Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Trauma of Displacement in V.S. Naipaul's the Mimic Men

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Trauma of Displacement in V.S. Naipaul's the Mimic Men

Article excerpt

Abstract

This research considers displacement in Naipaul's The Mimic Men as a traumatic experience. Taking an interdisciplinary approach to the subject of my study, it explores the historical and psychological dimensions of the displacement in the novel, as well as its literary representations. In the first step, I depicted the displacement as a traumatic experience for the protagonist by the illness which displacement causes Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In the second step, I suggested two ways the protagonist goes through to remember their trauma. These ways are two different kinds of memory, namely, "acting out" and "working through". I take "acting out" and "working through" as different but not opposite processes. "Acting out" and "working through" may never be totally separated from each other, and the two may always mark or be implicated in each other. In the third step, I also looked at the impacts of trauma of displacement on the structural and formal components of The Mimic Men.

Keywords: Trauma, Displacement, PTSD, "Acting out", "Working through", Trauma and Literature

1. Introduction

V.S. Naipaul is an Indian by ancestry, a Trinidadian by nativity and British by residence and intellectual training. The distinctive combination of circumstances, which relates him to the three societies, certainly plays a predominant part in shaping his sensibility and determining his writing career. He said, "when I speak about being an exile or a refugee, I am not just using a metaphor" (Rowe-Evans 62). He was born into exile, separated his racial and cultural roots and driven into another exile from the land of his birth. The contradictions inherent in his background form the pivot of his work. As Landeg White says, "... the struggle against the effects of displacement lies at the heart of his work" (3).

V.S. Naipaul is obsessed with displacements in his works. Portrayal of displacement is his works is unique. In Gillian Dooley's words in her article, "The Imaginative Promptings of My Many-Sided Background V.S. Naipaul's Diasporic Sensibility", Naipaul "instead of drawing heavily on memories of the homeland and the collective identity, he has made his difference into a distinction and turned his alienation into an abiding preoccupation"(3) .

Leading trauma scholar, Cathy Caruth, in her book Trauma: Exploration in Memory (1995), asserts, "To be traumatized is precisely to be possessed by an image or event" (4). Naipaul's obsession by displacement in his works implies that displacement is a traumatic experience for him, and as a traumatic event overwhelms the psychic defences and normal processes of registering memory traces, displacement should be approached in his works psychologically, an issue which has been relatively ignored by his critics. The main focus of Naipaul's critics has been on postcolonial diasporic studies which consisted political and/or ideological aspects of displacement This research considers displacement in Naipaul's The Mimic Men as a traumatic experience. Taking an interdisciplinary approach to the subject of my study, it explores the historical and psychological dimensions of the displacement experience, as well as its literary representations. Based on the theoretical work of trauma theorists such as Cathy Caruth, Dominick LaCapra, this study attempts to investigate the effects of trauma of displacement in The Mimic Men.

2. The Mimic Men

The Mimic Men is the story of Ranjit Kripalsingh or Ralph Ranjit Kripalsingh, as he is prefer to be known, the only son of a Hindu family on the fictional Caribbean island of Isabella who moved to England to continue his studies. He married an English girl named Sandra and returned to Isabella, where he became a successful property developer and building contractor, and entered into politics. His marriage broke up and after his sudden withdrawal from his political career in Isabella, he went back to England and settled down in the old boarding house (now a hotel) where he started writing his memoirs. …

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