“Too mouthy, clumsy and scabby to be a real Indian girl, too Indian to be a real Tollington wench”
Meera Syal’s portrayal of Meena in Anita and me is reflective of her own issues on identity and cultural integration. The author’s life is mirrored through Meena throughout the novel in a semi-autobiographical manner. Syal shares similarities with her central character Meena, starting with the migration from India to England as well as coming from an Indian Diaspora. Syal explores issues of culture in the novel as a way to publicise the concept of hybridity and its effect both on the culture Meena inherits and her parent’s heritage.
Cultural integration poses the question of identity and how it arises, how someone perceives themselves as opposed to how someone would perceive them, is two different features, determined by how people react to each facet and the way they perceive identity to be formed. George Herbert Mead claims that identity is formed in a “social context and through the individuals thinking about what links people to the world.” Social structures stop an individual from inheriting certain identities, such as Meena trying to fit in to the culture of Tollington, however the notion of social change opens up ways in which a hybrid identity is formed of two cultures, seen through the character Meena, as she develops her thinking and feelings of embracing a new way of life in England whilst balancing this with her parents Indian culture at home.
Meena ‘s hybrid cultural identity depends on the condition of being somewhat detached from the Indian family culture due to an English education and not being able to take English cultural assumptions for granted.” Her education places her in a position where she is not fully embracing of the Indian culture and her Indian identifying features expose Meena to “psychological perplexities and social confrontations leading to identity crises but inevitably a way of forging a personal identity.” Meena is an embodiment of confusion for the community who looking at her obvious Indian features are confused upon hearing Meena interact due to her equally obvious education and Birmingham accent.
In A Distant Shore, Phillips portrays the two protagonists Solomon and Dorothy as outsiders; the way both are treated by the community as outcasts brings the two protagonists together as they only have the support of one another. They find comfort in each other and create a cohesive commonalty as they are the only comfort they have for one another, creating an artificial cohesiveness. Without the support or company of one another Solomon and Dorothy individually are seen as lonely distant characters, not in line with the rest of the communal who do not accept them into their community.
Phillips highlights the concept of the outsider becoming meaningless when there is no inside, suggesting that without a culture that embraces them as individuals, there is no feeling of belonging and acceptance. Phillips...