Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Precocious Blend

The motif Rushdie interjects into his piece is the presence of varying dualities. Additionally, stemming from these dualities he proposes their overlapping complexities, and in return reflects upon the simultaneity of their existences. One such duality is the presence of new and old worlds both in life and in literature.

He therefore states that literature, “offers a way of echoing in the form of our work the issues faced by all of us: how to build a new, ‘modern’ world out of an old, legend-haunted civilization, an old culture which we have brought into the heart of a newer one” (19). Analyzing this statement fully it is hard to ignore its relevance to the post-colonial issues present within the works of both Chandra and Achebe.

Thus, as Rushdie suggests, the majority of Chandra’s modern Bombay characters struggle to embody their new identities, whilst simultaneously being haunted by the legends of old. This is true for Jago as his new identity is haunted by the ghost of his earlier self; for Shelia as she tries to overcome the ties of old money (Dolly); for Sartaj as he attempts to justify his divorce within his relentless memory of Megha; and even for Subramaniam whose only way of conceptualizing the present is by telling the stories of the past.

In this same respect, Achebe depicts the later portion of Rushdie’s statement by which the old struggles to find identity within the new. The most exemplary form of this can be found through the use of proverbs, as discussed in class, in conjunction with the arrival of the missionaries. The proverbs therefore shift from being spoken as easily as one breathes, into a strained and urgent defense of an old culture within a new. Furthermore the severe and tragic destruction of Okonkwo’s character because he can not allow the two worlds to co-exist is telling of the reality of their presence as well.

In essence, Rushdie, Achebe and Chandra all ultimately claim that a homeland takes on the dual reality of both a ‘modern’ and an ‘old’ world. What is more noteworthy is how each prescribes that the two worlds not only exist, but function simultaneously: they are infused, and irrevocably unable to function separately. Each narrative is told with the characters actively living in both worlds, as if the two were in dialogue. Yet, from this precocious blend, humans, and the characters of the novels, are in effect forced to become “at one and the same time insiders and outsiders” (19) of their society.

Rushdie’s main argument then is to awaken writers to the endless possibilities that emerge from this inevitable pool of tangled emotions that trail along with our post-colonial worlds. Having fully explored these options, having “open[ed] the universe a little more” (21), writers may begin to reconcile the two in our present lives.

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