Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Home: "the blessed word"

Rushdie’s “At the Auction of the Ruby Slippers,” as is probably indicated by the title, contains multiple references to The Wizard of Oz as well as to the “blessed word” of home in general. In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy ventures outside of her homeland just to realize that all she actually wants to do is return to that home. And who can blame her, really? I mean, in the film, she’s suddenly blinded by a rainbow of new colors, talks to a lot of creatures that shouldn’t normally even be able to talk, and has to fight a witch and her army of flying monkeys (this last being especially terrifying to me since, as all my friends and family know, I am generally pretty repulsed by and scared of monkeys, even the regular non-flying ones). In all seriousness, though, Dorothy is not really the only one seeking “home” in the film. I think that the film speaks much more about the importance of dreams and having your needs fulfilled, which is what home is truly about. Maybe Dorothy needed to dream and venture outside of her home, even if it was all within a dream in the end, in order to realize that her needs were already being met by the love of those around her at home. The lion, the tin man, and the scarecrow had to realize their dreams in order to feel contentment and love: in other words, to feel at home. And maybe the witch was just angry that her home had been altered forever through the death of her sister by an invading force that may appear to her much like hostile colonizing forces have appeared to many indigenous people. And certainly, what could seem like more of a sign of permanent and hostile colonization than seeing the invaders crush your own sister with a house?

I think that without a sense of contentment and feeling that your desires and dreams are fulfilled, you cannot feel at home. If your dream lies elsewhere, then maybe that is where your true home is. I feel lucky in that I do usually feel content in my current situation, or home, and that my dreams and desires are within my reach already. I love spending time with my friends, family, and boyfriend, and I really love Annapolis and Baltimore. I think that I have a lot of different desires and dreams for my life, but I especially would like to teach and to keep writing in a variety of ways. I also definitely want a family. I think that I feel at home because I am on the way to fulfilling many of these dreams already and don’t feel that my current situation is keeping me from these things. As my hopes and desires shift or are fulfilled, my home will shift. And even if they aren’t all fulfilled, if I feel that my home gave me the adequate space and ability to attempt to reach my goals, than I will feel content and truly at home. I think that home requires the freedom to go after what you truly want. Home is no longer home to you if it constricts you and leaves you feeling unfulfilled.

In Rushdie’s stories, home and dreams are common elements. In “At the Auction of the Ruby Slippers,” the slippers are valued because people believe that they will fulfill one’s desires or dreams, and, in doing so, transport one home. Much of the story, early on, is a catalogue of the various groups of people who desire the slippers because of the unfulfilled dreams that leave them lacking a sense of home. Tramps, refugees, those who seek protection from witches, and orphans who miss their parents are among the groups longing for home. The narrator longs to be with his love once again. Each of these groups of people may be in the place or location that is technically home to them; unlike Dorothy, they have not landed in a strange world. Yet each feels that they are not at home because each has a sense of an unfulfilled dream, and that unfulfillment leads each to feel trapped in his current situation instead of free and at home.

The narrator in “At the Auction of the Ruby Slippers” interestingly calls home the “blessed word” (93) as if to remind the reader that a home is not simply the place from which you come. Home is not as simple as that. A true home is a blessing, for it is where one feels content, free, and fulfilled. Perhaps Rushdie is deliberately playing with this idea of home as the “blessed word” in his earlier story, “The Prophet’s Hair,” in which what is considered blessed essentially destroys the blessedness of a peaceful home. The relic, which would be traditionally considered blessed, ends up being the opposite of blessed for the family whose home it enters, since it tears the family apart. And what is truly blessed, the peace and contentment of home, is destroyed.

Home is present thoughout many, if not all, of Rushdie’s stories. In “The Free Radio,” Ramani dreams and believes that his dream of receiving a free radio from the government will come true. It is when he discovers that his dream will not be fulfilled that he seems to feel discontent with his current home and physically changes locations in order to be able to pursue another dream of becoming an actor. Although the narrator doubts that he will achieve this goal, Ramani still seems to be more content in the end because his situation is not stopping him from attempting to reach his goal, and is therefore a true home to him. In another story, “Good Advice is Rarer Than Rubies,” Rushdie reminds us that we should not assume what others’ dreams are or where they feel they are truly at home. Since Miss Rehana already feels content, fulfilled, and at home with her situation in “a great house, as ayah to three good boys” (15), she has no desire to shift her home to England. Her dreams are not in England or tied to Mustafa Dar, and, thus, her home is not there either.

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