practice but also in the way he ran the family.
He read Jolil’s books “day after day.” Even though Jolil knew his father couldn’t read English very well “the pretence was kept up.”
Both of these activities were routine and not exactly practical.
Jolil has respect for his father. This respect is not necessarily something he has earned but Jolil feels he owes him. The respect for his father sometimes crosses into fear.
Mr Miah and Jolil may not have had an ideal relationship but the atmosphere at home is typical to what Mr Miah would have grown up in. A submissive mother, very much a background figure, and a patriarchal home. We can see that Mr Miah gets his patriarchal views from Bangladesh. In analysing the paragraph when Khalil is needed back in Bangladesh, tells us a lot about how the Miahs’ family works.
Jolil returned from school with the plan to bribe Khalil in his mind only to find that this may not be possible. The paragraph starts with Mr Miah firmly informing Khalil that he would ‘do exactly’ as he said. This shows a patriarchal and authoritarian relationship. The next thing we notice is that Mr Miah is not usually home when Jolil gets home from school. Mr Miah also snaps at him and tell him to ‘go into the kitchen…’ when he inquires about why he is home so early.
This again shows up his authoritarian ways. Jolil immediately did as he was told which shows he is submissive around his father. In the kitchen his mother is working silently listening to the argument between her son and her husband. This is traditional, the woman was not expected to interfere and true to her roots she doesn’t. Although she is a fairly shadowy figure all through the story her family do care for her. Jolil decides to lie about a racist attack by saying its raining and although he is lying to her he is doing so to spare her feeling.
Khalil is fairly passive in this argument and does not talk back but this doesn’t mean he’s afraid as we can see that he was looking in the mirror combing his hair when his father was talking to him. This is care free action. Maybe this is because he realises, like Jolil, that no amount of arguing is going to change his father’s mind. Khalil’s plane ticket has been booked without consulting him and it is here we see how controlled their lives really are. At sixteen Khalil is expected to put his family first, pack his bags and travel all the way across to the other side of the world because he was made to.
Jolil and Khalil are growing up in a world of duty and responsibility. The episode with Khalil makes it harder from Jolil to perform in the play and the departure of Khalil against his will makes Jolil feel even more guilty about wanting to perform. Mr Miah’s influence does rub off on his children though, for example when Khalil is sent away Jolil think that this happened because ‘God had punished him.’
Mr Miah’s role as an authoritarian is not unjustified. He simply treating Jolil and Khalil as he would have been treated. Mr Miah looks at himself and sees that he has managed to provide for his family well with his upbringing and therefore raises his children the same way in a hope they would end up as stable as him. This may not be the case all the time as we can see that Mr Miah is not as financially stable as he would hope, so maybe he is raising his children the only way he knows how. When we see how unhappy they sometimes feel we feel sorry for not only Khalil and Jolil but also Mr Miah as he has no immediate alternative.
I think it is easy to miss the story from Mr Miah’s point of view. This is partly because the plot surrounds Jolil, but there are situations when we can see that the Miahs have more problems than just Jolil’s play. There is a part in the story when we see the more sensitive, more fatherly side of Mr Miah, ‘he looked worried and his eyes seemed to look beyond the wall he was staring at. “You’re a good boy,” he said’. This tells us that his world isn’t as good as he might have hoped and makes us feel sorry for Mr Miah.
Jolil’s world is briefly described in various places. There is a paragraph of descriptive prose about his walk home from school. From this we can see that racism is something that his family have dealt with because of the advice dispensed to him from his brother and father.
– ‘His brother Khalil said that when white people had something to do they didn’t notice you.
– Once when he was walking home from school some young white men on a balcony had watched him and shouted bad things at him and one threw a bucket of soapy water from the first floor all over him.’
– ‘Nothing to fear from them ;busy white people; Jolil thought, they were the kind of white people that didn’t bother you, his Dad had told him.
– ‘Once across Liverpool street, Jolil knew he had to watch out.
Mr Miah is sensitive to prejudice and racism. He describes the racists in the white van as being ‘rubbish people making trouble.’ He also spoke in English because he wanted the men in the van to understand that he wasn’t afraid of them. I think that although he might have seen this as being brave and showing them he wasn’t scared was having a positive effect it was a foolish and risky thing to do when he had Jolil with him. But we see that he is a hypocrite also as Jolil thinks that Mr Miah wouldn’t listen to Miss Ingram’s reasoning because of her unprofessional appearance. This is clear prejudice on Mr Miah’s part.
Jolil’s apparent main problem is that he can’t perform in his play for school. When he first confronts his father about it Mr Miah briefly interrogates him about it and then makes it perfectly clear that he doesn’t want Jolil to take part. However, Jolil like any child of that age didn’t want to give up on what he really wanted. But unlike any child of that age he knew that asking his father would not change the reply. This is important. Jolil didn’t persist by repeatedly asking his father for what he wanted. He found other less honest ways of solving his problem. I think that if Mr Miah wasn’t so strict in his ways and was more westernised he could have saved Jolil a lot of heart ache. On the other hand if Jolil listened to his father the first time round he could have helped himself. The relationship between the two makes the situation worse. There appears to be a barrier of communication, probably one that Mr Miah himself had grown up with. There is irony in Jolil’s situation as his father himself tells him to ‘learn to keep the agreements you make.’
All through it builds up excitement for Jolil’s performance. There is a lengthy paragraph dedicated to the events of the rehearsal and the preparation. This builds excitement. This paragraph makes us feel sorry for Jolil especially the last sentence. “It was snowing outside”, this reminds that it was Christmas time and makes us feel sorry for Jolil who was deprived of the one thing he wanted at Christmas time.
The end of the story is a happy one as Jolil gets what he wants. But in order to get it he had to endure guilt;
“I’m a traitor Miss. No holiday for school.” This is when he has made up his mind not to turn up to the play, he feels guilty because he thinks the success of the play relies heavily on him and he desperately doesn’t want to disappoint his friends at school.
Jolil is confused about his true identity. He is unsure whether he should be loyal to his family or to his school. There’s pressure from both sides for Jolil. One of the very few times that his mother speaks, she tells him to ‘stay at home’ and not to go to school because there is too much work to do. The same day he is pressurised by his Head teacher who tells him that a school holiday may be available if he performed well.
And a life threatening event. In the end when he was being chased he opted to go to school. It is just luck that Jolil happened to be near his school and he did not go there seeking to participate in the play. Jolils reaction to the situation was one of quick thinking and was not selfish. A noted point is that when he wanted his fathers attention to tell him to go in direction of school he shouted in Bengali. Here we can see that Jolil knows his true identity. Upon getting to school he was rushed onto stage by Miss Ingram. He did not put himself forward as being present.
It is easy to forget Jolil’s age in the story. In the ‘Son’s Veto’ we often regard Randolph as being older as he always controls her and commands her around. In ‘Kiss Miss Carol’ Jolil goes through tremendous mental torment for a child his age. There’s pressure from both sides for Jolil to do the right thing, but as in the ‘Son’s Veto’ something happens to remind us of his age again.
When he becomes desperate and tries to find a way to excuse himself he thinks of absurd and childlike reasons.
He thinks that maybe “if he spoke really loudly and clearly” in the afternoon then “she ;Miss Ingram; would forgive him when he didn’t turn up in the evening.” To us its obvious that if he performed well in the afternoon his absence would be more noted in the night but Jolil in his childish ways believes it to have the opposite effect.
The time when the story is set is very important as it was in the ‘Son’s Veto’. But even though the story is of a different era the situation within the family is not typical of the era. In ‘Son’s Veto’ although men dominated over women, Randolph did abuse his power and took it to a sick extreme, just as here Jolil and his family maybe in England but they’re certainly not living as English and they try to keep their Bengali traditions as much as possible.
The Son’s Veto
Thomas Hardy was a British novelist and a poet who was born in 1840 under Queen Victoria’s reign and died at the age of 88 in 1928. Most of Hardy’s works are set in the countryside of Wessex. ‘Far from the Madding crowd’ (1844) as his first important novel followed by other works such as ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’ and ‘Jude the Obscure.’
Hardy’s characters were often portrayed as victims of a predestined fate. Hardy’s women were portrayed as victims of prejudice, abuse and a male dominated society. In his later years Hardy turned to poetry, ‘The Dynasts’ is considered to be his most ambitious verse.
The ‘Son’s Veto’ is the story of Sophy, a middle class, widowed, handicapped woman who lived alone, with a son who went away to boarding school. She was originally from the working class but her marriage to Mr Twycott led her into the middle class and out of her home village into London. After her husbands death she meets an old friend from her working class days. He proposes to her and describes a happy life they could lead together. When she approaches her son about this he refuses to let her marry him. The ‘Son’s Veto’ ends with Sophys death, never feeling worthy enough to have been her son’s mother and never being courageous enough to marry her love.
The ‘Son’s Veto’ is set in a 19th century, middle class home, at a time when society was divided and social status was considered to be very important. When men dominates and women were dominated over.
Sophy’s situation is special as not many women move up the social ladder. Sophy’s situation was rare as well as unfortunate. She wasn’t to only widowed but crippled. Sophy must have led an extremely had lonely and sheltered life after marriage. We can tell from the first paragraph that Sophy a lot of time free as she would spend hours every day putting her hair into a ‘somewhat barbaric example of ingenious art.’ Sophy’s somewhat martyr like devotion to Randolph is justified by her loneliness. Randolph was the only family she had. She felt that other than Randolph her only companions were ‘the two servants of her own house.’ Sophy felt this way because she could relate to them more than her son.
We can see from the beginning who is the superior of the two. After we are introduced to the characters, Sophy speaks for the first time,
” He have been so comfortable these past few hours…”
Randolph immediately pounces on her grammatical mistake and shows his impatient nature. From here onwards we suspect maybe Sophy and Randolph’s relationship is not the normal one of a mother and son.
From his uniform and greater grammatical knowledge, we can assume that Randolph is probably middle-upper class. The only thing that seems to tie Sophy to that class is her appearance.
From her grammatical mistake so early Hardy makes it clear that Sophy is not as educated as Randolph. This lack of knowledge puts her in an inferior position as Randolph uses his education to power over her. This misuse of ability and Sophy’s disabilities creates sympathy for Sophy’s character.
“His mother hastily adopted the correction, and did not resent his making it, or retaliate, as she might well have done, by bidding him to wipe crumbly mouth of his..” This shows that Randolph is by no means without his faults. It also reminds us of how old he is. A grown man and maybe even a boy in his late teens would not hidden cake in his pocket and eaten it secretly but you wouldn’t expect even a young middle class Victorian teenager to correct his mother in such a way. Sophy could have retaliated and had plenty of opportunity to do so, but chose not to. This shows us that Sophy is not assertive and deferential. Even in her society, which was male dominated, it would have probably been acceptable to retaliate to a son but she chooses not to. Any retaliation would have been seen as discipline. This is another point which shows us that Sophy feels inferior and not worthy when compared to her son.
By a simple grammatical mistake Hardy shows us the world of difference between them. They are referred to at the end of the paragraph as ‘the pretty woman and the boy’ which is all they were. Hardy purposely doesn’t refer to them as ‘mother and son’ because this relationship is not obvious.
Hardy does not allow us to feel completely unsympathetic towards Randolph. Maybe not directly but we do feel sorry for him when we see he seems to claim security from his power over his helpless mother. We feel sorry for him because even at the end of the story it is clear that he hasn’t changed and we sympathise with him because we can see what an awful person he has become.
Randolph behaviour is selfish and unsympathetic. He clearly doesn’t appreciate his mother. This may be because he has so very little experience around women. He goes to an all boys school and very rarely comes home. Sophy feels a lot of affection towards him but because he did not life at home with her ‘it remained stored.’
He does not know paternal affection but he knows that this is what is supporting him through his life. He denies his mothers maternal love because it cannot assist him, ‘he seemed to require so very little.’ He also denies Sam for the same reason. ‘He hoped his father stepfather would be a gentleman’, here we can clearly see that Randolph is only happy to agree to something when he knows it will assist him. We know the reason for Randolph disapproving of Sam was purely pride and not because of the idea of remarriage was frowned upon because when Sophy told him of remarriage he ‘thought the idea a very reasonable one’. When he finds out who she intends to marry he thinks only of himself and how he might be seen in the eyes of the nation, ‘ a miserable boor! A churl! A clown! And instead of seeing marriage as a holy and special event he looks as it as something that would ‘ruin him in the eyes of all gentlemen of England!’ Unless Randolph can benefit from the situation he is not interested in it. He is extremely self conscious because he doesn’t care if it would bring his mother happiness, his status takes priority.
There are various kinds of abuse in this story;
Sophys’ mental abuse from Randolph. He kept her waiting and waiting for his approval for her marriage. We have to remember as Sophy was all alone in the house she had no one to share her sadness with. She is described as a ‘gentle creature’ and she is just that. She was ‘abandoned under his repugnance’ and for five long years she ‘reasoned and pleaded.’ If a gentle creature could be so persistent as to ask continually at any given chance for five years we can assume that this was something that she really wanted in life and from Randolph denying her this, we can see just how hard-hearted he really is.
He abuses any power he has over her. The abuse of his education and maybe the most revealing of his character the abuse of his religion and his mothers faiths. Randolph was very hypocritical, whilst studying and preaching about the Lord he doesn’t hesitate in making his mother swear to him on the Bible. This is not just the abuse of his power over her but he is turning all of Sophys’ religious faiths against her.
Whilst reading the story, we may forget the real relationship between Sophy and Randolph. She was his mother, but maybe only by blood. The psychological struggle between Sophy and Randolph is not the one between mother and son, but one between a more dominant male and a submissive woman. Hardy however wants to maintain the mother and son relationship. When Sophy told Randolph she was considering Sam’s proposal he burst into tears, at this “his mother went up to him and kissed all of his face she could get at…” The key phrase to notice here is ‘his mother’.
Hardy, who throughout the story tried to keep the mother-son relationship to a minimum reminds us here suddenly that Sophy was in fact his mother. When he abuses Sam, she does not defend him. She caves in immediately ” ‘perhaps I am wrong. I will struggle against it!’ she cried miserably.” Sophy was miserable. She had a son who didn’t understand her and treated her like she was beneath him. Maybe worse was how she accepted how she was being treated and thought she deserved it. She thinks that she ‘is not a lady…and never would be’ and therefore she did ‘not feel dignified enough to be his mother.’
Sophys’ has two main relationships in this story (not including her marriage to Mr. Twycott )are; her relationship with Randolph and her romance with Sam.
Neither of these gave any happiness to Sophy. On one side she had an abusive son who didn’t respect her but she knew she must abide by his rules. And on the other a man whom she wanted to be with but couldn’t. She was being offered the chance to be happy but had to decline because of her respect for her sons wishes.
At the cricket match Sophy decides to tell Randolph about Sam’s proposal. She picks this event because she believes it would be better to tell him when his spirits were high. Here Hardy goes into a lengthy explanation of the atmosphere and at the end finishes with a simple but effective ‘not a poor mother like her.’ I think Hardy meant this as ‘a less financially able or a lower class mother,’ and this is how Sophy must have felt, but I also think that it could be taken as ‘distressed mother’ which is also something that Sophy is. It is quite clear that this is the kind of atmosphere Randolph is used to. The atmosphere that Sophy is foreign to. Like in ‘Kiss Miss Carol’, Sophy is not in denial about her place in life. Jolil is very aware that he is different and the title of the story shows us this. “..The others only laughed once when he said Kiss Miss…” is the first of the reminders for Jolil that he was different. The cricket match only helped Sophy and the reader to realise just how much she didn’t fit the middle class criteria.
As in ”Kiss Miss Carol” the end of the story is very important. We find that Sophy has suffered at the hand of her son for so many years just to die of a ‘broken heart.’ The ending here is slightly clichï¿½d; the poor woman dies of a broken heart never taking her chance to be truly happy. The lover went on to make something of himself but will always hold her in his heart. The son, the clear villain of this tale holds a grudge all his life against the lover. Its quite ironic that the same Sam that Randolph forbade his mother to marry would have been so successful the proprietor of the ‘largest fruiterer’s shop in Aldbrickham…’ and although he may not have been middle-class he has certainly made more of himself. By the end of the story it is fair to say that Randolph is a fairly disliked character, one that is rarely sympathised with.
The romantic in me half hopes that at the end of the story he would have learnt his lesson and changed for the better. But we can clearly see this is not the case, while the funeral coach was passing Randolph ‘looked black as a cloud’ at Sam. It is clear that Randolph believes that he is not the reason for his mothers sadness but this stranger who dare propose to his mother and give her illusions of happiness away with him. Sophy may have died from a broken heart but I see her death as more of an escape. I think that she died more from suppression and mental torture than a broken heart.
This story is one of sacrifice. Sacrifice is generally defined as ‘giving up something valuable to you’. Today we see sacrifice as mainly the giving up as material things but Sophy had sacrificed something more important than any material possessions, she gave up her happiness and essentially sacrificed her life. In ‘Kiss Miss Carol’ Jolil decided to sacrifice his part in the Christmas play but in the end, because of intervention of fate, he did not have to make the sacrifice at all. One hopes while reading the story that fate would intervene and change Randolph. This however does not happen. I found it interesting how a short term problem may be overcome with positive results but lifelong heartache wasn’t stopped. The ‘Son’s Veto’ starts from the time of Sophy’s marriage to Mr Twycott right through to her death. ‘Kiss Miss Carol’ must have covered a time phase no longer than 3 or weeks.
In the ‘Son’s Veto’ the relationship roles are interchangeable. Randolph spends most of his childhood and adult life acting superior to his mother. When he found out who his mother had intended to marry he “flushed, leant on the table and burst into passionate tears” like a small child, even younger than his actual age. Jolil on the other hand is constantly under his father but when they are in danger he shows a mature initiative and took control. “Come on…my school is just here, there will be people there.”
When comparing the stories parallel to each other Sophy could be regarded as Jolils parallel character wise. They are both under the some kind of domination be it paternal or male. Both of them are submissive and both realise that their loyalties lie within their family. Both Jolil and Sophy hatch plans to over some their problems.
Randolph and Jolil also have certain aspects in common. They are both embarrassed about their parents. Both because their parents are not from the society they are growing up in. Jolil however tries to disguise his embarrassment. Although he blames his father for his situation he is not brave enough or ungrateful enough to do it to his face. Jolils problem is that his dad dresses differently and speaks poor English. He realises that it is his culture that he has to respect. Randolph on the other hand blatantly puts his mother down even when she tries. Randolph apparently doesn’t want to bother with his mother and for the most part considers her a burden and even a hindrance to his social climb.
Both children in this story have different upbringings to their parents and it is this which essentially causes the problems to start with. If Sophy was bought up in middle class then maybe she wouldn’t have seen herself to inferior to Randolph and she may not have even considered marriage to Sam. But even if she had, she would have had more courage when approaching Randolph and probably ended up doing what she wanted. If Mr Miah had been bought up as Jolil was then maybe he would have seen that the part of Tiny Tim wasn’t being racist and Jolil wouldn’t have had to lie. Also both Mr Mia and Sophy aren’t as orally able as their children which leads to sensitivity and embarrassment for Jolil and Randolph.
Both Jolil and Randolph have a dilemma. Jolil is upset because he wants to participate in the school play and cant and Randolph is upset that his mother would even consider marrying a man of lower status without considering him. But it is the situations they are in that help us see their characters as they are. Jolil chooses his family’s needs over his own and we can see that he is mature and caring. Randolph however only ever considers himself showing him up as the self-centred person he is.
Religion plays an important part in both the stories but has a different effect in each case. In ‘Kiss Miss Carol’, it is Mr Mia’s religious interpretation that leads to him forbidding Jolil from the play. In the end, when Jolil has already chosen his family over his school he is miraculously, after a strange turn of events able to perform in the play. We are lead to think by his last line ‘God Bless Us All,’ that maybe some heavenly entity had something to do with how things turned out for Jolil. It shows religion in a positive light.
Randolph on the other hand uses religion against his own mother, making her swear on the bible. It is this final action that locks Sophy away, she knows that after this there is no way of ever being able to marry Sam. This shows religion in a negative light.
School, in both stories is what creates a distance between parent and child. In ‘Kiss Miss Carol’ it is because of school that Jolil feels a need to lie to his parents and even contemplates plots to deceive them. In The ‘Son’s Veto’ it is because of Randolph’s influence from school that he has turned into he snob he is. Maybe if he hadn’t been away from home so often he would have been more understanding and kinder to his mother.
Both stories are written to create sympathy for certain characters. Sophy and Jolil may not have been the strongest characters but they are in essence the main characters. Telling the story with them as the main character makes up for their submissions as they are in the light and we can sympathise with them. Both stories have clear notions of dominance. In ‘Kiss Miss Carol’ it is Mr Miah and in the ‘Son’s Veto’ it is Randolph. Both of these characters are dominating males.