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In the Shadow of the Banyan
A hauntingly powerful novel imbued with the devastation of monumental loss and...
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What does the title of this novel mean to you?

Created: 05/24/13

Replies: 16

Posted May. 24, 2013 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 447

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What does the title of this novel mean to you?

What does the title of this novel mean to you?


Posted Jun. 04, 2013 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
rebeccar

Join Date: 03/13/12

Posts: 120

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RE: What does the title of this novel mean to you?

I'm glad you asked this question. It is something that any reader should think about- what's the significance. I even made a notation at the front of my copy of the book to see the page with the title (in Big Uncle's dialogue) because I wanted my family members to whom I was loaning this book to be sure and note the single reference. That said, I think there is more to it and certainly English teachers could have a heyday making this topic into an essay assignment.


Posted Jun. 04, 2013 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
rebajane

Join Date: 04/21/11

Posts: 121

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RE: What does the title of this novel mean to you?

The period was a definite shadow in the history of Cambodia. As a side note, this was the first book in a long while that made me weep, audibly. There were times when the treatments and conditions endured by the Cambodian people, and Raami particularly, gave me heart palpitations. But the writing also made me weep. The language was gorgeous


Posted Jun. 05, 2013 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
terri

Join Date: 04/11/12

Posts: 102

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RE: What does the title of this novel mean to you?

That was the first thing I thought about when I picked up this book. To me, the Banyan tree meant stability. The family would see the trees and mention them every so often. It was a memory they all held of the Banyan tree in their home before they were forced to move. The shadow of the Banyan tree, to me, signified tranquility. That is what I thought about each time they mentioned it.


Posted Jun. 05, 2013 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
patm

Join Date: 12/05/12

Posts: 11

RE: What does the title of this novel mean to you?

The banyan tree represented security to Raami. It was her contact with the past. "Here, on the banyan ground, the temple harbored minute reflections of the paradise we'd left behind." (p. 80). Her father senses what is going to be her future, when he says "I want you to see it in yourself. No matter what ugliness and destruction you may witness............ "(p. 72). Here he gives her the hope that she can beauty can be replicated.


Posted Jun. 06, 2013 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
alisonf

Join Date: 01/31/13

Posts: 35

RE: What does the title of this novel mean to you?

The banyan tree sustains initially from a host tree and gets its nutrients from the air later sending down shoots that become sustaining roots establishing itself as an independent tree from its host. They are beautiful, protective and interesting considering how they grow and spread. The family's displacement iS constant and part of the Organization's ability to control the people is to never let them establish roots. The roots are the strength of the Banyan tree and represent the security of the past and the hope of the future-- to establish roots again.


Posted Jun. 06, 2013 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
terri

Join Date: 04/11/12

Posts: 102

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RE: What does the title of this novel mean to you?

Readers are so different in what we pick up and how we process what we read. We all thought something different regarding the title.


Posted Jun. 06, 2013 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
joyces

Join Date: 06/16/11

Posts: 209

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RE: What does the title of this novel mean to you?

Early in the book (pg 19) Grandmother Queen says twice "There will remain only so many of us as rest in the shade of a banyan tree" When I finished the book, closed the cover and read again the title, I went back to find that reference. It seems it was rather prophetic. By the end of this book there were a lot less Cambodians alive to rest in the shade of a banyan tree.


Posted Jun. 07, 2013 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
terri

Join Date: 04/11/12

Posts: 102

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RE: What does the title of this novel mean to you?

The Banyan trees really seem to be a symbol of life throughout the country.


Posted Jun. 09, 2013 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
lesleym

Join Date: 05/12/11

Posts: 26

RE: What does the title of this novel mean to you?

I agree with patm that the banyan tree is a place that represented security, but also life & hope.


Posted Jun. 10, 2013 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
kate

Join Date: 01/22/11

Posts: 28

RE: What does the title of this novel mean to you?

I agree with others in that the tree represented stability, security and also life. The Shadow of the Banyan Tree to me was the dark side of all the hatred, lives lost and ugliness that scared mankind from this terrible event.


Posted Jun. 12, 2013 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
rebeccar

Join Date: 03/13/12

Posts: 120

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RE: What does the title of this novel mean to you?

Despite all of the interpretations, I still think will be important for book clubs or teachers using this book in a classroom to refer to the dialogue that contains the exact phrase.


Posted Jun. 13, 2013 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
terri

Join Date: 04/11/12

Posts: 102

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RE: What does the title of this novel mean to you?

I have since read a couple other books that referred to the big Banyan tree as a symbol of the country. In those books, the Banyan tree symbolized stability to me, at least my interpretation of it.


Posted Jun. 13, 2013 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
susanf

Join Date: 09/14/11

Posts: 5

RE: What does the title of this novel mean to you?

Banyons are very prolific in Cambodia, casting their shadows everywhere. It was in those shadows that the Khmer Rouge committed their senseless rein of terror and our story took place.


Posted Jun. 16, 2013 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
Nell

Join Date: 12/03/12

Posts: 2

RE: What does the title of this novel mean to you?

While I am reading, I look for the meaning the author places on the title. Early in this book just after the Khmer Rouge take control of the country, Grandmother Queen predicts the outcome for the Cambodian people. (Quoted by Joyces in an earlier post.) Because Grandmother is old and frail and Raami is young and innocent, Raami dismisses the remark as if she is senile and just babbling. That outcome was also unimaginable for many. At the time Grandmother makes the remark, others are celebrating the revolution and optimistic about the new government. It's striking that the oldest family member is the one who sees most clearly.


Posted Jun. 16, 2013 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
melindah

Join Date: 12/25/12

Posts: 10

RE: What does the title of this novel mean to you?

As an English teacher, I agree with Rebeccar, I could have a heyday with essay assignments revolving around the shadow of the banyan tree. There is so much depth in the title, from the shadow reference to the hope and stability of the tree itself. It is absolutely the perfect title for this book.


Posted Jun. 19, 2013 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
Lisa Hickman

Join Date: 06/19/13

Posts: 2

RE: What does the title of this novel mean to you?

The interesting thing about Banyan trees is that their seedlings germinate in the cracks and crevices of the existing tree, so that as they grow their roots wrap around the existing trees. The trees intertwine to the point you can't distinguish the old from the new, and the old may eventually be strangled out. I thought this was significant to the story as the old regime was replaced with the new regime. It started slowly with new ideas about how the old traditions were outmoded. These ideas were germinated amongst the less privileged class. Those ideas were spread and as they grew, some of the ideals changed to the point that the Cambodians were displaced from their homes. Again, as the ideals changed and grew over time, the people were moved again, and displaced further and more spread out. The idea was to blend them in with the new regime or intertwine their roots until eventually the Cambodian people and old regime were strangled out.


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