Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Rushdie and the Shifting Perspective

I felt that Rushdie made a lot of interesting points in his essay "Imaginary Homelands" that could not only apply to someone who is straddling two cultures due to immigration, but also to anyone who has felt a conflict within his or her homeland(s) and identity. However, one aspect in particular that I found interesting was Rushdie’s view of the past and the present, especially since I blogged about this connection last week. The past and the present are critical for Rushdie, at first, due to his need to remember details of the Bombay of the 1950s and 1960s about which he wishes to write. However, I think that he begins to think and write more broadly about the relationship between the past and the present, and brings up a very interesting idea when he describes a metaphor in his novel Midnight’s Children. He says, “the movement towards the cinema screen is a metaphor for the narrative’s movement through time towards the present, and the book itself, as it nears contemporary events, quite deliberately loses perspective” (13). It would seem that Rushdie claims, through his metaphor of losing perspective as one enters the present, that distance, through time, from past events gives a person a clearer and more accurate view of the past. A person gains perspective as they are able to review the events of the past over time. I think that this is an important point because while Rushdie’s quote may seem to imply that this shift in perspective naturally occurs, I think that it is something that largely determines a person’s success in coming to terms with his homeland and feeling at home or at peace with himself. Okonkwo, for example, does not seem to review his past actions or gain perspective and fresh insight on the events of the past. He, therefore, cannot come to terms with the conflict in both his external and internal homelands by learning from his past mistakes and reflecting on the events of his memories. Sartaj, on the other hand, seems to be successful in gaining perspective on the past. It seems to me that his continual review of memories throughout the story, in the form of flashbacks, is a literary representation of his reflection on his memories as it occurs over time. By the end of the story, he seems to have gained enough perspective, through this reflection and a distance in time, to be at peace with a past and a present that are no longer in conflict. He can then truly be at home with himself and in his homeland.

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