Connection to one’s intended audience is central to the conveying of one’s message. It is only in this relationship that a writer or artist has with their audience that space for their literature or art is created. The authors of the literature I read this summer are presented with a sizable problem for these women are faced with the hardship of connecting with an audience that cannot in any normal circumstance understand or appreciate their writings due to the barriers presented by race, gender and language.
These roadblocks came into existence during a time period known as the Enlightenment, an intellectual revolution in which the definition of self became determined through the comparison of one self with others and the world in which we live (Gay 59). During this movement the mental space in which all things not of oneself exist was created, this being “the other. ” The persistence of this ideology results in the limitations of thought on the behalf of western cultures in that all things foreign find themselves categorized and discarded.
I was interested in investigating how the literary tools of imagery and syntax aid sub-continental female authors to overcome the label of being ‘the other’ in order to establish a necessary connection with their reader because while I am not of Eastern heritage, I do find myself thrust into the throes of the western categorization ‘the other’ due to the blur of culture present in my heritage.
The challenge of overcoming the lab this label of otherness finds itself at the focal of the literature created by the authors Meena Alexander (Fault Lines), Sara Suleri (Meatless Days), Anita Desai (Fasting, Feasting), and Arundhati Roy (God of Small Things). In their differing mediums of fiction and non-fiction, these female sub-continental authors utilize the literary tools of imagery and syntax in efforts to overcome the social blockade of being classified and disregarded as ‘the other’.
Space, in terms of mental guidelines, finds itself existing as the windows through which an individual defines, perceives, and understands the world around them. This plays a vital role in the life of any individual, yet takes on a predominant focus when one discuses the lives and existence of a minority or any cultural exile. This defines any person or persons living in a culture and/or society bearing any form of self-definition not matching that of the individual.
When this phenomenon occurs a state of double consciousness emerges – a dual existence in which an individual must integrate the values of their own cultural perception along with those of the host society in which they find themselves (Kosslyn 453). This occurs in the fictional works of Anita Desai and Arundhati Roy, yet gains a meaning all its own in the memoirs of Sara Suleri and Meena Alexandar. In these works the authors attempt to convey a part of themselves and their own lives to an audience which does not share their mental space.
These writers must overcome this division in order for their own experiences to ring true in the minds of their differing readers. Their words and lifetimes must, to even find minimal meaning or importance, overcome this cultural division which can be overcome more easily in works of fiction due solely to the artistic freedom provided by such a medium (Finke 157). The ability to utilize symbolic imagery in fiction allows for easier mental connection to the author’s audience, while the implementation of symbolism within non-fiction presents itself as burdensome due to the lack of symbolic occurrences within a normal life.
Irrelevant to this fact stands the implementation of descriptive imagery and its ability to convey feelings and states of emotion, resulting in a better understanding on the part of the reader. For this reason, both camps of authors utilize symbolism although its depth and ability to allow the reader connection to the literature varies extensively. Additionally, common to both groups of writers is their complete control and mastery of the instrument through which they opt to convey their intentions and messages – that of the English language.
Employing differing degrees of syntax control and verbal manipulation allows the authors to succeed in a conscious rebellion against the genderized and racialized language (English) through which they are forced to transcend the bounds of labeling, and, in a very post-modern way, dodge the categorization of their writing to connect with their primarily white audience. During the period of history known as the Enlightenment, the idea of bipolar opposition emerged and through this school of thought, an individual seeks to define him or herself by first defining that which he or she is not; this then becomes “the other.
” As an individual, whether due to ego or pride, one attempts to see what one is as correct or good, yet, because of this, the “other” is viewed, both consciously and subconsciously, as bad simply due to the fact that it is different from ourselves (Dunn 97). This mental roadblock faced by non-White, non-male writers must be overcome in order for any value to be given to their writings. A space must be verbally cleared so that the ideas, which these authors wish to impart, can exist in a form that retains value and is not merely labeled and pushed aside.
The rejection and labeling from within the American culture that these female authors live in creates within them, as within all minorities, a state double consciousness due to the fact that while they certainly do exist within the physical space of American communities; these minority writers can never fully exist, nor understand the mental space of those communities from which they are excluded.
The concept of double consciousness is defined by Paul Gilroy in his work, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness as, “the special difficulties arising from [the] internalization of a [white] identity,” and he follows this statement with an excerpt from W. E. B. Du Bois’s The Soul of Black Folk, stating that the Negro, “ever feels his twoness; an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder (Gilroy 126).
” This internal struggle between the urges to adapt, achieve success, or at the very least survive, within a white controlled society, amplifies the need to remain an unassimilated individual, plays an enormous role within the everyday mental landscape of black individuals and any other minority living within the confines of a suppressive and radicalized western society. The initial importance of this mental conflict comes to play in the self-perception of minorities.
“It is a peculiar sensation, this double consciousness,” states Du Bois, “this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity (Gilroy 134). ” The challenge to eastern women living in the first world remains the struggle to keep their own space of womanhood alive while living in a western society which seeks to assimilate them and thereby imprint upon them its own set beliefs.