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“The Unpatriotic Act” by Cook, and “It’s Good to Look at One’s Shadow” by Calcumil


The dramaturgy analysis is regarded as the inevitable aspect of realizing the culture of any epoch. Dramatist generally aims at revealing his/their entire understanding of the surrounding world, and their sense of the epoch, ideas and considerations of the generation as well as people’s concerns. As a whole, analysis and comparison of the two plays may be regarded as a synthesis of two separate components of the world outlook. Sometimes, these components are incompatible.

This work aims to analyze the formal structure of two plays and determine the aims of the authors: what did they wish to say by creating particular metaphoric images; how are the text components and considerations are linked with the historical context. “The unPatriotic Act” by Susana Cook, and “It’s Good to Look at One’s Shadow” by Luisa Calcumil are plays that are linked with various contexts, various characters and their life experience. Hence, what are these plays linked with?

Formal Structure

The time and place are not defined precisely in the plays. Authors indicate that the events may happen constantly, periodically, in different parts of the world, and with various persons. In the play by Luisa Calcumil, the jungles of Latin America are imagined. The audience can see Mayan or Inca temples, and the invariable connection of the people with nature. However, the coming of the white man signifies that the temples will be destroyed, and the jungle ‑ deforested. It is not a reproach to the western world or the USA in particular. It is a generalized character of an influential person that will not stop in front of anything for his/her aim of financial benefit.

In “The unPatriotic Act” we can imagine a road like in westerns. It is desert, dusty, under the burning sun, and several tumbleweeds are on the long shot. That is not an epoch – it is the entire representation of the world perception which acts as the model that dictates the rules of life analysis. A man searches for happiness, he/she finds and loses, makes mistakes and reaches the destination. Someone stops, the others with something more. (Díaz-Stevens, Stevens-Arroyo, 45)

All the metaphoric images are only the conditionality of our perception. Two different persons will percept the offered characters, sceneries and images differently, that is why it is difficult to tell what authors wished to emphasize. Luisa Calcumil stipulates the necessity to tell something about Mapuche culture in her essay. However, most readers accept this as the collective image of numerous small peoples (America Indian ancestors as a rule) that bear all the sorrows of Civilization vs. Nature struggle. (Calcumil, 2)

Authors’ Considerations and Transculturation

The aspects of transculturation offered in the plays are associated with the conflict between immigrants and Americans. It has been already emphasized that the events may happen anywhere, however, the events and dialogues (and monologue in the unPatriotic Act) clearly state the fact that the audience is watching scenery somewhere in the south of the USA. Immigrants are working for prosperous Americans, while others are looking for happiness on a big road. However, it is often hard to distinguish whether Cook is describing a lifeway or a desert road from point A to point B. Regardless of the background, it is a way (Dao – as Japanese would call it). The lines of cut short phrases in “The unPatriotic Act” are aimed at revealing the statement that any life moment is not eternal. Everything will reach its end: road, studying, youth, happiness, sadness, illness, ambiguity in life etc.

I kept walking north
I decided …
I went …
I made …
I met …
I left, walking north again … (Cook, 5)

These are the extracts from the lines, and they emphasize that life goes on, and no one will stop those who were born to go. This may be explained by the statement that One who stops, does not live any longer, and Cook aims at explaining it extremely, by showing a person who is not going to stop, though would like to.

In Calcumil’s writing, we see characters that would like to go, but they have stopped, as they feed some hopes. An ancient woman stops because she believes that her child will be protected if she does it. Julia stops moving because she considers that Senora will be kind to her. These considerations are intervened with the reasoning of global good and global evil. The pseudo western values are put in the same raw with Mao, Hitler, Marx… This may be regarded as the instance of transculturation, however, the author is not able to explain whether the presence of cola mentioned in the text bears some sense, or not.

The Señora worried a lot about me. She called me one day as affectionate as always and told me: Julia, come over here, you have to stop being a dumb and illiterate Indian! You’re going to middle school and high school and even to University. Why else do I sacrifice myself! That’s what she said. Of course, I began studying. I studied the Goths, the Visigoths, the Phoenicians, the Egyptians. But, no Julia one has to be truly cultured! (Calcumil, 4)

This passage is like stating that no one will be able to become free, educated, and cultured until a person has an overseer-senor(a). Hence, there is no need to consider whether people are free. They are free to the measure they have decided to.

Considering the aspects of transculturation, it is emphasized by the authors that if two cultures are merged, the more powerful will inevitably devour a lesser one. That is why everyone knows Cola, and few realize the meaning of the Huitzilopochtli word. (Hawley, 301)

The historical context, as well as social systems, are not of particular importance for these texts, however, the actual meaning of traditional representation associated with historic transculturation is required for explaining the opportunity to make a parallel between European Conquest and Mexican American war. (Pratt, 99) What has happened with the entire civilization? What are their ancestors engaged in? They serve senoras, and they are lost in time, in space and culture, as they have been pushed off their historical way long before. (Simon, 131)


The two plays tell the stories of various people, within various sceneries and of various life experiences. The only thing that unites them is the search for happiness. There is no need to describe the historical and social context in detail, however, they will no longer be able to become happy and free as most of them are lost, like Hemingway’s lost generation: they are not needed.

Works Cited

Calcumil, Luisa. It’s Good to Look at One’s Own Shadow. Theatre Research International. Cambridge University Press (2010), 35: Calcumil, Luisa. Teatro, Vida y Cultura: Reflexiones Alrededor de es Bueno Mirarse en la Propia Sombra. Dissident Theatricalities, Visual Arts and Culture. 2010. Web.

Cook, Susana. The unPatriotic Act: Homeland Insecurities Inseguridades de la Seguridad Nacional. Hemispheric Institute Conference “Corpolíticas / Body Politics”. Buenos Aires 2007.

Díaz-Stevens, Ana María, and Anthony M. Stevens-Arroyo. Recognizing the Latino Resurgence in U.S. Religion: The Emmaus Paradigm. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2004.

Hawley, John C., ed. Encyclopedia of Postcolonial Studies /. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2001.

Pratt, Mary Louise. Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation. London: Routledge, 2005.

Simon, Sherry. “Canadian Cultural Exchange / Echanges Culturels Au Canada: Translation and Transculturation / Traduction et Transculturation.” American Review of Canadian Studies 38.1 (2008): 131.


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