“Asmar” by Elhillo and “Sealed Off” by Chang


Literature can be considered a collection of all written works but narrowed to view the artistic forms of writing such as stories, poems, drama, and plays. They were meant to serve a different purpose with most considered education and entertainment such as folk songs. However, the literature was spread over regions and beyond, with some of the arts welcomed in other world areas. Thus, a work can only be considered world literature if it circulates beyond the region of origin to other parts of the world, despite its spread. Each piece of literature had a form of identity which used to identify its source and the authors. Although different works of literature were formulated under various circumstances with different themes, they never lacked to express their identity, which separated them from the rest of the global art.


The literature is much depicted in poems, with the Asmar by Safia Elhillo being one of the art which depicts the struggle with identity. The author expresses anger on how she feels alienated and the limited freedom to be proud of her identity through her race, demographic region, and race. Despite being from Sudan, demographically found in Africa, she is forcefully linked to Arabs because of her tribal migration. She further fights the plight of women in the society by affirming that she is a black woman from Sudan, irrespective of her area of residence and tribal migrations.

In her narration, Elhillo uses repletion where she uses the word “black” to express what she feels is her true uniqueness. Further, there is a mixture of languages, such as “العبيد هنا” which translates to “the slave is here.” In her writing, there is imagery describing how others view the blacks and how they receive less respect. Lastly, she depicts irony by making her hair look better despite being proud of her identity instead of staying natural.

Secondly, the literature sealed off by Eileen Chang is another world literature that depicts the theme of identity throughout its narration. It introduces the main characters, Lu Zongzhen and Wu Cuiyuan, who meet in the tramcar and hold a conversation. Despite their age and circumstances, they are directly involved in cultural practices, with some of the norms contributing to their current state. One is in an unhappy marriage because of the culturally arranged marriage, while the other is learned and accomplished but unmarried, and her family blames her for her late marriage. They genuinely show their identity as the Chinese and how their identity has affected them.

Throughout the narration, some elements of a story in a story are told with various flashbacks explaining how each character lived her past life. In addition, the writer uses similes, such as when she equaled life to a Bible, which is often translated from one language to the other. Lastly, the title itself sealed off is symbolic, depicting how the characters are bounded within given restrictions that they cannot escape.


To sum up, the two pieces of literature depict the identity from the community level, with each character being identified with their culture. They both give some cultural backgrounds with challenges they face as a community. However, the characters differ in their presentation of identity where Elhillo is proud of her identity, while the sealed off by Eileen Chang depicts how the characters have been negatively affected by their culture. From this literature, one can relate to the rest of the world that we are all identified by our races and culture, which determine our ways of life regardless of our current states. This identification is depicted in the contemporary world where Asians are limited in their marriage option, especially in their intermarriage, while others, such as the blacks, face discrimination worldwide.

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AssignZen. (2023) '"Asmar" by Elhillo and "Sealed Off" by Chang'. 3 April.

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