"Our identity is at once plural and partial ... We are at one and the same time insiders and outsiders in this society. This stereoscopic vision is perhaps what we can offer in place of 'whole sight'." How does this proposition by Salman Rushdie influence, enhance or limit your reading of the texts?
More often than not, colonization is a major factor that contributes to individuals experiencing a conflicted identity. This comes about when two cultures try to compete with each other in a society. The culture that belongs to the colonizers is always taken to be of a higher status than the locals'. So, when two grown ups belonging to these different cultures intermarry, their children will grow up experiencing a crisis. Later in life, they try to find belonging; either to the past or the present. In the end, they experience a feeling of in-between-ness; they fail to understand where they belong. Rushdie is quoted saying that "our identity is at once plural and partial. Sometimes we feel that we straddle two cultures; at other times, we fall between two stools." (Roy 14-15).
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This proposition by Rushdie is true in every aspect. In the modern world, there is a lot of migration taking place as well as displacement amongst individuals. In the end, cultures conflict and children find themselves having to fight between identifying themselves with their motherland or their new environment. While some decide to embrace their new identity, the locals will still see them as intruders and refer to them according to their former culture.
It is important to note that, whenever there is migration, there is a formation of hybrid identities. This is when the migrants try to interact with the locals. Sophie Mol is a good example of a hybrid in 'The God of Small Things'. The father, Chacko, is an Indian while her mother, Margaret, is English. She lives according to the English principles, but has Indian roots as she tries to live with her Indian relatives. She does not mind making friends with the Indian relatives although others despise her way of life.
More over, the concept of hybridity has always taken place when there is contact as well as intermixture between two different cultures. Some scholars have viewed that the meaning of culture can said to be the zone of contact between cultures. This means that, hybrids will have to choose between a numbers of options. For example, they have to ask themselves whether they feel part of either sides or not belonging to any of the two cultures. It is a decision that has to be undertaken by an individual. In the book 'The God of Small Things', Chacko, Sophie's father, expresses his view that they belong to nowhere; they have no identity as well as a future. (Roy 51-53)
The statement by Salman Rushdie that, "Our identity is at once plural and partial. Sometimes we feel that we straddle two cultures; at other times, that we fall between two stools" can be applied to Chacko. He is an Indian, but has lived in England most of his life and has become accustomed to English culture as well as ways of life. For example, he prevents his mother from being beaten by the father. In the Indian culture, wife beating is a common occurrence and no one intervenes in such cases. However, he is later seen getting into the strict Indian moral upbringing. This is depicted by him battering down Ammu's bedroom door and goes ahead to expel her from the house. (Roy 225)
On the other hand, Sophie acts like a hybrid, though she is not seen as one. Despite the fact that she has a hybrid identity, she is treated like an English lady and a white. Her Indian heritage is not brought up. This might be due to the fact that she is outgoing and does not conform to the Indian culture. It is also important to note that the characters in this book don't speak English and, as a result, cannot understand others. Moreover, the characters who speak English do not understand what they say, since it is not meaningful to them.
Rushdie shares the view that men become 'translated men' when they come from one culture and enter another one. In this case, transculturalism is seen as a translation process. Having this in mind, transculturalism has a temporal dimension; both home and foreign countries acquire temporal counterparts. Most of the times, the past is seen as a foreign country. However, from the look of things, it is the present that is supposed to be foreign, since the past is the root and home from where one has originated from.
Transculturalism is an issue which goes beyond cultural and geographical displacement. For example, in the modern world, there are some Muslims who eat pork, and hence become part of the western culture. It is important to note the fact that individuals who are transcultural become partial and plural. On one hand, they become plural in the sense that they stand in-between two cultures; they identify with two cultures. On the other hand, they are partial since they loose touch with their first home, hence, they loose an important part of themselves.
In the book 'The Buddha of Suburbia', the notion of mixed identity is also brought out. It is all about a mixed-race teenager known as Karim. Karim's father is Indian while the mother is English (Kureishi 8-10). They try very much to live like Englishmen. Karim is desperate to move out of the suburbs of South London and have a new experience in London. He sees London as the solution to all his problems. He stays in New York for some time when he has nothing to do in London, then goes back to London and participates in a TV soap opera. He becomes an actor in two theaters. It should be noted that Karim views London as a different world even though it is not very far from his home. He has great expectations of London.
The move into the city is brought out as a pilgrimage. Karim gets to meet new people while working with theatre companies. For example, Eleanor pretends to be a working class though she is an upper middle-class. So, she has to fight between these two identities she creates for herself. However, Karim notices that they speak differently due to the good education they received unlike him in the suburbs.
Most of the other characters in this book also struggle to make it in the City. For example, Eva is portrayed as a social climber who is at war with the city. In this story, the question of identity is brought out clearly. London seems to have protagonists (Kureishi 10-12). Karim sees himself as having come from two old histories; most of the characters have a history. However, many want to move to London, which is the object of their desire.
London is portrayed as a symbol for success. Karim and his father move out of the suburbs into downtown London, but they are always reminded that they will not be considered Englishmen. They spend many years trying to be Englishmen. However, Haroon, Karim's father realizes that it will do him good if he becomes himself. He becomes a Buddhist guru and teaches others the ways of Buddhism. On the other hand, Karim hopes that London will add meaning to his life, but he is always reminded that he is half-bred. In the end, he learns a lesson that the English identity is something he is not entitled to (Kureishi 15-17). Every one around him constantly reminds him of his status; a lower being; having low status. The boy can only be part of London as an exotic caricature of himself. In one of the plays, he is requested to fake an Indian accent as well as become authentically Indian. This is despite the fact that he has never been to India and does not like the idea. But he is forced to do so by the theatre director.
It seems that both Haroon and Karim are caught up in historically defined cultural representations of their identity. So, if they want to go all the way to the centre, they have no other choice but to conform to them. More over, the characters also realize that historical, as well as cultural representations have mythicised the English identity. London was seen as a place of only the mighty in the society (Kureishi 25). However, on their arrival, Haroon is disappointed because the image that he had of England was not what he saw. He did not expect to see some of the Englishmen living in poverty, being illiterate or sweeping the road. So the question that comes out is whether Karim can define his own identity. It is important to note that this is at the time when immigrants were taken to be intruders on British land.
In the book 'The God of Small Things', other characters also have a problem identifying their identity. For example, Father Mulligan is an Irish monk who wants to study Hindu scriptures so as to denounce them intelligently. However, he converts to Hinduism at last. Another character, Velutha, is an untouchable, according to the Indian caste. However, he does not follow the rules as expected. For example, he gets himself an insurance, which scares his father. He mingles with the Touchables as well as work in their factory. Most of the characters are trapped outside their history. For example, Chacko tells the twins that their families are lovers of British culture. (Amar 50-52)
In this story, the characters have their ideals, confidence, as well as love being betrayed. There are those who find themselves in forbidden love and in the end get into trouble. The two fraternal twins, Estha and Rahel, are struggling to cut for themselves a safe environment, the love of a parent, as well as, the promise of a bright future.
In conclusion, in 'The God of Small Things', we are shown the small world that we live in, where individuals become gods of themselves. The society is also portrayed as repressive; the truth has been hidden for the purpose of retaining tradition. However, there is a clash in the traditions with modern life. Paradise Pickles and Preserves, is a company owned by Mammachi, Ammu's mother, but the business is slowly collapsing. Chacko, brother to Ammu, buys so much automated machines for the factory that it immerses itself in debt. However, Velutha, who is an untouchable, knows much about machines and works in the factory for pea nuts due to his status in the caste system. Despite his effort, other workers are upset and complain of having to work with the untouchable. This is a clash between two identities; the Touchables and Untouchables (Amar 16-17).
The situation forces Chacko and Mammachi to think of getting rid of him. When Chacko's ex-wife comes with their daughter Sophie, things change from there since an affair started between Ammu, a touchable and Velutha, an untouchable. This portrays the clash of identities between classes in the caste system. This is the time that there lives change forever. A lesson learnt by Rahel and Estha is that things can change in a day. They also learn that anything can happen to anyone. We are shown how the caste system is horrible in India. We see the treatment of forbidden love in the caste systems as well as the marginalization of women in general. The women in India have neither power nor rights in their lives (Julie 14-16). For example, a woman who is divorced becomes an outcast and brings shame to her family. They don't inherit anything incase the husband dies. The writer criticizes the structure of gender, caste as well as communism amongst the Indians.