Writing About Deep Play And Dark Play English Literature Essay

1099 words (4 pages) Essay

1st Jan 1970 English Literature Reference this


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Deep play means, (according to Bentham’s concept), play in which stakes are so high that it becomes plain unreasonable for an individual to participate but at the same time making the play intensely dramatic and engrossing. The play is based upon Clifford Geertz’s scrutiny of the people of Balinese, with whom he lived among earning their trust. A cock fight game drew the people closer to him and thus he ended up learning an immense deal about the Balinese community. The play is a betting game practiced by the people of this community, as they cheer on cocks in which they have betted upon.

Weber’s point of view is that the participants often raise the center bet, (bet by the participating individuals), due to a variety of reasons. This center bet in turn influences and often sets the mood and the rate at which onlookers are going to bet. Bentham’s argument is from the economic point of view where he argues that the losses that an individual is due to make, are exceedingly high thus making such form of play immoral. This is due to the fact that a game maybe dictated upon by the centre bet, but the cocks in the duel may not be necessarily evenly matched. People may bet, at times against the winning cock due to kinsman and loyalty ties in general even when they are fully aware of the likelihood of the opposition cock to win the match. He continues to argue that people who participate in this “immoral” play should be curbed by the law since such people are in way over their heads, usually in a bet, thus making them enemies of themselves (Geertz’s,26).

Weber, on the other hand, begs to differ in his argument that this kind of play (deep play), as opposed to shallow play, has little to do with the money or economic aspect. He insists that, in such play, many factors come into play such as; esteem, honor, dignity and respect. A term referred to as status. The participants setting the center bet may raise the stakes in a bid to show their dominance and portray their ultra egos. They may raise money for the bets even when they are well aware that the chances of winning are bleak. Family ties may also make an individual bet in favor of his fellow kinsman or close friend in order to establish where his or her loyalties lie. For example, a visitor from another clan may be invited for a cock fight by the locals. He may appear to have the bigger and more likely to win cock, but the home-crowd would still bet in favor of the home cock to prevent the raising of questions on where loyalties lie. The cocks are said to be surrogates of their owners who are the real participants seeking after each other’s blood inside the ring (Bartholomae, 46).

This is the basic principle behind deep playing. It can be likened to a poker game where the losing player tries to appear confident in order to assert his control among the participants. The onlookers on the outside, though aware of his dire situation, continue to cheer him on in an attempt to intimidate the other players into forfeiting the game or dupe them into thinking that he has an upper hand.

In the novel, “Passing” by Nella Larsen, passing which is the name given to the book is symbolic of the process of passing. By definition, passing refers to a member person of one racial group, mostly African-American, choosing to identify with the European-American community, to escape social prejudice. In this play, however, passing can be interpreted differently depending on the level of critical thinking of the reader with regard to the novel. It is said (the novel), to be largely ambiguous at the end in that there is no common point of assembly of thoughts by the readers who are left wondering what happened (Schechner,87).

The novel can be compared to the two points of argument by Bentham and Weber, again depending on the understanding and interpretation by the reader.

For those looking at it from the sexuality angle, we have Irene Redfield, who is the protagonist of this novel who we read is a latent lesbian, who passes as a married African-American woman with an African-American doctor for a husband when it is convenient for her. For those looking at the novel from the racial perspective-which is the not so hidden meaning, we have Clare Kendry who later changes her name to Clare Bellew after her marriage to John Bellew, her white racist husband. She is a Blonde African-American woman who passes for white.

With respect to Bentham’s theory, one case can be viewed from the following perspective: Irene who passes as a part time lesbian and part time married woman should come clean to her husband because according to Bentham, it is morally upright to do so. From Weber’s point of argument, he argues that she is morally justified not to come clean as there is a puddle of factors preventing her from doing so that ultimately raises the stakes, therefore, engaging the readers and characters alike in a sought of “deep play.” The factors as would be argued by Weber are; a society where trends such as lesbianism are unknown and unheard of and the loss of her husband, whom she would most likely lose as a result (Schmidt, 54).

In this other case, Bentham would reason it out as follows: Clare should have come out clean to her husband, despite the fact that he was a staunch racist who even refers to her as “Nig” because her skin had turned chocolate gradually after their marriage, because it is morally ethical. Weber with his more appropriate line of reasoning, would have argued out that kind of play in question had its stakes extraordinarily high for a number of reasons; she was a black woman married to a white racist, she had earlier not told her the truth, thus leading to their union and the fact that by then, society had deemed it awkward for mixed color marriages to take place which would have been treated with much skepticism.

Dark play is thus particularly intriguing when put to play by authors since it becomes virtually unpredictable to tell a tale ending. The deep play also has the effect of invoking human emotions that make a piece of text come alive as one reads along. Authors, therefore, use the aspect of “deep play” by conflicting with the social norms that are already established in a society. Deep play is therefore, a brilliant creation of creative writing. It seeks to change wrong believes and inform a population where ignorance has taken its toll (Weimann, William,67).

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