Subverting Eden in the First Chapter of ‘Shame’

August 26, 2019 by Essay Writer

The first chapter of ‘Shame’ refers to the Garden of Eden, and does so in a manner with implications for the entire narrative. One may interpret the Shakil household as a subversion of Eden. In the Garden of Eden, Eve encounters a crafty serpent who convinces her to eat the tree’s forbidden fruit, assuring her that she will not suffer if she does so. In the Islamic tradition, the Quran says that Adam and his wife are in Paradise where they may eat what is provided, except that they may not eat from one particular tree, should they be considered Zalimun (wrongdoers).[24] Surah Ibrahim describes the forbidden tree as an evil tree that is forbidden for guidance. In the Shakil household, Mr.Shakil isolates his three daughters from the rest of the world; their ‘virtual education’ result in their forming vague notions about sexuality is a subversion of the forbidden fruit. In their sexual endeavor, the sisters end up in forming distorted ideas about the male body and they furthermore explore each other’s bodies, bringing in incestuous and homosexual overtones in the narrative.The four poster mahogany bed of the dying father of the three sisters has been compared to the Garden of Eden with its “columns carved serpents coiled upwards to the brocade Eden of the canopy.” Rushdie, by comparing the bed to Eden, clearly draws a comparison between Mr.Shakil and God. In the Biblical narrative, God places the two people, Adam and Eve, in the idyllic Garden of Eden, encouraging them to procreate and to enjoy the created world fully, and forbidding them to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.Eve shares the fruit with Adam, and the two are immediately filled with shame and remorse. This sense of ‘shame’ has been echoed several times in the very first chapter of Rushdie’s novel. Mr. Shakil is in the ‘grip of asphyxiating fist of shame’ in his deathbed, and one of the sisters put in the ‘family way’ on the wild night of the party brought them shame in the society. God, by banishing Adam and Eve from Eden, distances himself from them. In ‘Shame’, Mr.Shakil, instead of God, is distanced from his daughters by death in the very first chapter itself. This is similar to a punishment for the girls, as they are left alone to face the society and one of them enters into an illicit relationship. Sent out into the world, Adam and Eve give birth to two sons, Cain and Abel in the natural way. However, sexual relations have been treated in a curious way in case of the Shakil sisters. Here, the ‘Adam’ figure is unknown, but there are three figures of Eve. These three Sisters conceive together after the death of their father. There is a satire in depicting the Sisters conceiving only after the death of their father, as if their father, while alive, prevented them from conceiving. The three Sisters show signs of the growth of pregnancy in a uniform manner. At the time of childbirth, the maid is sent away purposefully and only one male child is shown to be born to all three of them together: “They began to weigh the same, to feel exhausted at the same moment and to awake together, each morning as if somebody had rung a bell. They felt identical pains; in three wombs, a single baby … No outside eyes witnessed the passage of the three labours, two phantom one genuine; or the moment when empty balloons subsided, while between a third pair of thighs, as if an alleyway, there appeared the illegitimate child”. Here, what affects the Islamic doctrines is not the mystery of the act of conception and giving birth to one child but the act of giving birth to an illegitimate child shamelessly.The first chapter of Shame introduces the Shakil family as a subversion of natural laws. Mr. Shakil keeps his daughters confined to the indoors, devoid of any education, and later one of them even conceives a child out of wedlock. Shame is a narrative of Pakistan. The Shakil household becomes a microcosm of Pakistan. The narrative can be read as a subversion of the notions of Pakistan, along with Eden. Pakistan, a Land of the Pure, God and Holiness has been represented in the narrative as a Pakistan devoid of those basic ideals, and thereby the narrative subverts the notion of Pakistan as a land of the pure, God and holiness. Rushdie himself described Pakistan as a land of the Pure not only in Shame but also in Midnight’s Children more than once. In Midnight’s Children, Saleem says when he is in Pakistan:” I helped change the fate of the Land of the Pure”, and again when he narrates the migration of his family to Pakistan that: “and over fifteen years late, my family moved to Pakistan, the Land of Pure”.

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