Academic journal article IUP Journal of English Studies

Articulation of 'Selfhood' with the Intervention of Postmodernism in Monica Ali's in the Kitchen

Academic journal article IUP Journal of English Studies

Articulation of 'Selfhood' with the Intervention of Postmodernism in Monica Ali's in the Kitchen

Article excerpt

In the recent decades, the cult of postmodernism has developed as a new platform to discuss the issues of struggle, conflicts, tension and contemporaneity of our contemporary time from a fresh and relevant perspective. It offers a potential impetus to explore man's perennial quest for selfhood and its strong articulation. We are living in an age of extremes. There are the extremes of wealth, materialistic growth, extremes of violence and hatred in interpersonal relationships, extremes of idealism and practice and above all extremes of suppression and superficial craving for unprecedented individualism. Sometimes we feel that there is overarching of our demands and problems. There is notable shifting of determinants and implications of our social values in the present context. We are living in the era of abundance of scientific growth and technological advancement. But we are not free from outdated and irrelevant traditions and barbarism. Our age is simply defined as an age of paradox and dichotomy.

Postmodernism is a sensibility which is not the scenario after modernism but it is recognized as a continuation of modernism surfing its own past. There is no lamentation but it is generally punctuated with the footprints of a sort of celebration of the present situation. Whatever is, is.

There is no nostalgia but past is always present in determining the present. Here we find extremes of reality which is hyper-real and replace the real in man's life and living. Postmodernism rejects any interrelation among several aspects of life; it asserts meaninglessness and fragmentation of human self and selfhood and promotes obscurantism and propagates abstruse form of existence of man. There is no synthesis, only analysis of absurd situation of man. It simply puts emphasis on 'the center cannot hold and things have fallen apart'. Peter (2010) says:

For the postmodernist, by contrast, fragmentation is an exhilarating, liberating phenomenon, symptomatic of our escape from the claustrophobic embrace of fixed system of belief. In a word, the modernist laments fragmentation while the postmodernist celebrates it. (p. 81)

Monica Ali's third novel In the Kitchen is a perfect example of postmodern condition of man searching for the self and entity. She is a Bangladesh-born eminent writer of fiction whose Brick Lane is a much discussed novel in the realm of diaspora study. She examines the entire process of quest of selfhood through the character of Gabe without feeling the burden of representation of her ethnic group. Her absolute focus is on existential dilemma and query of her protagonist amid the various relationships-his relation with his own self, with his parents, with his opposite sex, with his society and with his world with the realization of a supreme power and metaphysical command. The setting of the novel In the Kitchen is the multicultural kitchen of a grand hotel called the Imperial. Of course it was not a hit like her first novel but undoubtedly it is unavoidable on certain literary grounds. This time she has tried to explore the changing human psyche and quest of man for selfhood in the chaotic and uncertain scenario of his milieu from an existential point of view. She has tried to project the inner state of mind of man with his constant effort to find a permanent and authentic 'self' without 'the burden of representation' in the postmodern world.

Monica Ali was born in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, in the year 1967. Her mother was an English and her father an Indian. Though she was born in Bangladesh, she was raised in England. Her parents had to move from the place due to the Civil War in the year 1971. Her first masterpiece Brick Lane was published in 2003. In 2007, the book was adapted as a film of the same name. Her second novel Alentejo Blue was published in 2006 and her third In the Kitchen in 2009. No doubt Monica Ali's In the Kitchen has fabulous and beautiful descriptions but it is also not generally taken to be an outstanding piece of fiction though it has interesting layers of existential tension to unfold. …

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