(Re)constructing an Imagined Indian Community: Myth, Tradition and Subversions in R. K. Narayan's Short Fiction. A Postcolonial Reading
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AuthorLópez Bonilla, Cruz María
Universidad de Granada
DirectorAguilera Linde, Mauricio D.
DepartamentoUniversidad de Granada. Departamento de Filologías Inglesa y Alemana
CulturaIdentidad colectivaNarayan, R. K., 1906-2001LiteraturaPostcolonialismoIndia
López Bonilla, C.M. (Re)constructing an Imagined Indian Community: Myth, Tradition and Subversions in R. K. Narayan's Short Fiction. A Postcolonial Reading. Granada: Universidad de Granada, 2016. [http://hdl.handle.net/10481/42199]
SponsorshipTesis Univ. Granada. Departamento de Filologías Inglesa y Alemana
Traditional culture and subverted myths are subjects that characterise Narayan’s vast literary production. His subtle humour and a westernised education acquired under British colonial rule pervade Narayan’s literary style, denoting a clearly recognisable Hindu personality. The most outstanding peculiarity of Narayan’s works, however, is the construction of a credible world of his own, Malgudi. This Indian town offers an excellent tool by which we might study his views of the Indian identity and his construction of an imagined community: such studies enable us to apprehend better what Indianness means from a western perspective. This dissertation examines a number of short stories by Narayan, focusing on five ways in which they reflect the creation and development of an ideal Indian nation. The first chapter describes the complex caste situation of a symbolic colonial family that evolves from an ancestral rural community to an urban middle-class postcoloniality. The members of this Indian family try to counterbalance the corrosive effects of modernity with the transmission through storytelling of the family’s memory and its signs of identity. Certainly, the British Empire brought important reforms into a system of education that was based on caste divisions. However, these reforms were also intended to facilitate British control over the Asian subcontinent. Many corrupted structures of feudal origin were therefore left untouched. In time, secularism and secular education were attacked by the most traditional wings of different religious groups, while emergent secularist currents struggled to create a national identity that could blend old traditions and modern traits. The second and third chapters deal with the singularity of an India that has never been free from communal conflicts, conflicts that, from time to time, have led to violent outbursts. Narayan’s artistic impression of the way in which communal violence only impairs conflict resolution explains the focus of my analysis on this subject. Although the occurrence of violence blights urban and rural societies equally, the village communities in Narayan’s short fiction face the additional consequences of industrialisation and agrarian reform. The population exodus from rural communities for economic reasons is one of the themes scrutinised in the fourth chapter, along with mythic and ethnic atavisms that are characteristic of these communities. As this grand flux of people generates frictional movements on the basic structures of society, these structures inevitably modify and social behaviours are seen to change in response. Among these changes, some of the most relevant to this study are the incorporation of the Dalit population and the Indian woman into modern/urban postcolonial society, a shift which challenged the patriarchal dictums of the traditional joint family system. Overall, this study considers Narayan’s use of humour and irony in his short stories, the ends to which these techniques are deployed, and the postcolonial perspective expressed in the stories, when taken together. It also explains how Narayan constructs an imaginary Indian nation-ness, one that is distorted and frayed at the seams as a direct consequence of the author’s evolution towards mature consciousness of the realities of India. In short, this dissertation contests some of the archetypical generalisations about this popular Indian writer while, to my mind, casts a renewing light on his otherwise amusing oeuvre.