Postcolonial Literature and Its Depiction of Love and Relationships
In the works we have read this semester, we have learned that due to their identity crises, these characters suffer immensely in their lives. They have suffered in their relationships, falling in love in peculiar ways. In The God of Small Things, Ammu and her children show the love they have for each other is damaging as well as uncontrollable. Roy is accentuating the interdependence of private desire to bigger premises of history and social occurrences by writing about several dramatic love triangles. This story encompasses concerns of human relationships, violence, the convoluted feelings and consequences of the caste system, and the capability to endure through the trials and tribulations of life. The novel shows us the importance of stories and the effect they can have on people. Roy tries to depict how strong love is and the overpowering force it has on people. The romantic love described in these books convey carefully to the rules of the politics and history. The Magistrate in Waiting for The Barbarians, finds emotional support in the blind barbarian girl while fighting with the tough rules of his empire. Estrella in “Under the Feet of Jesus” grows up with a negative of men, and falls in love with Alejo who in the end dies after she tried to save him. The characters cannot find true love due to their societies and the strict rules they enforce.
The Magistrate in Waiting for The Barbarians struggles with the poverty and harsh conditions in this colonial town in which he watches. He is drawn to the Barbarian Girl, who is blind. Perhaps this curiosity and the unknown was the fuel that took his desire over the edge. As he uncovers the reason as to why she is blind, he becomes more and more invested in her and the treatment of the Barbarians. The Magistrate is very ignorant about his situation, and he admits it when he first meets the Barbarian Girl. Here he acknowledges his lack of knowledge on Barbarians: “But what do I know of barbarian upbringings? What I call submission may be nothing but indifference” (56). An important point to acknowledge is when the Magistrate never calls the girl by a name. She is broken and damaged as well as he is, emotionally and they find solace in each other. Their relationship can be volatile. He is a hesitant, self-righteous and capricious man; whereas the girl’s fast perceptiveness goes against his total opposite traits. She even goes as far as telling him he talks too much, which shows that she does have something to say, there is a voice there. The Girl “dislikes fancy, speculations, and questions” (40). It is more possible that the Barbarian Girl is just tired of feeling only pain, and is seeking pleasure by being intimate with the Magistrate. It is her release, the only way she can feel pleasure and be protected. The Magistrate shows his confusion about his relationship in the next quote, bringing his passion to a negative light. “I have hitherto liked to think that she cannot fail to see me as a man in the grip of a passion, however perverted and obscure that passion may be, that in the bated silences which make up so much of our intercourse she cannot but feel my gaze pressing in upon her with the weight of a body” (56). This relationship becomes sexual, with both parties becoming invested in each other. He shows he cares for the Barbarian Girl, because in the next quote he explains how he believes he could find out information from her: “Tying her to a chair and beating her would be no less intimate” (49). He had the choice to beat her for information, but he chose to gain her trust and respect.
It is probable that The Magistrate in Waiting for the Barbarians wants to take on a more independent role for the girl, by showing her that he is her protector, when he is looking down upon the Colonel and the Empire: “No, No, No! I cry to myself… there is nothing to link me to the torturers, people who sit waiting like beetles in dark cellars… I must assert my distance from Colonel Joll! I will not suffer for his crimes!” (44). This following quote by the Magistrate shows how no amount of torture can be erased, this girl cannot be saved. “However kindly she may be treated by her own people, she will never be courted and married in the normal way: she is marked for life as the property of a stranger, and no one will approach her save in the spirit of lugubrious sensual pity that she detected and rejected in me (135). He sees that he is her only hope, that he can help her because nothing good will ever happen to her. His conscience is shown as well as his need to disconnect himself from the torturers. He “disowns” his society and attacks the Empire for its crimes of torture and imperialism. Yet, he overpowers her to feel more in control. Perhaps this relationship mirrors a relationship between an imperializing nation and a weaker nation. To gain information, land, money— an imperializing nation, or The Magistrate will likely terrorize the less strong nation by using power and exploitation, it will show the weaker nation finally overpowering the stronger nation. Yet, it can make the weaker nation feel it is safe and protected—when he touches the Barbarian Girl. If the stronger nation succeeds, they can preserve their mortality, and therefore not be seen as evil by the weaker nation. The relationship between the Magistrate and The Barbarian Girl shine light on the relationship between an intimate and a torturous relationship. A torturer looks at the victim as a delicate, fraught, simple individual. The victim is sensitive and bare, just as they would be in a sexual relationship. This could possibly relate to a relationship between a weaker and stronger nation. The weaker nation could be living in fear that the stronger nation might overpower them. The lack of trust is absent in the torture relationship because the torturer has the power to take control in any second. The Empire was responsible for torturing the girl and bringing her down to her fragile state. This leads to the magistrate taking advantage of her sexually. The magistrate does all these things to the young girl because he is trying to better understand how she has been tortured. In a way, he might want to connect to the girl because in his eyes; he has been tortured by the empire as well. Yet, nothing good will ever come out of it because she will always be seen as a barbarian in the eyes of the empire, with the marks of torture on her body. The Magistrate is not truly in love with the Girl, he is only using her for his emotional benefit, whereas she uses his to feel something other than pain. The relationship with the Barbarian Girl shows his need to dominate like the British in The God of Small Things. We can compare Ammu’s relationship with Velutha as well as The Magistrate and the Barbarian Girl— Ammu and The Magistrate gravitate towards the forbidden and the danger because they are tired of living their lives by someone else’s rules.
In The God of Small Things, we have the relationship between Estha and Rahel, which is incestuous, and we have Ammu and Velutha who are forbidden to be together due to the love laws. At first, it is heartwarming to read about Estha and Rahel’s made up language that they speak together. It is very common for twins to “escape” and find their own outlet of communication. And with these twins, it isn’t different. Even though they face separation and trials, they always manage to find themselves together again. This bond that they share is built on a relationship of language with authority. This can mean different things to different people. One can find it aggressive— maybe they lack the confidence and respect for themselves that the authority figure is trying to enforce. But if someone, for the better, wants to change or help themselves, they might see the authority as a saint or role model. In the next quote, we get more of a sense of the love that the twins share and why they feel it. “If was the first time they had seen their mother cry,” “She wasn’t sobbing,” “Her face was set in stone” (10). This passage is trying to show us words do not matter, it is people’s actions. For people can fake words and it can be forced, but our body language and expressions are true to what we are feeling deep inside.
Ammu was the daughter of a bitter mother and an abusive father with a temper, and she had no way to secure her freedom. She had no college education, because her father thought it was “an unnecessary expense for a girl” and a “suitable dowry”(38-9). Because of her desperation for freedom, she marries the first man because to her, anything would be better than returning to Ayemenem. Because she fights for injustice and has a reckless streak, she finds herself in love with Velutha, an untouchable, thus going against both moral and caste boundaries, which are claimed, by society and history. Velutha, like Ammu goes against the rage of society and history because he tests social beliefs concerning the caste system. By being an Untouchable, Velutha has received an education and is a trained and accomplished carpenter, which creates some tension between the other workers in the Pickle Factory. Velutha rebels and is also a member of the Communist party, “a Naxalite”(77). Where Untouchables used to be looked as replaceable; Velutha’s talents and intelligence have killed that assumption. Velutha contravenes the social boundaries by his “lack of hesitation” and “unwarranted assurance” which shows his “sureness” that brings him to his friendship with Estha and Rahel and later outlawed relationship with Ammu (78). Ammu and Velutha’s relationship is only seen as them rebelling against “the smug, ordered world”, because this is the only way they both have any power (167). Loomba said “Colonialism was not an identical process in different parts of the world but everywhere it locked the original inhabitants and the newcomers into the most complex and traumatic relationships.” In this novel, you can see that a complex and very traumatic relationship is with the Untouchables, more specifically Ammu and Velutha. They have to face these “love laws” yet they are so drawn to each other that they find their way back. In the following passage, Velutha and Ammu grow closer, and the acknowledgment of the love laws is also mentioned. “Standing in the shade of the rubber tree with coins of sunshine dancing on his body, holding her daughter in his arms, glanced up and caught Ammu’s gaze. Centuries telescoped into one evanescent moment. History was off-footed, caught off-guard. This knowing slid into him cleanly, like the sharp edge of a knife. Cold and hot at once. It only took a moment. Ammu saw that he saw. She looked away. He did too. History’s fiends returned to claim them. To rewrap them in its old, scarred pelt and drag them back to where they really lived. Where the love laws lay down who should be loved. And how. And how much”(214). Roy describes the moment when Ammu and Velutha realize their desire for each other.
The lack of attention and love from their mother affects both twins in their lives. The scene of Estha and Rahel’s love making uses imagery to illustrate this quiet and empty state they both reside in, and to share their “hideous grief.” It also broke the Love Laws. Also, Rahel running into the hands of a man who claims her eyes weren’t her eyes. The lack of communication and emphasis on her language caused her marriage to fail resulting in her return. While there is an economic class struggle, there is also religious discrimination. These two go hand in hand with the way love is exhibited throughout the novel. These “love laws” affect the childhood experiences of the fraternal twins, Estha and Rahel. The love laws put limitations on whom and how people can love. Roy’s depiction of forbidden love shows that the strength of social code can never break it. Even though the novel has themes of sadness, loss, and tragic death, love is associated to how these characters deal with their grief. Love is the illicit connection between two people and their cultural upbringings and identities. The reader can have mixed feelings when reading this novel. They encounter the many types of love: You pity, you judge the love between exes, a mother’s love, and the love of twins. These types of love come from the desire of the society to demolish real love.
Estrella in “Under the Feet of Jesus” is a young Latina that battles with the different parts of her life. She is an affectionate character, and she beautifully shows her strength in times that illustrate weakness. Estrella is the strong base for her fragile family and as the audience we see her grow in her social, political, economical, and cultural knowledge. Women living under patriarchy strategize to maximize security and optimize their life options (Kandiyoti). Because of her mother, Petra, being abandoned by her father, Estrella has been raised thinking men can never be trusted or depended on. Her family experiences frequent abandonment when after her father leaves, Perfecto, who has never married her mother, mentally leaves the family. Perfecto getting the girls out of the barn reveals his role as a father figure, mindful of the perils in their life. He also shows that he is knowledgeable about being a migrant worker and the hardships it faces. The world of a Mexican migrant worker is very tough and reading the strength that she had throughout it was very inspiring. Her family is essentially Undocumented workers. The following quote shows the hardships they face. “The silence and the barn and the clouds meant many things. It was always a question of work, and work depended on the harvest, the car running, their health, the conditions of the road, how long the money held out, and the weather, which meant they could depend on nothing” (4). They make up a very indispensible part of the U.S. landscape. Their well-being was affected immensely because of their harsh conditions. They are estranged from a capitalist union by being required to complete hard jobs under disgraceful conditions just to live a negligible life. What makes it worse is that Estrella has to deal with the abandonment of her father. What quote really touched me was when she said: “I wonder if the spectators could see me from where I stood” (10). Estrella finds herself also being abandoned by Alejo, which shows again how a female is left behind to care for themselves and their family. It is demonstrated in the next quote when Alejo falls ill, she says she “was alone to fend for herself” (139). I admired Estrella and the courage she had. She was “on the verge of faith,” and did not let herself fall. Instead of choosing “blindly” she chose to “trust the soles of her feet, her hands, the shovel of her back, and the pounding bells of her heart.” She is a loving young woman and you can tell immediately when she chooses to save her dying boyfriend. Estrella only knows how to communicate with Alejo is by describing the importance and grandness of the barn. She tries to connect to Alejo and tell him more about her life. Yet, she has trouble putting her emotions into words because she is fully contained in her labor. She explains that “she wanted to tell him how good she felt, but didn’t know how to build the house of words she could invite him into…Build rooms as big as barns” (70). Estrella’s romantic relationship with Alejo illustrates the wicked system which cheats poor workers for increased profits for the rich landowners and agroindustry corporations. The evil done by those capitalist forces are illustrated in the authentic suffering of the workers and the sad fate of Alejo, who was poisoned by the pesticides of the corporate agribusinesses. Estrella acquires the dissimilarity between love without security and security without love. When Estrella makes her concluding choice, it is with the prosperity of experiences of her family.
The works we have read throughout this semester show characters dealing with painful situations because of the rules and regulations that have been set up for them. This shows having an honest loving relationship is out of reach because of the harsh treatment they experience at the hands of their superiors.
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