An Analysis of Adversity in Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje

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Updated: Nov 14, 2022
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Adversity is an obstacle that every individual faces at any given point in their lifetime. Many people are given an opportunity when confronted with difficult circumstances. In the fictional excerpt Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje, a young woman named Mary-Neige is thrown many life hardships shortly after husband leaves for prison. Without her husband by her side to support her, the author reveals her true character when she has to overcome them herself. When an individual is faced with adversity in their lives, it is their decision whether or not to overcome it. The outcome of their decision molds the way they react to future adversities, and only then can an individuals’ identity be shaped.

The aftermath of an adversity is dependent on how each individual handles a given situation. When a situation is severe enough, people aren’t given a choice on how they can react when they are put in a difficult position. As a child, life should be simple. It should be filled with love and laughter. During my childhood, that would have been more than a dream. Paradise. My childhood was one that no child should ever have to experience. My father whom should have been a support system, was the polar opposite. Instead of being the ideal father that any child would wish for, he was a man filled with anger towards himself. Every night, he would come home from a long day at work and be disappointed with the children he created. Out of his three girls, I was the biggest disappointment of all. I was not the prettiest girl between my sisters and me, nor was I an ordinary kid who liked to socialize with other children at school. I was the child that was very quiet and kept to myself. Since I was not his ideal child that he had in mind, he would physically, verbally and emotionally abuse me. Without being able to tell others about my situation, I was alone left to struggle with what he put me through. I was severely hit every night. I was blamed for making him hurt me. The only way I was able to keep it a secret for  so long was by blaming my gashes and bruises all over my body from sports. I did not know what else I could do. I was so afraid to tell anyone because I feared he would make the beatings more severe. It took me years to realize that he was a man caged with the adversity he put on himself. Instead of going against his adversity to overcome it, he chose to avoid it. By avoiding his challenges in life, he became a man that fed himself on the need to control others.

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He was so overwhelmed with the difficulties he put on himself, that he felt the need to lash out his struggles onto his own flesh and blood. Once my parents finally split up six years ago, I felt free. The divorce between my parents gave me the opportunity to make myself a better person. I had the chance to stare at my adversity in the face and stand up for myself. It felt good to say something. By standing up to my father, it began to reveal the person I am. I was not the things my father made me believe, far from it. Two years after my parents’ divorce, I built up the confidence to tell my mother about what I went through. Social services got involved, but it was a big step towards my self-recovery. Ever since I told my mother, I have been struggling to make myself a better person. I still have a difficult time trusting men since I did not have a father figure my entire life. Choosing to face my adversity head on, has lead me to be more optimistic in which manner I can handle. If I did not choose to take a stand against my father, I would turn out to be exactly like him. Going through this adversity and choosing to overcome it molded the person that I am today.

Diverse situations help shape an individual’s identity and it also plays a role in determining how a person sees themselves. The excerpt Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje, reveals Mary-Neige’s development when she accepts the responsibilities she has on the farm and grows as an individual. While her husband Roman is in she has on the farm and grows as an individual. While her husband Roman is in prison and with the farm duties thrown at her, she is forced to undertake the farm in her own hands by necessity of survival. During the time period of the 1800s, women were not well educated. Mary-Neige was not well educated either but she is resourceful with the little amount she knew; her knowledge was supplemented with the help of books her neighbour had given her. With her peculiar approach, the setting of the farm accentuates her ingenuity as she prepares the land for planting as she raked the earth with manure and discouraged the pests with her own method. By putting all this dedication and labour into the farm the symbolism to “grow a perfect black tulip” describes Mary-Neige’s struggle she is facing with her husband abandoning her and the farm duties being put on her shoulders and at the same time trying to overcome them. In working hard and earning sustenance, she feels a new sense of independence she did not seem to have when Roman was around.

To make matters worse, she had a miscarriage. In revealing her true self, she did not let that event shape the person that she is. While reminiscing about the darkness during her husband’s arrest, this is followed by happier memories, by taking on the responsibilities of the farm; this results in the independence from her husband, and her own freedom of uncertainty. In her response to her identity being shaped by adversity, she looks beyond the tragedies she was put through, and makes herself an educated and self-sufficient woman. Although she continues to visit him in prison, she is not dependent on him for livelihood. Lucien her neighbour remarks that she was now entering the world of the grower of the black tulip”, symbolizing that she is thriving and succeeding. Mary-Neige’s identity becomes bound to the land and overcoming her ordeal. The process of overcoming adversity comes with time. From the series of setbacks that people face, how we handle the way it will define ourselves, shapes who we are. Simply put- everyone is different and handles adversity differently this creates differences in people that have evolved in human kind. As for Mary-Neige and myself, we both chose to make our ordeals part of our pasts and to give ourselves the chance to grow from it.

Mary-Neige took her husband’s departure to prison as a positive situation in order to “grow the perfect black tulip” that she wanted to be. It gave her the opportunity to become a strong, independent, self sufficient woman. By adjusting my perspective on my adversities, it gave me newly found independence and the ability to choose how I interact with different people in my life. Each individual is a driver on a broken road of life. We pay attention to the signs and follow where the signs take us; we need to nourish ourselves, which leads us to the right path towards our final destination.

An Analysis of Adversity in Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje essay

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An Analysis of Adversity in Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje. (2022, Nov 14). Retrieved from