The Defeat of Many by One
In The Moor’s Last Sigh, Salman Rushdie uses the complex and changing character of the Moor to represent a complex and changing image of India. By making the eclectic family history of the Da-Gama Zogoiby family the central theme in the first two parts of the novel, Rushdie portrays India as a culturally and religiously pluralistic society. This pluralistic society is layered by violence caused by the corruption of multiplicity by various characters and the threat of Hindu fundamentalism. As pluralism is defeated by fascism in Part Three of the novel, the nature of the violence changes drastically and is symbolized by the Moor’s significant character change: “The Moor whose tragedy-the tragedy of multiplicity destroyed by singularity, the defeat of Many by One-had been the sequences united principle” (Rushdie 408). The defeat of pluralism is not only the uniting principle in Aurora’s sequence of paintings, but also in Rushdie’s The Moor’s Last Sigh. Rushdie’s vision of India is essentially the battle between multiplicity and singularity and the consequential violence that has plagued India’s history.
In the first two parts of the novel, Rushdie portrays the positive aspects of pluralism through the story of the Da-Gama Zogoiby family. The Moor’s grandfather, Camoens describes an ideal pluralistic world:
A free country Belle, above religion because secular, above
class because socialist, above caste because enlightened, above
hatred because loving, above vengeance because forgiving, above
tribe because unifying, above language because many tongued,
above colour because multi-coloured, above poverty because
victorious over it, above ignorance because literate, above
stupidity because brilliant” (Rushdie 51).
The Zogoiby’s diverse history entails attempts to embrace many of these ideals. The eclectic cultural backgrounds of the Zogoiby family are representative of pluralism in India. The Da-Gamas are Portuguese Catholics while the Zogoibys are Moorish Jews. All of the Moor’s ancestors blatantly reject religion and embrace secularism: an arguably important component of pluralism. When Camoens went to see Gandhi speak, he told his wife Belle, “I hear nothing. I had seen India’s beauty in that crowd with its soda-water and cucumber but with that God stuff I got scared” (Rushdie 55). Another example of pluralism within the Zogoiby family is Aurora’s artwork, especially her childhood paintings in which she strives to represent the variety and multiplicity in the vision of the world and the vision of India. As Aurora ages, however, her childhood visions of pluralism are significantly changed.
Although Aurora’s later paintings also embrace pluralism, they reveal possible catastrophe:
A place where worlds collide, flow in and out of one another,
and washofy away. Place where an...