Academic journal article NAWA: Journal of Language and Communication

Cognitive Stylistics and Petit Recit: An Examination of the Narrative Consciousness in the God of Small Things

Academic journal article NAWA: Journal of Language and Communication

Cognitive Stylistics and Petit Recit: An Examination of the Narrative Consciousness in the God of Small Things

Article excerpt

In the past 50 years, post-colonial writing has grown into an exciting body of literature which challenges the norms of traditional publications not just in terms of the themes, but also in developing new forms of expression. Writers from different parts of the world articulate their quotidian reality embracing the diversity of their cultures and delineating them in all their manifestations. Post colonial writers are excavating occluded histories and exploring those stories which have been papered over or underwritten by "Grand Narratives". While a number of texts which are written by the diaspora focus on loss of identity, identity formation and exilic experiences, contemporary writers in the post colonial nations use the medium of Action to engage with their own history and politics in transformative ways. These texts generate new histories which subvert, enrich, and pre-empt formal closure for the narratives of history. In India, writers have to contend with not just the history of colonisation but also with a hoary tradition which casts its shadow over everything. Writers creating a fictional world within this tradition essentially struggle to escape it through a retelling of multiple histories which subvert grand narratives like the Mahabharatha and Ramayana. These stories are the "petit recit" (Lyotard), the lost histories of the disenfranchised, about cultural degeneration, the loss of racial or cultural purity, the racial other, sexual subversion and the threat that colonial-era usurpation and violence might one day "return", deploying images of transgressive women who threaten to expose the dark underbelly of their own historical and political contexts.

The God of Small Things (henceforth GOST), by Arundhati Roy, written and published in 1997, which won the Booker prize is a post colonial novel which captures the trauma and pain of the subaltern embodied in Velutha, the Untouchable and Ammu, the divorcee mother of twins. It burst upon the literary scene and received rave reviews from all its reviewers. It has been described as a "gripping" tale of love and loss (Uttara Chowdary, Financial Times), "an intricate clean skillfully constructed story which overwhelms by its exuberance and its verbal virtuosity" (Philips Ziegler, Daily Telegraph), "a beautifully fractured tale ... infused with luminous imagery, wry wit and butterfly delicate characters (Esquire), "an uncoiling spring of human foreboding and inevitability" (Rajgopal Nidamboor, Sunday Observer).

GOST has also received its due share of critical acclaim since its publication. Most critics identify it as a post colonial novel and explore the post colonial elements in it. However there are others who examine GOST with other tools to gain a richer understanding of the novel. Discussing desire and death in the novel, Brinda Bose (1998) states the politics of desire is closely linked to the politics of voice in the novel. The novel depicts the politics of desire and the ways in which sexuality has been perceived through generations in a society that coded "love with a total disregard for possible anomalies"(p, 68). Ahmad (1997) argues that love and desire are indulgences when pursued by the elite (Ammu) and radical when pursued by Velutha, the poor untouchable, which makes his death credible, but less arbitrary. Ahmed points out that Velutha transgresses boundaries of caste and class. Identifying the government and police on the one hand and colonialism on the other with Althusser's repressive state apparatus and the ideological state apparatus Chris (2011) argues that "the character of Velutha ... marks the intersection of the object and trauma in the novel, not only because his body becomes the site of the trauma, but because his body, as the body of the untouchable, also represents the socially abject. Chan (2006) identifies it as a post-colonial novel in which Roy addresses "the problem of doubly, simply marginalised people that is becoming the focus of attention" (Chan, 2006). …

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