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A Study Of The Performance Of Becoming Human By Daniel Borzutsky

Daniel Borzutzky Reflection

Beginning with his literary work The Performance of Becoming Human, Chilean-American author Daniel Borzutzky utilizes grotesque diction, to express societal issues such as state sanctioned violence, inequity, and immigration. Initially, after reading about the author I expected to encounter a literary work that expressed social justice issues of Chile and the United States, and the ambiguity that comes along with biculturalism. While Borzutzky’s work possesses these elements, I found his language extremely intense. Specifically, in his poem “The Performance of Becoming Human,” he discusses the issue of immigration to a new country by refugees, and the inhumane treatment they received. The author goes on to paint a vivid picture of immigration stating, “I am moving beneath the ground and not sleeping and trying to cross the border form one sick part of the world to another” (pg. 15). Here, Borzutzky emphasizes the dehumanization of human beings that happens in various countries of the world. The imagery he provides is infernal, as he gives an image of human beings moving underground from place to place, as if they are traveling from one hell on earth to another. Considering this, I believe the author is a realist. Not only does he articulate what critics would describe as “things better left unsaid,” he expresses the darkness surrounding human beings in their everyday lives and accentuates the truth through his word choice. Similarly, the following quote shows how Borzutzky uses the image of bodies to emphasize the injustices within our society: “They chopped up two dozen bodies last night and today I have to pick up my laundry” (pg. 19). At this point of the piece, I connected with the impersonalized word choice of the author. Borzutzky used the word “bodies” rather than humans, or people to show how our society disregards the lives of individuals after their suffering and death. We move on with our day to day lives, and “pick up our laundry,” as the author put it, instead of putting their stories on paper, transcribing the ugly truths of our history, and recognizing injustice.

Moving along to his work In the Blazing Cities of Your Rotten Carcass Mouth, Borzutzky discusses privatization of urban locations such as parts of Chile and Chicago, in which inequity plagues the city. I found the story itself to be extremely animalistic as the author provides quotations such as “I dream of a giant parasite to feed on the infested bones of rotting citizens” (pg. 24). Again, the author’s images of flesh eating organisms helps to shed a light on the darkness surrounding privatization of the economy, and the economic impact of ordinary citizens. Also, it is important to note the apocalyptic element to Borzutzky’s diction throughout his book. In the ending of In the Blazing Cities, the author proclaims “And this is where the story should end. But bedtime stories for the end of the world don’t end where they are supposed to end. They end awkwardly, in the middle of some mess that was probably not worth making to begin with” (pg. 24). Ultimately, the author recognizes the fact that not all stories have a happy ending, reality is no fairytale, and he writes with an awareness of this in his book.

Overall, I connected to Daniel Borzutzky’s work, and stayed engaged throughout The Performance of Becoming Human because of his word choice, and the points of tension he discussed. I also noted that his literary work was shaped by authors such as Raul Zurita, Allen Ginsberg, and Cesar Vallejo which allowed him to write with a sense of realism, and emotion to describe human tragedy, and injustice in his book.

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