Joseph Conrad an immigrant who got citizenship in the UK became a prominent bourgeoisie of European culture, traditions ideas. This essay seeks to construct Post Colonial Narratives about the novel: Heart of Darkness .
I have developed certain diagnostic tools for a post colonial narrative and they are: Philosophical Etymology, Psychological Pharmacology, Existential Ontology and Post modern theology.
The Heart of Darkness is a metaphor for understanding how the colonial mind connotes the unknown as the wild, savage and untamable. The Occident looks down upon the Orient as lacking a befitting civilization and as one of a misanthrope. Cruising down an African river, Conrad depicts the people living there with colossal ignorance. The motto: capture, tame and subdue rings the bells of the day. African culture is viewed as a macabre culture.
Next Conrad uses the term: NIGGER, a term of insult for black culture. We all know how much Black Culture has bequeathed to civilization. Especially reminiscent is Black Culture’s contribution in the field of Jazz, Blues and Gospel. Black culture has also infused the literary world with doyens like Toni Morrison and Chinua Achebe.
Conrad takes the view point that European ideas, customs and traditions have to be indoctrinated and thus there is a need of taming the savage.
Yes, the Heart of Darkness is a narrative wounding the ethos of Black Culture and its ramifications for civilization.
Here I take into account Jacque Lacan’s Gaze. The gaze in Lacan’s conception is a metaphor for libido, for machismo. The gaze has a clinical effect. Let’s analyze how the gaze works in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. The gaze is a clinically colonial one, wanting to pulverize the culture, values and traditions of the colonized. The gaze wants to confiscate, appropriate and tyrannize the colonized. The gaze is an instrument of a colonial Phallus.
Looking at novel from a Freudian point of view, we understand that the phallus creates seeds of anarchy, rebellion in its attempt to infiltrate black culture. The Oedipus complex takes a u turn and the father is valorized over the Mother. Ideas of the European mind are phallic and become that of conquering the fetishes of African culture.
Next we can look at the Novel from a Jungian point of view. The protagonist in the novel bears the archetype of the Devil. The Devil is a European pervert with a corrupt tool. The Devil is only interested in exploiting, dominating and ruining the resources of the Africans.
Existential philosophy with its brother (ontology) or being connotes three states of being: being in itself, being for itself and being for others. Being is a primeval consciousness. Being in itself is the direction of consciousness towards a goal. Being for itself is the gratification of desires. In the colonial World View: being for itself becomes a political philosophy of action. Europe and America have been notorious for slave trafficking. It is pertinent to ask: when was slavery annulled? It is a tide in the history of mankind.
Postmodern theology understands how a binary divide is created. A sign is made up of a signifier (a thing) and the signified (idea). Suppose I say: Dove is peace: Dove is the signifier, the thing and Peace, the signified, the idea. The Binary divide that is created in this work is white versus black, savage versus civilized. The course of the narrative is strewn with spittle of contempt. The Europeans are light flaggers in the dark continent of Africa.
Gustav Flaubert is the master of the Romantic/Realist novel and in his novel Madame Bovary, romanticism reaches a tragic crescendo. His novel is an avant-gardism one of his time. Emma Bovary, the maiden protagonist defies all traditions of Paris especially that of a middle class, petit bourgeoisie family and becomes immortalized into a leitmotif of that of tragic romantic heroine.
Gustav Flaubert’s Novel revolves around its protagonist Emma Bovary and its Antagonist Charles Bovary. The author is very adept in portraying the character of Emma as a die-hard, tragic, romantic and that of Charles as one of sentimental realist. It is poignant to wonder whether the characters Emma and Charles are fictional investments of the authorial self. Let’s look at how Charles and Emma are portrayed.
Charles the Stubborn Realist
Charles’ biography is steeped from early childhood by the training of his mother. It was her ambition that Charles should be a medical practitioner. He failed the examinations the first time and got through the second time. Emma the maiden is a second wife of Charles. Charles is very much rooted in the manner, customs and traditions of French Country Life. We can only guess Charles’ happiness and understand it was one of domination by his mother first and then followed by his wife. Charles’ relationship is of a Freudian Oedipal arrest. His relationship with Emma was mundane and that of routine. All attempts to please and cajole his wife ended in vain. When Emma was gifted with a beautiful child from Charles, her feathers were not shaken. There is an instance where Charles takes her to a soiree and Emma refuses to dance with him. As a family man Charles is kind and loving. But all this does not offer any solace for Emma. The character of Charles is a fetish of middleclass Utopianism. Charles’ character is one of a chaotic emotion which he is not able to control. Charles’ character resembles one of the murky Kafkaesque. Charles is the author’s unrealized self.
Emma the Diehard Romantic
Emma is an archetype of Flaubert’s animus, the woman persona of a man. Emma comes from a family of the upper class and class distinctions and their conflicts between Emma and Charles are so well enunciated. Emma’s childhood is one of rearing up in a good convent where she becomes transmogrified with legend and historical romances. This made her mind a receptive vessel for being a sentimentalist with being inclined to a romantic adventure. Her marriage with Charles is one of Ennui. She is not happy with her married life and lets loose a string of adulterous journeys. The lovers may have been able to satisfy her physically but were sour when it came to emotions. The author further casts her into a financial imbroglio from which she could not escape. In desperation she commits suicide by drinking arsenic. The idea of romanticism is celebrated in the character of Emma. The romantic character is a flawed one just like Romeo and Juliet. Madame Bovary is immortalized in the French Literary Cannon.
Salman Rushdie is known for his books: Midnight’s Children (winner of the Booker prize) and Satanic Verses which is banned in many countries because it blasphemes Islam.
The story begins with India attaining independence on 15th August 1945. Salim Sinai the chief protagonist comes out of his mother’s womb exactly at 12 AM when radios were proclaiming: India has made a tryst with destiny.
The story is written using the technique of Magic realism.
Salim Sinai is a special child gifted with psychic abilities. Apart from him there are various others who have the gift of clairvoyance.
I would like to proceed my analysis using: existential philosophy, psychoanalysis, postmodernism and Marxism.
View Point from Existentialism
Salim Sinai is a fictional self trying to project history and culture from a hyped individualism. The fictional self is glorification of Sartre’s being for itself. The story has abrupt time shifts which don’t connect with each other. The present in the novel is his relationship with Padma his wife. He is fond of belittling his wife by calling her the Goddess of dung. The past is a narrative about Indian attaining independence. Words become cultural monuments for shaping the narrator’s world. Reading the novel—one is forced to experience a blunt romanticism. Born in a rich aristocratic family, life is rather comfortable for Sinai. From an existential point of view it is hard to give poetic license about the narrator’s tryst with extra sensory perception. The self of the writer is skewed with myriad of thoughts.
We find instances in the story where the protagonist suffers from the chronic aliment of the Oedipus complex. Padma his wife becomes a mother figure. History becomes a masculine camera, sporting the nuances of reality within a surreal lens. The character of the narrator is one of self contained narcissism. Does Rushdie want to escape the feeling of an average Joe? Looking at the story from an archetypal point of view we find that the actor of the story is a Scaramouch. Relationships in the novel are marked by tense irony. The motif a clown tries to synchronize history with fable in a witch’s cauldron. Interesting is the portrayal of Adam Aziz, the grandfather of Sinai who is a doctor who has come from Germany and who has roaring practice in Kashmir. He has totally imbibed the culture of the West. His marriage to Salim’s grandmother is so comic. Rushdie is a beast with vitriolic humor. There is a tendency to utter disparaging remarks about various characters. Is clairvoyance a voice of hope or chain of frustration? These are questions that can be gleaned from psychoanalysis.
Looking at the novel from a Marxian perspective: one has to accept that the writing of the novelist is a bourgeoisie stunt, an aristocratic gimmick. The harsh reality of a newly emerged India is rather a crutch which could have deserved more attention. The settings of the novel are aristocratic and there is little mention of the proletariat. There is TAI the boat man. TAI is placed in fiction of the exotic.
The flight of cultural imagery is shrouded in a mismatch of cultural signifiers. Reading the history of independence in the novel, one has to deconstruct the misrepresentation of History. The narrative is shallow and meanders with contrasting meanings. Aristocracy as a bourgeoisie narcissism has to be deconstructed with cultural perspective.
I have developed ideas on interpreting art and they are surface level meanings, aesthetic appreciation and literary, cultural and Philosophical Interpretation.
I take paintings of Belgian Surrealist Paul Delvaux, Picasso and the paintings of Gauguin and Van Gogh.
Paul Delvaux Call of the Night
On the surface level, there is barren land, nude female bodies having hair of vegetation, hills and trees without branches.
To appreciate it from an aesthetic angle as a pure work of art, it is an elegant craft of displaying the contours of the naked feminine. The tone of color used is a rich nuance, producing an aesthetic effect. Everything is serenely placed as rhythm of light and color.
Let’s look at the painting from a literary, cultural and philosophical point of view. The painting depicts dream and reality juxtaposed together. Is barrenness of the terrain showing contrast with the sexual awakenings of the woman (the woman are veiled with hair)? Does the woman covered with veil, initiating others into the realm of sexuality. Is the light held the buxom woman an invitation to do the poetry of the bed?
Gauguin’s Spirit of the Dead Watching
On the surface level, there is a nude young girl and man hooded in black.
An aesthetic appreciation we understand how vividly is the brilliant use of color, the dark and light shades forming an ambient tapestry of a picture of art.
From a cultural point of view, we find Gauguin celebrating the culture of Tahiti. As a philosophical art, Gauguin ponders on the questions of immortality, life after death and the soul. From a psychoanalytic point of view we find that the man is obsessed with a younger woman.
Van Gogh’s Cultivator
On the surface level it is a painting in agrarian settings were a farmer is sowing the field.
As an aesthetic appreciation we understand the brilliant exposition of color, light and shade forming metaphors of a painting of art.
From a cultural point of view we can understand that Van Gogh was influenced by the Parable of the Seed in the Bible. Philosophically speaking there’s harmony of man with nature both being metaphoric as friends.
From a surface level of meaning we can see a distortion of animal and human figures embedded in the canvas.
As aesthetic appreciation, we can follow the ingenuity of Picasso to create a new school of painting called Cubism. Art is shown to create an aversion in the mind. Looking at it we are overcome with a feeling of catharsis.
From a Cultural Point of View we can understand Guernica to show the bombing of a town called Basque and the horrors.
Kierkegaard asks the foremost question: is believing in love possible? Is it physically tangible? Is it an emotional product of the mind?
Kierkegaard talks of two forms, one being spiritual and eternal and the other being spatial and temporal. Divine affection of God is spiritual and erotic passion is earthly, historical and temporal.
Affection of Christianity is non temporal and non-historical. He is using Plato’s concept of forms. Divine affection is an ideal kind of love. I would love to merge Platonism with the thoughts Kierkegaard. Divine passion resides in the Father and the Holy Spirit and can be seen, heard, loved and felt with Jesus the son.
Again Kierkegaard goes on to expostulate that human affection is embraced by the divinity of Christ. He uses a metaphor to illustrate the point: ‘the quiet lake is deep down fed by hidden springs’.
It is a divine emotion that can be seen, felt, touched and heard by the heart. Love is based on the maxim of experiential sharing.
When we try to experience God’s feeling for us we must be in a state of fear and trembling, in other words, being overwhelmed.
Kierkegaard makes a bifurcation of love. There are three forms: and they being: erotic, that of camaraderie and biblical that being love they neighbor. Christ has also said to care for our neighbor.
Neighbor exhorted in the Bible refers to the other. The other is historical entity. Loving the other as a divine injunction is not an easy task. Kierkegaard illustrates the parable of the Good Samaritan.
In his treatise: Works of Love, Kierkegaard exhorts us to love God and love our neighbor. Loving God is the highest form of love.
The author exhorts the poet to glorify God and also pay compliments of celebration friendship and Eros. We can show our love to God by glorifying, adoring and praising him.
Kierkegaard also talks from the Gospel of Luke: When you are calling for guests for a wedding banquet, call not the rich and the noble, but call the poor, the blind, the maimed and the lame. In doing so we are doing God’s Will in Heaven.
Again he goes on to say: ‘Love is the fulfillment of law’. The law here refers to the 10 commandments. With Christ, even if we sin, we have the option to repent and get forgiveness from God.
The Love shown by Christ, by dying on the cross to save us from our Sins—becomes a Binary Fusion of glorifying both the marginalized and the privileged, whereby all are called as invitees to enter the heavenly realm and live eternally with Christ.
In another context, the apostle Paul says: ‘love is the sum of all commandments’. We adhering to love have to obey God’s commandments. We have the option of our sins being forgiven by praying to God in true repentance.
Kierkegaard in his narrative expostulates: love is a matter of conscience. What is conscience? It is the hidden throne of God dwelling in the mind of man. It is be conscience that we obey God and we honor our neighbors. We have to love God with a pure heart.
Love exhorts us to shed of our envy, doubt and deception. Love hopes all things, by love we conquer our sins. By loving God and making a prayer of repentance we can develop a harmonious relationship with God
Foucault is the most widely read Philosopher belonging to the school of post structuralism. Notorious is his path breaking views known for his inter-disciplinary approach. Sad to say fate got hold of him lock stock and barrel and he became an innocent victim of the dreaded aids.
Here I would like to analyze the thoughts of Foucault from an apologetic point of view.
Foucault makes the assertion that the study of truth is inseparable from History. Let’s look at the statement from a Christian ontological point of view. Jesus is the most famous historical personality known in civilization for his ideologies of love, peace, tolerance and compassion. Jesus as a historical personality forms a realist paradigm of being a referential historical model. His ideology has been abundantly revealed in the gospels. However Christianity goes afar from Historical validation when we come across the divine nature of Christ. The divine nature of Christ is an inseparable mystery. The Philosophy of Christ is enmeshed in CHRISTABILIZATION, a new way of looking at Globalization. So far Globalization has a historicity of being that of economy driven countries. Globalization viewed as CHRISTABILIZATION (Christ and Able) is compassionate theology. There is a dialogic and creative intercourse between nations, a better love of the neighbor, a Greenomics (Green and Economics) for a compassionate and caring environment. The humanity of Christ merges with the divinity and that makes poignant part of History.
The next Foucault perspective calls into an issue the binary divide of madness and sanity. Foucault described madness as alienation produced by the capitalist society. Sanity (reason) is privileged over madness (unreason). Let’s view the life of Christ and his way of looking at madness. Christian approach to madness was one of compassion. It is borne out of the theology of love. When the madman at Gadarene encountered Christ: the legion in him cried out: Son of God why have you come before the appointed time? Jesus admonished the demons and they entered a herd of swine which rushed headlong and plunged into the sea. I would like to ask Foucault whether Madness is a psychiatric symptom. A Christian view holds that madness is cause by malignant demons. A medicinal cure is only partial. A cure of madness made through Christian prayer can be total in healing madness. Asylums now like regimented Prisons should become reservoirs of love and compassion.
Foucault again expounds a compassionate theology in Discipline and Punish wanting prisons to change to institutions of love and tolerance. Foucault criticizes Prisons which renege prisoners into recidivism. Prisoners can be made to do Socially Productive Work and also get their jail spans reduced.
Foucault makes a discourse on knowledge and power. In a postmodern society knowledge is the key to power. Power is both an institution and a concept. As an institution it lies with the government, the police and the big Moguls of industry. As a concept it lies with thinkers and scientists. Power has to become an organism for benefiting all citizens. With increasing surveillance made by the employers on the employees we find a democracy being infiltrated with the pandemic of suspicion.
Foucault’s view on Sexuality is rather idiosyncratic. Foucault claims that we are sexually repressed. This can be called the Foucault complex. Sex is a natural instinct of the body hence it is a valuable artifact. Sex lies beyond the oedipal complex. All come to a knowing of sexuality at puberty. I think that Foucault was confused about his own homosexuality. What does the Bible say about it? ‘They gave over to their lusts: men lying with men and women with women: God gave them over to their reprobate ways.’ Biblically speaking homosexuality is a sin. But again God is compassionate and he is there to forgive and all we need to do is to repent.
Foucault deals with the epistemic rupture that occurred in the 20th century. The major shifts in epistemology were the Darwinian Evolution, the mechanization of medicine, the Big Bang and changes in the structure of language. Does the development of knowledge change our worldviews on Christ? No, not at all! The historicity of Christ is epistemology and the divinity of Christ is biblical.
Foucault in dealing with language develops a fourfold explication of a statement. The statement is Philosophical (Socrates said Know thy self), cultural (Palestine is a hot volcano), and linguistic (all language is made up of signs).
Gunter Grass is the famous German Nobel Laureate and he is reputed for publishing is award winning Novel: The Tin Drum.
The story begins with the protagonist Oscar being confined to an asylum. Then story goes to a previous narrative and describes a woman tending a field. There are anecdotal remarks about Oscar’s grandmother.
The Tin Drum has a special allegorical symbolism. Does it describe a valiant protest by a dwarf against a Nazi rule?
In the Novel Tin Drum, Grass portrays a water front loaded with Quixotic Characters. A wood is seen floating through the canal.
He talks of a War time situation and his mother getting betrothed to German of Blue Blood.
The author talks of Oscar’s birth being an easy one.
Again the symbolism of the Drum emerges. Oscar’s parents said that when he is three, they will present him a tin drum.
There’s a narrative about Photography being placed in the house. Photography for Roland Barthes has two connotations: studium (image) and punctum (the interpretation). It is interesting to note how brilliantly Grass puts the pen, writing the narrative of photography.
Grass uses magic realism when he says the dwarf Oscar’s voice will shatter glass. Is this a reminder of the shocking tyranny and despotism of the Nazi rule?
Grass launches a narrative where Nazi humiliates a non-Nazi and punching him, he lowers his self esteem by calling him a Pollack.
When Oscar was small, he was invited by the Nazis to their meetings and there he was pampered.
Grass’s narrative about Christianity is rather befuddled. He wanted the idol of Jesus to play on his drum. But ironically nothing of that sort happened.
The symbolism of the drum is contradictory. Is it symbolic, of an ordinary being trapped in the dungeons of Nazi Rule? Does Gunter Grass want to escape Nazi rule through symbolism? Is he showing an iota of compassion for the beleaguered Jews.