Academic journal article NAWA: Journal of Language and Communication

Representing Silenced Violence: A Stylistic Analysis

Academic journal article NAWA: Journal of Language and Communication

Representing Silenced Violence: A Stylistic Analysis

Article excerpt

Since 'official' history has often overlooked the violence that colonised peoples experienced both during colonialism and during the regimes following it, an important issue in postcolonial literature is to re-read history and to present alternative versions of it, in an attempt to unveil the hidden truth, and re-construct the readers' knowledge of those events which have been silenced or altered by colonial and postcolonial regimes. This result is often obtained through the narration of individual histories, which run alongside the official account of historical events and interact with it.

The present paper deals with an example of this kind of writing, where fictional narration is interwoven with the 're-narration' of historical facts about which very little is known. In particular, the paper will focus on Amitav Ghosh's The Hungry Tide (2004), a novel that revolves around the massacre of the refugees who had settled on Morichjhpi island in 1979, operated by the Bengali government. It could be argued that The Hungry Tide does not, in fact, represent an example of postcolonial writing, since it focuses on a massacre which had been brought about by the Bengali government and not by the British colonisers. In other words, the massacre was not technically caused by the colonisers, but by the local government. However, a) it would be difficult to deny that the socio-political instability of the Indian subcontinent in 1947 was the result of centuries of British colonisation on the one hand and of their subsequent departure on the other, and b) not only is postcolonial writing interested in investigating the colonisers' actions but it also aims at describing the consequences of colonisation, first and foremost the violence of the local regimes which took the power after the colonisers' departure. Furthermore, it is not untypical of Ghosh to describe the violence of both colonial and postcolonial regimes in his works, a theme he has explored not only in The Hungry Tide, but also in The Circle of Reason (Mondal, 2007, p. 17).

The aim of the paper is to shed light, through stylistic means (Douthwaite, 2000; Hunston & Thompson, 1999; Leech & Short, 2007; Short, 1996), namely through the close linguistic analysis of two extracts from the novel, on the multifaceted web of writing strategies the author employs to re-present this forgotten tragic event in order to stimulate a sympathetic reception in a wider audience--this Actional yet historically well grounded representation of history being an essential resource postcolonial literature deploys in the attempt to forge a more accurate collective memory.

The next section will be devoted to providing some information about the context of the novel, both from a socio-historical and literary standpoint, while the third and fourth sections will focus on the first and second excerpt selected for stylistic analysis, respectively.

The silenced tide of the Morichjh'pi massacre

Socio-historical background

The massacre referred to in The Hungry Tide took place in the area of the Sundarbans, the mangrove forest which stretches along the mouth of the Ganges delta.

The reasons leading to this event have their roots in the long history of communal and caste conflict in the Indo-Bengali area (Mallick, 1999, p. 104). At Indian independence (1947), the Province of Bengal was split into two parts. Almost all of the Hindu landlords fled to West Bengal, which was part of India. East Bengal became part of the Muslim state of Pakistan instead. This meant that communal turmoil was directed against the Hindu Untouchables who had remained in East Bengal. When these outcast people started fleeing to India they did not obtain the same treatment their upper class counterparts had received. On the basis that there was no place in West Bengal for them, they were resettled in other states, where the refugees "often spent many years in prison camp conditions" (Mallick, 1999, p. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.