My written task is concerned with Part 1 of the course – Language in cultural context- more specifically Language and the Individual and Gender.
The primary stimulus for my task is the Jonestown massacre, on November 18th 1978, in Jonestown, Guyana. It was an act of revolutionary suicide by the members of the People’s Temple, under the influence of their leader Jim Jones. My task will take the form of a diary entry by the older brother, John, of Susan, a 24 year old victim in the massacre.
I have chosen a diary entry, as it will most truly reflect the john’s feelings and emotions towards his sister’s suicide and the People’s Temple cult. A diary is intended for the author only, hence the target audience for this text will be only John himself. John is writing this entry in his diary, as it is a way for him to express himself and his grief.
This entry will follow the format of a diary entry. It will include the date of the entry. The text will flow in an unorganized manner, jumping from one thought to another, much as the author’s mind will be, as he is writing. This is because a diary entry is just a representation of the narrator’s train of thought, and not intended for anyone else to read. A diary is merely a place to pen down one’s thoughts, without fear of judgment.
I will attempt to show how emotion shapes language. By analyzing this incident from John’s perspective, I will be able to show how this incident affected then families of the victims. I will also attempt to analyze how audience and purpose affect the structure and content of texts. As this is a diary entry, the content will be extremely private and personal.
November 19th, 1978. You never truly believe the worst will happen until it actually does. And when it does, it takes a while for you to believe it actually happened. Yesterday, my life took a turn for the worse. The news derailed me. Left me shaken. I feel so lost and helpless and alone. Maybe this is how she felt all those years. I can’t process what is happening. Everything is a blur. For a moment, everything was fine, and then bam! That call turned my life upside down. I haven’t see her in a year. She left last year so abruptly; it was all such a haze. She just left a note saying she had found her place.
I still remember her phone call last year. She sounded so happy. She said she had found her calling. A place she finally fit in. She said it was called the People’s Temple. I was happy for her. She’d been an outlier ever since she was a child. She never fit anywhere. She was different. Maybe, if I had stayed in touch with her since college, I could have gone with her. Found out more about this People’s Temple. I should have. Maybe if I had, she would still be here today.
I feel so angry. So alone. Growing up, I knew she had trouble making friends, trouble working with other kids. Maybe, if I had spent more time with her, helped her more. I could have protected her, I should have protected her. She was always impressionable. She trusted people too easily; too early. I should have looked out for her more. I can’t sleep. I can’t eat. I still have to talk to mom and dad. This pain is consuming. It overwhelms my senses. I just lie in bed. Her memories flash through my head. I can’t cry. It can’t be true. She didn’t deserve this. Why wasn’t it me? I still remember when she called after I had finished my doctorate. I had just started working again. She called to talk. Mom and dad were giving her a hard time. We would talk when we were younger, but when I went away, we drifted apart a bit. She said she had been having problems; hadn’t been feeling the same. She said she didn’t like her job. She felt lonely. Depressed. My first instinct was to offer her money. I feel so stupid. I had been so caught up in my own life, I had forgotten about hers. If I could go back, if I had another chance, maybe I could stop her from joining that cult.
That cult was the reason she’s not here today. They took advantage of her vulnerability, her nature. When that lawyer came over yesterday, the news was shocking. He read me her will. She’s left everything to them. Her savings, apartment, car. They must have forced her to do that. They must have manipulated her and brain-washed her.
She had long golden hair, and deep brown eyes. She had some freckles on her cheek. Her eyes would always light up when she smiled. Her laugh would make me smile. She was kind and fair. She cared for others. One day, when we were kids, she had brought home a cat she found on the street. Mom and dad didn’t care for it, so she took care of it by herself. She fed it and bathed it. She took it to the shelter and visited it every week. She was a really good person, she was just under-appreciated.
A few months ago, I read an article about some people who had left the People’s Temple. They had been cut off from their families. They had been suppressed and abused in the temple, but had been too scared to speak out. They said that their leader, Jim Jones, had sexually abused many of them and they had been denied their rights. I read about this, and I still didn’t call her or check up on her. I just left her a message. I should have forced her to leave then. Those people were monsters. 900 people? Children? Women? They forced them to take their own lives, in the name of revolution, saying that they were inspiring change. They called it a revolutionary suicide, but it was nothing more than a massacre, a murder. They took advantage of people, drew them in with their sermons preaching equality and change and a better life free from the oppression of the normal world, but they just used them for their own propaganda and selfish needs. They promised them a utopia, a “heaven on earth” as Jim called it, and took them all to Guyana. What heaven is guarded with guns? What heaven suppresses its people and doesn’t let them leave? The pain I feel right now is so overwhelming. Imagine the families of the others. No one who loves their families would put them through the pain we are feeling now on purpose. They had to have been forced. I don’t even know how to react. The thing is that suicide doesn’t end the pain and the emotions, it just passes it on to someone else. Susan, you’re in a real utopia know. You’re actually in heaven. I’m sorry I couldn’t save you. I will always remember you. You will always be in my thoughts. I do not know how to move on from this. I do not know what the future holds but all I want right now is the chance to see you again.