Reflection On Elastic Girl By Olivia Rana

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

Elastic Girl by Olivia Rana is a heart-wrenching fictional story centered around circus life in India. It touches on many big themes such as the oppression and objectification of women and girls, poverty, sexual exploitation, and the ways in which families scapegoat one another. The story exists in a world where stars can rise from extreme poverty and become rich and famous. The main character is Muthu, the youngest daughter in a family that treats her much differently than her sisters. While they go to school to become educated, Muthu works on the street selling her mother’s bread. Yet, she doesn’t seem to let this get her down: her playful spirit helps her to find fun in even the most dreary of circumstances. While daydreaming with her friend Maheesh one day, she almost drowns in a swimming pool connected to a pump house. Thankfully, she is able to contort her body into a tiny tube and survive the ordeal. When the neighborhood learns what has happened, they begin to call her Elastic Girl.

The family falls on difficult times and in a moment of crisis, it seems Elastic Girl’s talents can be put to practical use, as the circus will pay 200 rupee per month. This is more than enough to solve the family’s financial burdens, and so Muthu is sold into the hands of Mr. Prem, the ringmaster. While he claims that he loves his circus family like his own, there is undoubtedly something unsavory about him. Meanwhile, Muthu is to train with trapeze artist Gloria, “Queen of the Air, ” and Mr. Kalpak, the acrobatic trainer. She is at first humiliated because instead of performing her Elastic Girl routine as she had dreamed, she must perform with a chimpanzee and dress like a baby. During these initial months of adjustment, Mr. Prem continues to promise her he can turn her into a star. The only question is, what kind of price does he have in mind?

I was very impressed with the writing of this book and I especially appreciated the ways in which the multifaceted motivations and personalities of the characters were brought to life. In many cases, young children were either sold to the circus by uncaring and/or impoverished families or else runaways from abusive families. In Muthu’s case, while her parents did genuinely seem to care for her, her grandmother exhibited a terrible hate for her, claiming she was a cursed child who only brought ill fortune to the family. Because their situation was so desperate, Mr. Prem’s initial acceptance of Muthu appeared like a true honor. His love for the circus and his abilities to create stars from nothing also had an authentic quality. Still, there is much going on beneath the surface and later it becomes clear that Muthu’s acceptance into the circus was more than just a coincidence. The descriptions in this book are positively breathtaking. I felt I was seeing India’s rich countryside through Muthu’s eyes: experiencing monsoons and crumbling shanties juxtaposed against the perfectly manicured grounds of the Mysore Royal Family’s palace. The author’s use of vibrant language is superb and I was especially impressed with her ability to wade through very disturbing scenes without losing me completely. I am certain I would have closed the book during a number of the graphic sexual encounters had I not been so invested in Muthu and the writing not been so compelling.

I additionally loved watching Muthu’s character blossom. In the beginning, she is the family scapegoat, believing her grandmother’s hurtful words and blaming herself when things go wrong. Mr. Kalpak and Gloria are her true allies, teaching her resilience and how to strengthen her mind. With their help, she is able to transform herself finally into the Elastic Girl and rewrite the narrative she had been repeating to herself. It was really a joy to see her come into her own and defeat the tall odds stacked against her. I give this book a resounding 4 out of 4 stars. There were a handful of very minor errors (all typos), but nothing that distracted from the writing in the slightest. I also noted many Hindi words that were unfamiliar to me. While I used the dictionary on my e-reader, I wonder if other readers would have found a glossary helpful?

Above all, it is important that readers are warned that this book contains graphic sexual content that includes the raping of minors. For these reasons, this wasn’t any easy story for me to read. Yet, as I mention throughout, the writing ultimately won over my reservations. Thus, I highly recommend this book to readers who enjoy strong character development (specifically from a weaker to a stronger and more empowered female) and stories that detail overcoming very challenging conditions. I also think the questions this book raises would be valued by readers who seek to learn more about ethics in the world of entertainment and the exploitation of women and girls.


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