Imagined Communities In The God Of Small Things, No Telephone To Heaven, And Burger's Daughter

1162 words - 5 pages

In Imagined Communities, Benedict Anderson sets forth his theory of the nation, that "it is an imagined political community - and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign." The kinds of communities envisioned by the three main novels we have studied thus far are not all that dissimilar. These communities are stifling for the main characters, who all seek some form or another of acceptance: Clare, to feel at home within on culture or another, Rosa to gain the acceptance of herself minus the title of Lionel's daughter, having to live up to the expectations that she'd continue her father's legacy, and Rahel, the love and acceptance of Ammu and the forgiveness of Velutha and Sophie Mol. These communities differ from those that novelists have traditionally portrayed in the past, such as in British or American literature, in that they are all non-Eurocentric, a range of classes is seen in each, and the communities are complex, having "communities nestled within those communities" that the authors are presenting. This essay will examine how the issues of gender, class, race, or nationality complicate the already complex communities portrayed and also how these same issues complicate the tentative imagined community between the novelists and their audience.

The first novel I will look at in regards to the aforementioned issues is Michelle Cliff's No Telephone to Heaven. I feel it is specifically both the issues of race and nationality which prove to further complicate Clare's community. As
previously mentioned in the critical responses, there is an obvious catch-22 for the man of Color, whether he should commit himself to the dominating White culture, only to be seen as a poor imitator by whites, who will at a moments notice, reverse to his `savage' ways, or to be seen as a `sellout' by his fellow black brothers, too uppity, too good for his own culture. The other option is for the man of Color to not comply with the set standards of the dominating culture; if he is a particularly positive, intellectual individual then he is called a `credit to his race', and if however he is in any way a negative individual, not well educated, speaks slang, is unemployed, etc. then the man of Color is inevitably a `nigger'.

Race plays a large part in complicating this issue further. Often the descendants of white and African unions are judged and labeled based on the lightness or darkness of their skin. This intra-racial racism is what separates Clare and her family, the descendants of plantation owners, from the poor `cotton-picking darkies' the people of the Dungle. Because of a lighter skin tone, the members of Clare's family would've been more likely to be called `sellouts'. It's no wonder considering that her father, Boy Savage, decided to pass himself off as a white man, and furthermore rejected all evidence of his Jamaican Creole roots, even discouraging his daughter from providing physical evidence of her Jamaican roots. Nationality too,...

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