Ondaatje’s Treatment of Love in - Running in The Family
In the novel “Running in The Family”, by Michael Ondaatje, he talks about himself going back to his native land Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon) to discover information about his family and his ancestors. While in Ceylon he discovers many stories about his family and the love that they had for each other. He later realizes that love is not a concrete thing and some relationships are very complex. Love is seen throughout the book making it a very important theme. Ondaatje manipulates the theme of love by using stories, motifs, and characters to treat us with his view on love.
Ondaatje uses many stories to show the love that people and his family/ ancestors had but, in some stories, he gives us a very negative view of love, showing us that love does not last forever and that love is an infidelity. For example, “In 1734 she threw herself down a well after being told she could not marry her lover” (Ondaatje, Page 23). This story is about a Dutch governor's daughter who was not able to marry with whom she loved, so she committed suicide. Ondaatje is showing that couples who love each other a lot would basically do anything for each other so that they could be together/ to get married to each other. In the history of Ceylon, parents would arrange marriages for their children with the parent's children, so that the parent's friendship would turn into a relationship. When Ondaatje re-visits Ceylon he re-discovers many changes that he had not seen the last time he was there, many people were doing love marriages instead of traditional arranged marriages. Ondaatje continues with this thought by saying that true love does not last forever and over time love dies down to nothing but affairs by saying “love affairs rainbowed over marriages and lasted forever - so it often seemed that marriage was the greater infidelity” (35). No matter how much a couple love each other, things overtime would always change and couples would start to do affairs over their marriages. Ondaatje uses one of his personal family stories to show an example like that, “Lalla was heartbroken. She went into fits of rage, threw herself on and pounded various beds belonging to her immediate family, and quickly married Willie Gratien” (114). This shows that Ondaatje really disagrees with the fact that love marriages always die down over time and that affairs would always arise whenever there are love marriages.
Numerous motifs are seen throughout the book but, one of the motifs Ondaatje uses to inspect the theme of love is family. Throughout the novel, Ondaatje’s family is always mentioned especially them loving each other. When Aunt Phyllis tells a story about their family/ ancestors Ondaatje says “my Aunt Phyllis trying to trace the maze of relationships in our ancestry” (21). Ondaatje tries showing us that in family relationships, members would always get married to the wrong person, rather than getting married/ falling in love...