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Narration And Perspective In Pramoedya's Inem

1537 words - 6 pages

Narration and Perspective in Pramoedya's Inem

Tradition represents an integral component of one's cultural identity, and this is especially so in this rapidly changing world which we live in, where the boundaries between different cultures are increasingly being blurred and distorted by the process of globalisation. While traditions do define the beliefs, practices and collective experiences of a people, the continued existence of certain socio-cultural institutions in which discriminatory and repressive measures still persist cannot be condoned. It is this very dimension that Pramoedya addresses in his short story, "Inem": The narrator's reminiscences of his childhood perform a serious social commentary and incisive social critique of various repressive traditional institutions in Indonesian society, such as the practice of child-brides (i.e. the forced socialisation of children), as well as the intransigent nature of prevailing patriarchal attitudes towards women and subsequent treatment they receive in the author's socio-cultural milieu. The story achieves, albeit subtly, a powerful condemnation of these facets, which is presented artfully through a duality in the narration - a child's naïve perspective and circumscribed knowledge to describe the course of events as they happened, alongside the mature, retrospective voice, which also provides a highly mimetic depiction of life in this society.

It might be pertinent and helpful here to first discuss the structure of the narrative itself, for there are several elements in the sequencing of the discourse that contribute in no small way to the overall effect of the narration/narrator. The narrative begins in media res (beginning in the midst of the action at a crucial juncture), not long before Inem gets married off as a child-bride; there is a sense of immediacy established by entering the story in this manner. While the comment that "She was polite, unspoiled, deft and hardworking - qualities which quickly spread her fame even into other neighbourhoods as a girl who would make a good daughter-in-law" (Pramoedya 139) in the expository paragraph does not exactly constitute an instance of prolepsis (a glimpse into future developments in the story), it anticipates the inevitable course that the story takes, and establishes where such a society's priorities lie, as well as what the narrator ultimately focuses on - the (unjust) power relationships between men and women/parents and children. In addition, as one negotiates through the narrative, it is difficult not to help experiencing an impending sense of disaster, which accentuates the idea communicated to the reader that something is inherently and fundamentally wrong with practices such as child marriage; for the narrator's memories of Inem do not manifest themselves in a haphazard, discordant fashion, instead, this is effected through the lineal development of the plot that moves inexorably towards the tragic denouement of Inem's story. Of...

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