Academic journal article IUP Journal of English Studies

Revival of Realism in Indian Fiction in English: A Study of Difficult Daughters and the White Tiger

Academic journal article IUP Journal of English Studies

Revival of Realism in Indian Fiction in English: A Study of Difficult Daughters and the White Tiger

Article excerpt

Realism as a literary movement of representation is supposed to have come to an end by the end of 19th century in Europe. But the recent critical explorations have caused a turnaround in the concepts about realism and its relevance in fiction. Indian literary scene is always a fertile ground for realist writings. Indian fiction in English also shares this cultural and critical milieu. Starting from the 1930s to the present day, realism remains to be the most sought after literary mode for effective representation of the complexity and vitality of Indian life. Walder (1995) in his edited work on realism has stressed the inevitability of realism as a critical approach in fiction.

Realism is a word that anyone studying novels cannot avoid using, or at least trying to come to terms with it. There seems to me to be at least three reasons for this.

1. The history of the genre is intimately bound up with the concept of realism.

2. The novel's major development in 19th century is impossible to follow without taking into account the family of features or conventions that the word realism allows us to isolate and distinguish from the conventions employed in other kinds of literature (and art).

3. Despite recent attempts to displace or undermine the idea of realism as outdated or infected by humanist ideology, its use persists. Most of the fiction we read (and indeed, watch, in the form of television drama) is realist in orientation. (Walder, 1995, p. 17).

The new genre, the novel, flourished in the last quarter of 19th century in India. Along with the birth of this genre, Indian urban scene had been undergoing tremendous change. The rapid changes in the urban life foregrounded new tensions and paradoxes, hitherto unknown to the Indian people. As noted by Mukherji, 'individualization' started in the Indian societal scene with the advent of English education and the consequent introduction of new values and standards (1985, p. 68). The new individualized urban elite started challenging their age old cultural obstinacies and they argued for pragmatism and flexibility. The hierarchical social structure came under attack, and the novelists who attempted to present this complex period in fiction were themselves products of this tension.

Mukherji (1985) brilliantly analyzes this particular juncture of Indian creative history judiciously and with perfect acumen. She writes,

Creating real people in a recognizable historical setting-people who are not mere archetypes or representatives of a cast or a class or a social role (priest, landlord, mother-in-law, etc.)-necessitate an acceptance of subjective individualism and a specific awareness of history. (It) had never been a component of traditional narratives in India...changes in the writer's own value systems were perceptible but these had not made any dent on the larger social structure, and to this extent the major Indian novels of the nineteenth century reflect a central dilemma of the period. (p. 69)

Aravind Adiga and Manju Kapur are the two new generation writers who adhere to the mode of realism in an honest and consistent way. Both the writers share the angst and concerns of the changing Indian society. Realism is a faithful representation of everyday life. The characters and plot are commonplace and the story narrated is plausible. The narration is linear with an omniscient third person narrator. Realist writers always keep a healthy and viable connection with the past, from which they assimilate the necessary energy for fictionalization of their present context. They help imagination to produce visible effects of reality, thereby creating a reality effect to the events and movements of the everyday life.

This paper tries to analyze Manju Kapur's Difficult Daughters and Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger in the light of the above theoretical approach to realism.

Manju Kapur entered the literary arena with her first novel Difficult Daughters which was published in 1998 by Penguin Books India Ltd. …

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