How Does Moniza Alvi Explore The Concept of Identity in An Unknown Girl?

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Alvi also employs the use of end-stopped lines in key moments of the poem to highlight key aspects of identity. At the height of the poem, when Moniza Alvi is feeling deeply connected to her culture, she claims she has “new brown veins.” This is the first end-stopped line we encounter in the entire poem, and Alvi uses it to accentuate her connection to this newfound aspect of her identity. The “brown” she if referring to is the henna that someone is making on her hand of a peacock. The henna, as well as the peacock, is symbolic of India, and the Indian cultural identity, as henna is something associated with India, and the peacock is the Indian national bird. The fact she has “new brown veins” shows the magnitude of how the speaker has been impacted by her hennaing experience, as the brown, of the henna and the peacock, is inside her, meaning that the Indian cultural identity is within her. Not only is it within her, but it has become her “veins”; it is necessary for her to live, as we need our veins to carry the blood to our body. This illustrates to the reader how significant the speaker’s experience was, as not only has it affected her, but has become crucial to her very survival.
The other utilization of the second and last, end-stopped line occurs at the lowest-point of the novel, when the tone shifts from comfort and happiness to sadness and longing. The speaker describes how the henna “will fade in a week.” The henna continues to be symbolic of India, and the Indian cultural identity, which the speaker does not want to lose. The use of the end-stopped line accentuates her sadness that she will eventually lose this new aspect of her own identity, as when something fades, it is a sadder event than when something is gone altog...

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...could imagine, they are clinging for their lives, for if they let go, they will fall off the train and quite likely be killed. She compares her desire to hold on to the henna, which represent the Indian aspect of her identity, and the Indian identity she discovered in the bazaar, to holding on desperately for your life on a fast train. This illustrates to the reader how desperately she wants to keep this experience and her newfound identity.
Moniza Alvi employ a wide variety of techniques, from end-stopped lines and formatting in structure, to rhyme, tone, and even imagery and language to attempt to explore the vast concept of identity. She successfully manages to explore the concept of identity, and conveys to the reader the meaningful message that discovering your true identity is dearly valued and highly significant.

Works Cited

"An Unknown Girl" by Moniza Alvi

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