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Exiles and Alienations

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So the next theme of significance in this novel is globalization in the inheritance of loss, for the novel critiques globalisation by articulating a less explored theme of the exile experience in the West and provides a commentary on cross-cultural hegemony, so as I stated previously, a large portion of our understanding of the American dream is occupied by notions of success and splendour and a good capitalist, comfortable life in the states, but this novel disproves the myth and explains a transition of the American dream into the American nightmare and this is evoked through the character of Biju, who goes to America as an illegal immigrant and is made to face the worst situation of his life there. Not only does he hop from job to job, but is also subject to the worst possible conditions that a human can be subjected to, he lives with rats in the basement of somebody’s house and he is treated very poorly by his employers themselves, so through the character of Biju Kiran Desai provides a very sharp and incisive critiques to globalisation and come into the commentary on cross-cultural harmony, she provides a rendition of Gorkhaland insurgency and brings forward questions of identity, loyalty, a history that are entangled within this question. So the character of Gyan becomes very significant to this objective of Kiran Desai, finally argues that multiculturalism, confined to the Western world does not begin to address the causes of extremism and violence in the modern world. So these are some drawbacks of globalization that the author highlights in the novel. (Refer Slide 14:53) We’ll now have a look at a quote that a symbolises the kind of suffering that Biju underwent in the United States, you lived intensely with others, only to have them disappear overnight since the shadow class was condemned to movement. The men left for other jobs, towns, got deported, returned home, changed names. Sometimes someone came popping around the corner again, or on the subway than they vanished again. Addresses, phone numbers did not hold. The emptiness Biju felt a return to him over and over until eventually, he made sure not to let friendships sink deep anymore. So an important term that is been mentioned in this paragraph is shadow class, so not only does she evoke the immigrant experience abroad, but also brings to light the intersection of different classes and the dominance of one class over the other and the suppression of the shadow class, so now we move on to our next slide. (Refer Slide Time: 15:48) So, could fulfilment ever be felt as deeply as loss? So in this one statement Kiran Desai encapsulates the whole purpose of this novel which is to say that a lot of benefits and a lot of prosperity derive from one generation by the next can never be satisfied or can never be compensated because the extent of the loss that is felt as a consequence of this is so deep, as deeply as loss, while one generation inherits, characteristics, property and traits from another generation, the biggest thing that they inherit happens to be loss and thus the title of this novel is justified, the inheritance of loss, the one thing that they inherit that they cannot escape, all the characters are caught in a situation of their own making, but also something that they inherited that is of no escape to them. (Refer Slide Time: 16:36) So coming to the next objectives of this presentation, what are the preoccupations of the Indian novel in English since Midnights Children? This becomes particularly important for us to address because before midnight children a lot of Indian writing in English did not receive much widespread attention from the West. But since midnights children became a popular work, and after it won the booker a lot of Indian writing began to receive global attention in Anglophone circuits, so let us get into this. (Refer Slide Time: 17:04) The burden of the nation, at this stage I like to set the context for the pre-booker writing in India and how the transition occurred between pre-booker writing and post-booker writing. The burden of the nation, writers are burdened with a higher degree of self-awareness and the guardianship of tradition that seems to have suddenly befallen the Indian writing was becoming evident to them and the realignment of power in the Indian polity and subsequent weakening of the centre accompanied this. So burden here refers to the content that these authors engage within their novels, and these questions constantly bring forward the relationship between the writer and their subjects, who can speak about what, how does the author feel about the subject that they are writing about, so this also brings to the author, an awareness of the responsibility that they have towards the subjects and opens up a range of attitudes and ideologies with which they have to engage and which they have to address. (Refer Slide Time: 18:01) The burden of the nation. Some examples, the stoic of diagnosis of history is against our class in Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy, so this is particularly significant after the passing of the Zamindar abolition act and a character called Nawab Sahib, in this novel talks about how history is suddenly against our class in that particular novel and the mocking of Oxford-educated Indians, including herself as irrelevant Indians in Sagarika Ghosh’s Gin Drinkers published in 2000, they the writers must yield to the new and newly relevant Indians, who are also now the upwardly mobile Dalit intellectuals and the vulgar entrepreneurs. So there is an evident shift from one class to another and writers are now beginning to acknowledge that there is a disparity in class that has to be acknowledged through the characters in these novels and also brings to fore questions of one’s relevance to the nation and whether these questions need to be laid open in a more inclusive manner and some generational change is also conveyed in these novels and is also something that Kiran Desai conveys in her title which is the inheritance of loss, the change conveyed by her about the generation is fleshed out very well in this novel. And the writers also internalize a sense of entitlement compounded by a previously mentioned, burden and awareness of their centrality to the nation, the writers, therefore begin seeing themselves as intellectual leaders and prophets of modernity, so how does one write a nation level novel, should this naturally possess a dominant prospective or adhere to things that are commonly attributed to the dominant class, these are some questioner. (Refer Slide Time: 19:41) Loss of power of the ruling class, as I stated previously that is an awareness of the change in the status does not necessarily imply a complete loss of power, can a redundancy in the task of nation-building be observed? How does this affect the ruling class? From its position as a proxy for the nation, this class has now graduated to thinking of itself as a portrait of the nation, so the arrival of the new Indian novel in English did not just signify a huge change for the literary trends in India but also for a class in India because there is a replacement or a proxy for one class by another and questions are coming to the fore about whom the task of the nation-building must fall on and whether there is a complete loss of power or not. (Refer Slide Time: 20:23) A new patriotism, exhaustion with nationalist sentiments and settling into the bad habits of nationhood, this is something that is stated by Rajeshwari Sunder Rajan in her analysis, consequently, questions of opposing the nation or opposing this nation as forms of patriotism are brought to the fore as said by Arundhati Roy, I secede, I hereby declare myself an
independent, mobile republic and this expression of cessation as seen by one other critic called Amitabh Kumar is an instance of the narrowly individualistic even selfish attitude that leaves a lot of people behind, however, Rajeshwari Sunder Rajan points out that this is not a lack of identification with the nation or disidentification, the term cessation might throw you off, but this is, in fact, a hyper identification with the nation, and let us also look at how a critique of nationalism is always expressed in the voice of an individual, but the voice of nationalism that is expressed in favour of the nation always feels that the collective voice. (Refer Slide Time: 21:24) So the language of individualism is always seen to play a role in the expression of dissent within the novel, so this is probably one of the reasons that God of small things also received a large amount of attention because it brought to fore the fact that voices of dissent and disapproval can be expressed and it articulated the different ways in which dissent and disapproval can be expressed and how these voices are typically framed through a rejection of compulsory nationalism. (Refer Slide Time: 21:57) So coming back to that one question about what makes one an Indian or what attributes nationality to one? In the age that we leave, passports are what define nationality at this stage, we should address the question of how we define nationality? We must acknowledge that the life in an age where nationality is acknowledged based on our passports, but Shamaphutele in her idea of India talks of all we ever thought about India, is that we have to live in it, so how do we define what it means to be an Indian, in a slightly controversial, but interesting definition Suddabrata Sengupta’s piece titled confessions of an anti-national define nationality as a limited choice, a great deal of coercion and considerable indifference and some convenience, this is how national identity is articulated in different works. (Refer Slide Time: 22:45) Finally, let us come to our understanding of Workmanlike novel, one critic says it is the trial of exile, while another adds the world as viewed through the eyes of children and anti-Americanism, so these are also themes that we probed when we discussed globalization and the critics of globalization in this novel. Eileen Battersby commentator at the Irish Times, characterizes Desai’s work as solid workmanlike, earnest, traditional and she judged that this year’s Booker is one of the more low key ones, another review of the novel, and exactitude of freshness that resists melodrama, so what exactly do we understand from the term workmanlike, workmanlike perhaps refers to a term that signifies that something is competent and very efficient, but perhaps not inspiring, but why is that the case, what makes the inheritance of loss a workmanlike novel. (Refer Slide Time: 23:34) For one, it is removed from the political centre of Indian writing, it finally shifts the focus from popular cities like Delhi, Bombay and the Metros to a hill station and draws parallels with the life of an individual living as an illegal immigrant in one of the more popular cities, in the country, in the world, which is New York, so the juxtaposition of these two lives lends itself very well to the decentering and destabilizing of the hegemonic discourse has come to dominate, literary writing in India. Finally, it elicited more response from Nepali readers, at this point we must acknowledge that the Indian writer does hold some amount of power within the canon, it had been stated previously that if a Nepali reader were to read a novel they would have problems and issues with the novel that they would not be able to convey very significantly, if it were an Indian reader, reading the same ould not feel so strongly about the misrepresentation of Nepalese, but because the Indian readers have that kind of power within the South Asian literary scenes. The Indian readers can take the liberty of talking about the Nepalese within the novel about Indians, but this is not the same kind of power that Nepali readers and writers have within their literary circles, so we were must acknowledge that Indian readers and writers have their power, finally, novel’s criticism of Gorkhaland insurgency is fraught with difficulties. (Refer Slide Time: 24:53) At this point, I like to evoke the critique by B.P Giri who written in 2007 about the drawback of the Gorkhaland insurgency as portrayed in this novel, the novel’s criticism of the Gorkhaland insurgency is fraught with difficulties. Historically, the Subas Ghising-led insurgency was not really about throwing out non-Nepali residents of the hills despite its adoption of violent tactics the novel justly criticizes. Instead, its agenda included self-empowerment of marginalized communities by demanding access to state institutions and resources. Also, the insurgency is broadly understood to have challenged not so much the legitimacy of the Indian nation per se, but the longtime hold of the ethnic Bengali elite in the politics, industry, and bureaucracy of the State of West Bengal in general and in Darjeeling and Kalimpong hills, in particular. So what B.P Giri here is trying to say is that the author should have recognized her own identity before embarking on this endeavour because it might have lent the partisan view of the events unfolding in the novel itself act. As a Bengali herself Kiran Desai could have perhaps provided a more introspective analysis of what it means to be Indian, and rather not what it means to be an ethnic Bengali elite in this framework, so these are some critics of the novel. (Refer Slide Time: 26:17) With that, I like to conclude my presentation, these are my references. Thank you. Welcome to a new session of introduction to world literature, today we will be reading the short story Bartleby the Scrivener written by Herman Melville. (Refer Slide Time: 00:20) Herman Melville was born in New York in 1819, he is known as an American novelist and has also written short stories and poems, his novels are mostly known for explorations of sea voyages and expeditions as a sailor because at a young age his family was not in a very well off situation, so his elder brother finds for him a job as a cabin boy in a merchant ship, later he also finds work as a cabin crew in several whaler ships such as Acushnet and Lucy Ann. So in during this sea voyages in this whaling ships, he has got several experiences and has also spent some considerable amount of time in the Marquesas Islands with the Polynesian tribes there. So on his way back a with his family members he used to share all these experiences and they found considerable interest in these stories, so this gives in the idea of putting these expeditions and adventures in the form of novels and that is how he starts writing. Novels based on his sea expeditions and the first one being Typee which is based on his experiences on the Marquesas Islands and this becomes a very popular work and he becomes very successful as a writer with this work, following which he also writes others works such as Omoo, Mardi, Redburn, White-Jacket, Moby Dick, Pierre and Confidence-Man, these are some of his well-known works of which Moby-Dick is known as a classic in American Literature. This a story of the white whale Moby-Dick and the fight between this white whale Moby-Dick and the captain of the ship Pequod, Captain Ahab and through this story of the conflict between Moby-Dick and Ahab which seems to be at the outset story of a sea voyage and expedition Herman Melville talks in detail about the conflicts of vice and virtue and he goes into the philosophical broodings and he explores deep into the human mind and the extent to which revenge and urge can take man too. Apart from these novels, he has also written short stories like Bartleby the Scrivener, The Encantadas, Benito Cereno etcetera and also he has tried his hands in poetry with collections such as John Marr, and Other Sailors with some Sea-Pieces etcetera. He was tremendously influenced by the Transcendental Philosophy and the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson and also the work by Nathaniel Hawthorne, the novel The Scarlet Letter has been a terrific influenced on him. And during his stay in his farmhouse in Massachusetts, the Arrowhead, he got an opportunity to have a close interaction with the author Nathaniel Hawthorne and this interaction has been an influence on him, so much so that it even reflected on his kind of writings which also deals with the question of wise, virtues and evil etcetera and apart from these works the last work to be written by him was Billy Bud which is an unfinished novella and it was published posthumously in 1924. (Refer Slide Time: 03:25) Now coming to the story for today’s class which is Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street. It was published originally in 1853 in the Putnam’s Monthly Magazine and later it was included in the anthology The Piazza Tales published in 1856, the main characters of this story are a lawyer who is unnamed and he is the narrator, who has an office in the Wall Street and the employees in this work in this workspace, in his office Turkey and Nippers, Ginger Nut and office boy and Bartleby form the major characters of the story. (Refer Slide Time: 03:59) Now all these characters are presented from the narrator, the lawyer and they all have very unique character traits. The narrator begins the story by saying that he is an interesting character because All who know me, consider me as an eminently safe man, he considers himself to be not an ambitious person but he has a very secure professional reputation because he has got good clients, he is not the kind of person who wants to be successful by hook or by crook, he follows the Christian values in morality so strongly in his life and that is the way he presents himself throughout the story. And it is through his point of view we get to know about other employees at his office space, the first one is Turkey, Turkey is a copyist, he is an old Englishman in his 60s and the character interesting fact about this Turkey is that he works very efficiently in the morning but he has a very bad temper in the afternoon, so he is very careless and he leaves stains of ink on the papers, so this is the character trait of Turkey. On the other hand, the second copyist in that is office space is Nippers, he is a young and ambitious man of 25 and in contrast to Turkey he is good at working in the afternoons, in the morning he has he is he often has the issue of indigestion, so this makes him very restless, so he what he does is, he keeps on adjusting the height of his table and he morning hours mostly on this kind of unwanted or unnecessary issues but in the afternoon he becomes stable. So this very contrasting working preferences of Turkey and Nippers is quite amusing to the lawyer what the lawyer does is, he gives all the important work, paper works to Turkey in the morning hours and he gives him minor work or less important legal documents in the afternoon, so, on the other hand, Nippers is given all the important work in the afternoon hours and Nippers is so much ambitious that apart from his copywriting business he also tries to write original legal documents which the lawyer knows but he tries to kind of ignore all those aspects or ignore such attempts by Nippers. Apart from these two copyists, there is one more character which is a 12-year-old boy called Ginger Nut and originally he was sent to the lawyer by his father, so that he would he could get an opportunity to study law with this narrator but that never really materializes instead he works as a sweeper, cleaner and an errand boy and his common errand is to buy Ginger Nut cakes for both Nippers and Turkey and that is how he hence ends up getting the name Ginger Nut. And the last character and perhaps the most important character of this story is Bartleby, he is a very quiet and reserved and strange person, he talks to no one in the office but he is a very hardworking and he works day in and day out. (Refer Slide Time: 06:56) Now coming to the plot of the story, the entire story is the narrator, the lawyer’s perspective about Bartleby and his strange life and in the words of the narrator, this story is the life of Bartleby who is the scrivener of the strangest kind he has ever seen or heard of. And he begins the story initially by giving us an idea about all these other characters at his office space be it Gingers or Turkey or Nippers and their interesting character traits and what they normally do in the office space and how he eventually comes to hire Bartleby in this office. So he has as he mentions at the beginning of the story he has a very good reputation and he has an immense and very good number of clients and as his business prospers it is not enough to have just Turkey and Nippers at his office space because they are good at work good at their work only at one time of the day, so it is necessary for him to hire 1 more person, so he floats an advertisement in a newspaper and response Bartleby appears and Bartleby is thus appointed as the new copyist in the office space, and this is what he states the narrator says about Bartleby and his performance in the story. I read at first Bartleby did an extraordinary quantity of writing as if long famishing for something to copy, he seemed to gorge himself on my documents. There was no pause for digestion. He ran a day and night line copying by sun-light and candle-light. I should have been quite delighted with his application, had he been cheerfully industrious. But he wrote on silently, palely, mechanically. So this impression that Bartleby has on the lawyer it is quite interesting because he is quite happy that he hired Bartleby as his copyist because unlike Nippers and Turkey this is someone who works whole day without even taking a break, the only problem that he finds with Bartleby is that he does not do his work cheerfully rather he is very silent, pale and mechanical at his job which is quite paradoxical because he is doing something which does not require any amount of creative spirit, he is just copying legal documents, he is just working a human photocopy machine if we can say so and then strangely the lawyer expects him to be very cheerful at his work but there is nothing strange given the fact that he has to do a mechanical job like this that he is very silent and pale. (Refer Slide Time: 09:26) One day he calls Bartleby to his office to proofread the copies he has scribed but this is what happens without moving from his privacy Bartleby in a singularly mild, firm voice replies I prefer not to, so this comes in as a surprise for the lawyer because he never expected Bartleby to deny a work that he was asked to do, he was not asked to do proofreading of somebody else’s a copy but rather the copies that he made but he refuses and this resistance to his employer was not an expression of anger, impatience or impertinence rather he refuses to proofread with a sense of composure. So this makes it all the more difficult for the lawyer to scold Bartleby because this refusal is not an expression of anger, he is not rebellious he just says with a sense of composure that I am not ready to and in Bartleby’s words I would not prefer to do anything but copywriting. So the refusal makes him a little irritated, so the lawyer tries to reason out with Bartleby saying that he is expected to proofread the copies that he ma e so that it will be easy for the work to go efficiently and smoothly but there is no point in reasoning out with Bartleby because he completely refuses to listen to or to accept the explanations made by the lawyer. (Refer Slide Time: 10:51) And after this he also notices that apart from say keeps apart from the fact that Bartleby refuses or prefers not to do any other job than copywriting there are also several other interesting aspects to his life, for example, the lawyer observes that he never went to dinner as a Bartleby never went to dinner indeed he never even went anywhere. As yet I had never of my knowledge known him to be outside my office. He was a perceptual sentry in the corner and all that he had for his dinner was a handful of Ginger Nuts with the which the boy would buy for him and he would in return give the cakes back to the boy. So slowly the lawyer starts observing Bartleby more. (Refer Slide Time: 11:36) The strange case of Bartleby amuses the lawyer so much so that he even tries to or make some attempts to befriend Bartleby but the attempt is a failure because the response from
Bartleby’s side is very passive he does not open up even when the lawyer asks him some questions personal questions, his answer is I prefer not to share all these things with you but the lawyer worries that if he dismisses Bartleby then other employers may not behave well with him and he might end up jobless. So there is a sense of compassion or there is a sense of concern that the lawyer expresses towards Bartleby and he realizes that Bartleby is strange because there is something wrong about him but he is not able to realize what exactly is wrong with him because Bartleby is not ready to open up or share his personal life with anybody. So there are several such attempts of a kind to be kind and compassionate to him by the lawyer but finally one day he gets irritated and this is the instance he asked the lawyer asks Bartleby to go to the post office because Ginger Nuts is not around and as usual the staple reply comes which is I prefer not to. So this completely irritates the lawyer and he shouts at him but the response is the same.