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Comparisons: Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan and My Tongue Both poems deal with living in an alien culture, more specifically with Pakistani women living in Britain. How are the differences between these two cultures explained in the poems? Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan The narrator does not know what Pakistan is like: she can only imagine from old photographs and the traditional clothes which her aunts send her. The writer gives us the sense that she feels isolated, torn between two cultures, half-English”, “of no fixed nationality”. The writer gives us the sense that she feels isolated, torn between two cultures, half-English, of no fixed nationality. The poet uses metaphors of clothes and jewellery to explain differences in culture - the narrator longs for denim and corduroy and feels that the traditional clothes on her are like fire, yet she admires them. She is expressing a pride in her heritage and yet feels that she cannot live that heritage. The clothes clearly symbolise the different cultures and their concept of a woman's place in society. KEY POINTS What do the clothes symbolise? The narrator longs for “denim and corduroy” and feels that the clothes on her are like “fire”, yet she admires them. She is expressing a pride in her heritage and yet feels that she cannot live that heritage. Note the irony in the poem - the aunts who send her such lovely clothes only want cardigans from Marks and Spencers; the school friend asks to see her weekend clothes. The mother's jewellery, which was stolen from the car, could symbolise the difficulties of imposing one culture on another. There is a wistful tone to the poem. The narrator tries to see her family in the mirrors on the clothes. She wants to know about her culture but throughout the poem there is a sense that that culture is far away and she can only observe it from a distance, not be a part of it. One can compare this poem with the extracts from Search for My Tongue and from Unrelated Incidents, as well as with Half-Caste. All of these poems deal with ideas of race and identity. The first three poems explore their ideas in language, in how and what we speak, while Moniza Alvi explores race and identity in terms of material things. The poem is written in the first person, and is obviously autobiographical - the speaking voice here is really that of the poet.
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