Marginalization: Heart of Darkness and God of Small Things Essay

“No idea remains stagnant. If it is relevant, it lives, it breathes, it changes. ” How have notions of story telling or marginalization informed and challenged audiences? In your answer, you must refer to at least TWO set texts, at least ONE of which has been studied since the half yearly. Issues of racism, women discrimination and the corruption of power used to be subtly touched upon or ignored. However they were also viewed differently depending on the era it was brought up in.

Yet as time passed by, it seems these issues have become common discussion. This change of significance in how the audience responds and view texts that carry the notions of marginalization can be seen by Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ and Arundhati Roy’s ‘God of Small Things’. The two texts which come from completely two different time periods is evident to the way a message is carried on through many decades though having transformed and changed during times of social change.

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Through character development and cleverly executed literary techniques, Arundhati Roy and Joseph Conrad confront and educate the audience with ideas of marginalization of race, women and caste. When Conrad’s novel was first published, it had was read as an adventure novel. But the audience of the present day no longer views what is seen within ‘Heart of Darkness’ as a simple adventure, but as a description of an act of marginalization.

Conrad’s character Marlow acts as an outsider, an observer inviting us as the readers to follow his journey. In his first encounter with the natives, Marlow likens them to wild animals, their ‘… breasts panted…’ and with ‘…violently dilated nostrils…creatures rose…and went of on all-fours…’ Conrad’s original audience may not have recognized any significance however a modern culture will be confronted with the raw animalistic characteristics that are associated with the natives.

Perhaps what is more challenging to the audience of today is the truth revealed behind the actions of colonization. Marlow seems to passionately condemn the shameful exploitation of the natives, exposing the true purpose of the European colonizers, ‘…to tear treasure out of the…land was their desire with no…moral purpose…’ Conrad casts an emphasis on the greed of the colonizers who use the natives for their own purpose drawing attention to the almost barbaric behaviour of the Europeans towards the supposed savages.

Similarly India’s caste system is addressed by Arundhati Roy. She depicts the limiting of Untouchables, another kind of black people within her post-colonial text ‘God of Small Things’. Roy deliberately exposes India’s cultural system as debilitating and restrictive of a human being’s rights.

The horrific marginalization of people within India’s culture is publicized as Roy speaks from deep within the Indian social system and highlights the traditions an ‘Untouchable’ was to follow such that ‘…they were not allowed to touch anything that Touchables touched…expected to crawl backwards with a broom, sweeping away their footprints…’ In this way, the audience is given an insight into the protocol of Untouchables and by ‘sweeping away their footprints’ Roy alludes to the invisible nature of the lowest caste, and how they are essentially considered as nothing.

Through Velutha’s attempt at transgression, Roy seems to express the hopelessness of breaking out against the Indian conventions which are represented in the ‘…Love Laws…the laws that lay down who should be loved, and how. ’ A symbol of India’s caste system and strict traditional rules, Velutha crosses the boundaries and fails. Instead, the constricting social system is further enforced, and Velutha as typical of his caste, returns to being invisible leaving ‘…no footprints…no ripples…no image…’ Roy’s repetition of ‘no’ brings emphasis on the lack of identity Untouchables hold and the audience’s sympathies are directed towards Velutha.

It is with this that Roy speaks to the audience of India’s unjust and hypocritical caste system that have caused controversy within her Indian audience, but has also proved to raise significant attention outside of India. Another issue that has been raised continuously throughout time has been how women are depicted in novels. Conrad in particular, reflects his original context by objectifying the women he creates in his novel ‘Heart of Darkness’.

The roles of women here are hardly acknowledged and are portrayed as naive; senseless beings having to be protected, Marlow commenting that in essence, men ‘…must help them…stay in that beautiful world of their own…’ This is characterized in Kurtz’ Intended who is pictured as an ideal woman, ‘…smooth and white…illumined by the…light of belief and love…’ The soft gentle imagery, in particular the use of ‘white’ shapes this woman as pure, submissive and weak, but also isolated in her naivety of the real world. If not white, then the other kind of woman Conrad gives a role to is the savage African mistress. …Savage and superb, wild-eyed and magnificent…ominous and stately…’ With such large and grand descriptions, Conrad portrays the native woman as defiantly capable however fearful. ‘Wild-eyed…ominous and stately…’ illustrate Conrad’s view that the black woman is untamed and uncivilized, akin to an animal and therefore not considered as graceful or a desired woman. These opposing ideas of woman in Conrad’s text inform the audience of today, the strict and patriarchal ideals of Conrad’s context that were imposed on women.

Roy unlike Conrad clearly criticizes the heavily patriarchal society forced on women in India that prevails even now. Roy intentionally points out the mistreated women of India in her text. Powerfully conveying her message, she attacks the audience with the constraining of women, domestic violence and the segregation of divorcees. Roy deals bluntly with the marginalization of women, as she tracks Ammu’s life from childhood to adulthood. The idea in which ‘…there was very little for a young girl to do…other than to wait for marriage…’ conveys simply to the audience the only expected role of an Indian female.

Roy continues to underline the little worth women hold in India, dominated by a male control as Ammu’s father exerts his male ego by tyrannizing his wife, ‘Every night he beat her…’ The power imbalance between man and woman is further emphasized by Roy’s contrast of Chacko and Ammu. Chacko readily demonstrates his male power telling his sister Ammu, ‘…what’s yours is mine, and what’s mine is also mine…’ the repetition of ‘mine’ connotes the way in which Chacko is the owner, and Ammu is the possessed.

Similarly, Chacko who is male is easily forgiven if he indulges in immoral sexual activity dismissed on the grounds of a “…Man’s Needs. ” The capitalizing of these letters only succeeds in highlighting the irony as when Ammu commits the same deed, she is punished severely. This constant reminder of an intense patriarchal culture confronts her audience with the cruel maltreating of women that is taken as normal. Joseph Conrad and Arundhati Roy both express the concepts of marginalization in their respective texts ‘Heart of Darkness’ and ‘God of Small Things’.

Conrad and Roy express the voices of the silenced through their novels either intentionally or unintentionally. Through Conrad we are educated as the audience in the views of the composer’s culture but also more aware of the darker nature of humanity that is now explicit in his novel. Roy however has consciously placed awareness on those that are usually forgotten or unknown in India’s highly caste-ist society. In both texts, the composers have aimed to challenge their audiences, positioning them in a way to question and contemplate what they have written.

Whether the text has come from a previous culture or whether it is relevant now, ‘Heart of Darkness’ and ‘God of Small Things’ prove the movement and relevance of ideas that shift and change as they portray the marginalization of race, caste and women. that audiences can interpret the deeper meanings behind the text as Conrad “No idea remains stagnant. If it is relevant, it lives, it breathes, it changes. ” How have notions of story telling or marginalization informed and challenged audiences?

In your answer, you must refer to at least TWO set texts, at least ONE of which has been studied since the half yearly. It is interesting to note, that in her original culture, ‘God of Small Things’ gave great rise to controversy due to its r ‘…what’s yours is mine, and what’s mine is also mine…’ ‘Ammu as a daughter had no claim…she had ‘no locusts stand I’’ ‘Man’s Needs’ p. 168 ‘…further corroding Ayemenem’s view of working wives…’ p48 HOD, as confronting people with the darker side of humanity. (This idea of the darker capabilities of humanity forces audiences to question their souls….? ) Reference to Wife?


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