Crisis Of Identity In Michael Ondaatjes Running English Literature Essay

Crisis of individuality is a really common subject in most postcolonial literature. The term “ post-colonial ” , harmonizing to Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin in The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post- Colonial Literatures, “ points out that the term is resonating with all the ambiguity and complexness of the many different cultural experiences it implicates from the minute of colonisation to the present twenty-four hours ” . This explains the continuity of double stars which leads to a sense of supplanting in individualities. These double stars are set in order to distinct qualities in the procedure of ‘othering ‘ which finally leads to a hierarchal place which disintegrates people. Therefore for the intent of this essay, postcolonial literature can be defined as literature that trades with the jobs of specifying physical and emotional confrontations of individuality that is caused by eviction, cultural atomization and sense of disruption that leads to the crisis of individuality. The focal points of this essay will envelope the crisis of individuality that is dealt by Ondaatje in Running in the Family and Mr Biswas the supporter in A House for Mr. Biswas.
Runing in the Family by Ondaatje is a semi autobiographical novel where he addresses the issues of battle in hold oning his individuality. Ondaatje ‘s narrative is a blend of facts and fictions as “ imaginativeness is tied to the existent landscape which paints the memory of the past to make full in the missing pieces ” ( Carol Elizabeth, 2000 ) . Rushdie explains this in his Fanciful Fatherlands:
“ It may be that authors in my place, exiles or immigrants or exiles, are haunted by

by some sense of loss, some impulse to repossess, to look back, … But even if we look back, we
must besides make so in knowledge- which gives rise to profound uncertainties- that our
physical disaffection from India about necessarily means that we will non be capable of
repossessing exactly the thing that was lost ; that we will in short, create fictions, non
existent metropoliss or small town, but unseeable 1s, fanciful fatherlands, Indias of the mindaˆ¦ ”
“ It may be that when the Indian author who writes outside India attempts to reflect the universe,
he is obliged to cover in broken mirrors, some of whose fragments are irretrievably lost ” .
( Rushdie, 10 )
This implies the journey of self find in miring crisis of individuality. Imagination plays a critical function to cover with fragments that are lost everlastingly. Imagination fills in the spreads of losing pieces of history in order to give a better apprehension of the whole issue of individuality. “ This is a postcolonial text as it brings insight into the kingdom of fighting towards hold oning individuality and a sense of belonging ” ( Carol Elizabeth, 2000 ) . Ondaatje, a long clip occupant of Canada, attempts to repossess and reconnect his yesteryear by going back to Sri Lanka in order to garner information about his household and his relations to hold a better penetration of his ain individuality. Due to his distance, the memories of his household has the visual aspect of “ frozen opera ” so Ondaatje returns to homeland “ to take a breath life into these memories and touch ( his household ) into words ” ( Carol Elizabeth, 2000 ) where Ondaatje physically begins his journey miring his individuality. Ondaatje reconnects with the characters that feed his cognition of the yesteryear for illustration Aunt Phyllis. Ondaatje is fond of Aunt Phyllis because she was ever near to his male parent, Mervyn Ondaatje. This indirectly implies that Ondaatje is interested in understanding his male parent, in his hunt of individuality. In Runing in the Family he states, “ The forenoon has been spent with my sister and my Aunt Phyllis seeking to follow the labyrinth of our relationships in our lineage ” ( Ondaatje, 10 ) . Ondaatje battles in set uping the relativity of the narratives to his ain individuality. Ondaatje is unable to happen the connection of these narratives which sometimes seems like an hyperbole, in order to mire his crisis of individuality.
“ No narrative is of all time told merely one time. Whether a memory or amusing horrid dirt, we will
return to it an hr subsequently and recite the narrative with add-ons and this clip a few opinions
thrown in ” ( Ondaatje, 12 ) .
This implies that the narratives that are retold to him are memories that are added with imaginativeness, opinions and simply single position of an event that took topographic point. All these information does n’t look to assist Ondaatje in deriving a better penetration of himself. This continues Ondaatje ‘s crisis of individuality.
In Runing in the Family it becomes increasingly clear that Ondaatje ‘s attempt in following his household is in fact a desire to reconnect to his male parent, Mervyn Ondaatje. His deficiency of understanding about his male parent and his male parent ‘s absence has created emptiness in him. “ He left for England with his female parent after their parents ‘ divorce and his male parent who remained in Sri Lanka has died from his absence ” ( Carol Elizabeth, 2000 ) . Ondaatje recollects his childhood memories about his male parent ‘s inebriation and before he was ten his parents are separated. Ondaatje feels the impulse to detangle the enigma of his parent ‘s relationship. This can be traced in Runing in the Family novel where he states:
“ Love personal businesss rainbowed over matrimonies and lasted for ever- so it frequently seemed that
matrimony was the greater infidelityaˆ¦But earlier, during their fire young person, this energy
formed complex relationships, though I still can non interrupt the codification of how ‘interested
in ‘ or ‘attracted ‘ they were to each other ” . ( 47 )
This implies that Ondaatje inquiries the complicity of his parent ‘s relationship, where he tries to calculate out why his parents ‘ matrimony broke. “ Ondaatje hears about his male parent ‘s force and inebriation, about his female parent ‘s dramatic genius, about his parent ‘s statements and about the fortunes enfolding their divorce ” ( Peter, 2010 ) . Ondaatje realizes that hearing all these narratives from other people about his parents does n’t truly state him what he wants to detect or how it relates with his journey in miring his ain crisis of individuality. Ondaatje is unable to veil the existent state of affairs and it remains as a enigma. Ondaatje is unable to make full up the losing pieces of his individuality but Ed Jewinski, a biographer of Ondaatje writes “ for the immature poet there was now a sense of new tradition being formed, a new vigorous and critical mentality of the universe ” ( 31 ) , one that was linked but different from the British tradition that he knew ( Carol Elizabeth, 2000 ) .
A House for Mr Biswas is a novel that is written by Naipaul based on his male parent ‘s advice to take him for a topic. This piece of information can be found in the Hagiographas of Thieme in The Third World Quaterly: Searching for a Centre: The Writing of V.S. Naipaul:
“ Naipaul ‘s existent place of birth is the ‘Lion House ‘ , an enforcing edifice in the town ‘s chief
street with a alone design. The house provided the original on which Hanuman House in
A House for Mr Biswas was based and it was here that Naipaul spent his earliest old ages
until his household moved, in 1983 to Port of Spainaˆ¦During these old ages, in the mode kindred
to the mobile wonderings of Mr Biswas and his household, the Naipauls moved several
times, before finally settling, in 1947 in a house in the St James in the country of Port
of Spain. This house was the original for the concluding house in A House for Mr Biswas ” .
( 1354 )
Mr Biswas who is a journalist working in the Port of Spain is fired merely before his decease because of his wellness status. Mr Biswas goes through the crisis of individuality as the narrative progresses. “ I ‘m traveling to acquire a occupation on my ownaˆ¦I am traveling to acquire my ain house excessively ” are vows by Mr Biswas in his yearning for self satisfaction and freedom that preoccupies his 40 old ages crisis of individuality. Mr Biswas feels a sense of disaffection with the household and society he was populating in. This can be traced since the birth of Mr Biswas, who was born with six fingers which is perceived as a distorted individuality. This can be traced in A House For Mr Biswas:
“ Born in the incorrect manner. At midnight, you saidaˆ¦had assumed that it was midnight the
unfortunate houraˆ¦the characteristics of this unfortunate male child. He will hold good dentitions but they
will be instead wideaˆ¦which means the male child will be a satyr and a spend-all. Possibly a
prevaricator as wellaˆ¦He will hold an luckless sneezing ” . ( 16- 17 )
All this implies that since the birth of Mr Biswas, he is made responsible for the superstitious belief that alienates him from the household and the society he was populating in. He was perceived as the luckless one and the 1 who could hardly win in life. The go toing accoucheuse besides predicted that Mr Biswas with his uncommon finger “ will eat up his parents ” . Mr Biswas grew up in poorness which leads him to malnutrition, deficiency of attending and restricted mobility to travel close pools and rivers. This symbolically implies limitations that are placed throughout Mr Biswas life that are finally broken. “ Mr Biswas experiences bias and ridicules throughout his life ” ( hypertext transfer protocol: // ) . Mr Biswas was even held responsible for the decease of his male parent because of his childhood quandary by the accoucheuse. His male parent, Raghu believing his boy Biswas has drowned, dived in the pool to salvage his submerging boy who is so standing some distance from the pool. Mr Biswas was held responsible for the incident that happened because less safeguards that is taken by Raghu himself. This creates a feeling of an foreigner in Mr Biswas which contributes to the crisis of individuality. “ Mr. Biswas is wholly against the traditions of his household. He neither identifies with India nor with the people of Port of Spain. This deficiency of individuality makes him miserably rebellious… .he battles whole of his life for an individuality… . ” ( Dhawal Kumar, hypertext transfer protocol: // ) .
The crisis of individuality can besides be traced through faith in A House for Mr Biswas. The patterns of Hinduism in the Hanuman House are mocked by Mr Biswas. Mr Biswas says ;
“ Well, since I been in this house I begin to acquire the feeling that to be a good Hindu you
must be a good Roman Catholic foremost. ” ( 125 )
“ The younger God came down the steps. He had been making the forenoon puja. With his
little dhoti, little waistcoat, beads and illumination caste-marks he looked like a plaything sanctum adult male.
He carried a brass home base on which there was a regular hexahedron of combustion camphoraˆ¦offered the
aromatic camphor fire to Mr Biswas. Mr Biswas rescued more soppy biscuit from the
enamel cup. He put his oral cavity under the spoon, caught the biscuit that broke off, chewed
noisily and said, ‘You could take that off. You know I do n’t keep with this graven image
worship ‘ . ” ( 130 )
Mr Biswas does n’t merely fall in with the flow by practising faith in a manner that is practiced by the Tulsi household. He feels a sense of lip service in the manner the Tulsi household patterns faith. They send their boies to Catholic schools to larn anthems and they preach themselves as being good Hindus. Mr Biswas stands up to his ain political orientations and beliefs even if he was secluded and non accepted by the household and the society he was populating in. This implies the battle and disaffection is faced by Mr Biswas in his crisis of individuality.
Ondaatje, in covering with his crisis of individuality inserts a representative set of derogatory quotation marks about Sri Lanka from Lear, Lawrence and Woolf. “ For Lear, the Ceylonese is detestably speculative and bother- crackbrained, barbarians who grin and chatter with one another ” ( Solecki, 56 ) . “ For Lawrence, Ceylon is the negation of what we ourselves stand for and are an experience- but heavens non lasting 1s. ” “ While to Lear, the countryside is picturesque, Woolf insists that all jungles are evil ” ( Ondaatje, 78 ) . Ondaatje strikes back towards all this derogatory quotes by stating “ I sit in a house in Buller ‘s Road. I am the alien. I am the profligate who hates the alien ” ( Ondaatje, 79 ) . “ This statement captures the insider- foreigner quandary that plagues the diasporic person in his relation to his original home- he belongs and yet does non belong ” ( Carol Elizabeth, 238 ) . This implies, Ondaatje feels a sense of pride and gratefulness towards his fatherland where he fells a sense of choler when aliens picture his fatherland in derogatory footings. The alien here can besides be viewed as colonisers. In his crisis in hunt of individuality he still feels a sense of protectiveness towards his fatherland.
Ondaatje goes through internal battle of individuality since the beginning of the novel. He begins it with reciting his incubus that he had in Sri Lanka ;
“ thorn trees in the garden direct their difficult roots underground towards the house mounting
through Windowss so they can imbibe sudate off his organic structure, steal the last spit off his
lingua ” ( Ondaatje, 2 ) .
This symbolically implies his anxiety in encompassing his yesteryear. Ondaatje besides narrates about his childhood experiences in Sri Lanka about the conditions of suites that he used to populate in during that clip.
Ondaatje besides talks about Aunt Dolly and the infirmity of her status and his soft embracing towards her. This implies symbolically the attack of embracing towards his fatherland by taking baby stairss to beg and research his yesteryear. “ The ambivalency and confusion in seeking for his individuality and sense of belonging is translated into uncertainnesss of the traveller returning to his fatherland ” ( Carol Elizabeth, 2000 ) . The author does n’t feign that he understands everything. There is merely “ glances, bits of history and voices that fill infinite ” ( Carol Elizabeth, 2000 ) .
Ondaatje announces that “ what began it all was the bright bone of dream I could hardly keep onto ” ( Ondaatje, 21 ) . “ This dream turns out to be the dream of a lost childhood where beds of past overlapping the present ” . “ This is conjured up in several memories piled upon each other. Unfortunately these beds of memories fail to solidify ” ( Solecki, 77 ) . Most of his fragments of memories fail to reply the inquiries he has about his individuality so the crisis of individuality preoccupies.
In A House for Mr Biswas as discussed by Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin in the Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post- Colonial Literature in the thematic analogues the “ building or destruction of houses or edifices in post-colonial locations is repeating and redolent figure for the problematic of post- colonial individuality in plants from really different societies ” . This symbolically implies that the destruction of an old edifice implies rejecting the individuality of the coloniser into constructing a new edifice which means building a new individuality. Constructing a new individuality and rejecting the old is what has been done by Mr Biswas. Mr Biswas struggled to populate up his ain picks from the commanding Tulsi ‘s household. Mr Biswas eventually owns his ain house and he feels his crisis of individuality resolved. Even the house is in an imperfect status ; Mr Biswas looks through the imperfectness. The status of the house stated in A House for Mr Biswas ;
“ decomposing fencing, the disintegrating slum house at the backaˆ¦two of the wooden pillars
back uping the stairway landing were rotten, whittled off towards the underside and green
with moistnesss. They all discovered the stairway was unsafe. At every measure it shook, and
the lightest zephyr the sloping corrugated Fe sheets rose in the center and gave catchs
which were like metallic suspirations ” ( Naipaul, 573 ) .
The crisis of individuality in Ondaatje ‘s Running in the Family is an on-going procedure where the realisation for ego individuality continues. “ It is Ondaatje ‘s diasporic background that determines the subjects in his plants. True of the diasporic esthesia with its narrative disruption, Ondaatje ‘s demand to joint place and individuality is textualized into the really cloth of his Hagiographas, which inturn makes his plants extremely textured and complex ” ( Carol Elizabeth, 2000 ) . Elementss of myth, imaginativeness and opinions are parts and package of Ondaatje ‘s on-going hunt for his unsolved individuality crisis. On the other manus in A House for Mr Biswas his crisis of individuality is resolved through his perceptual experience by having the house. The house becomes a paradigm displacement in Mr Biswas life where it demolishes the old individuality of the restrained, into a new individuality of independency and self goaded way of populating his life. The narrative builds up his crisis of individuality and eventually resolves it with Mr Biswas decease as closing.
Work Cited
Ashcroff, Bill ; Griffiths, Gareth & A ; Tiffin, Helen. The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice
in Post- Colonial Literature. London & As ; New York: Routledge, 1989.
Rushdie, Salman. Fanciful Fatherlands: Essay and Criticism 1989- 1991. London: Granta
Books, 1992.
Coughlan, Peter. A Conversation with Michael Ondaatje: Meander If You Want to Get to Town
Toronto, March 28, 2001.
Leon, Carol Elizabeth. Movement and belonging: lines, topographic points and infinites of travel in selected
Hagiographas of Naipaul, Ondaatje, Lawrence and White. Thesis ( Ph.D ) . The Australian
National University, 2000.
Thieme, John. Third World Quarterly: Searching for a Centre ; The Writing of V.S. Naipaul.
Vol. 9, No. 4, ( pp. 1352- 1356 ) . Taylor & A ; Francis Ltd, Oct 1987.
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