Adult Boundaries in ‘the Passion’ and ‘the God of Small Things’.

Winterson and Roy refuse to ‘accept what we think of as adult boundaries’. How is this reflected in ‘The Passion’ and ‘The God of Small Things’? In every civilisation, there are boundaries which are set by the adults to run our lives. They are the unspoken laws which were created by higher authorities and not supposed to be questioned. Adult boundaries present the strength of the society. Yet those boundaries suppress the individuals’ freedom. Most importantly it deters the lives of the weakest people in the society.
Both Jeanette Winterson and Arundhati Roy have strong opinions on these adult boundaries. Arundhati Roy was born in 1961 in the North-eastern Indian region of Bengal, to a Christian mother and Hindu father in India’s caste system. She spent her childhood in Ayemenem in Kerala. Roy is widely known for political activism. Winterson was born in Manchester. She was adopted and raised in Elim Pentecostal Church. Her parents wanted her to be missionary. Winterson identified herself as a lesbian and left home at 16 as her parents would not accept her as a lesbian.
Brought up as a Pentecostal Christian, “Jeanette never truly abandons her faith; her faith abandons her because of clear disagreements over her sexual identity”( Michael Dick on ‘Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit’). Here, Winterson’s faith could be her parents. Perhaps she had faith in them that they would accept her. Therefore she doesn’t abandon them but they abandon her. One might suggest that this is a false statement because Winterson’s rebellious personality may have pushed her to abandon her faith.
Although both writers are attacking the adult boundaries to break them down, they know this would usually end in tragedy as adult boundaries restore orders. Both writers use their characters to define and then challenge the society’s rules. The formation of and belonging to categories are adult boundaries. For example Estha and Rahel were not aware that they belonged to a categorised system as they ran off to Velutha to freely play with him therefore meaning that categories form as you grow into it. The characters are faced with loss of freedom as they have no choice as to “who should be loved.
And how. And how much”. Estha and Rahel are limited in showing their love towards Velutha and Ammu breaks the boundaries by loving an Untouchable. Velutha. Similarly, Villanelle differentiates between genders which are two completely different categories. She dresses as a male by wearing a ‘codpiece’ and covering her face with ‘white powder’. Every layer of powder blurs the ability to differentiate her between genders. Winterson says, “heterosexuality and homosexuality are a kind of psychosis, and the truth is somewhere in the middle”( http://www. brainyquote. om/quotes/keywords/homosexuality. html). However, this is biased as Winterson is someone who challenges the barriers set for her. The idea of sexuality categories is bound to cultural and historical factors. For some, The word ‘heterosexuality’ is redundant because male and female genders naturally complete each other. Winterson does not want there to be specific categories separating sexual preferences which she has to belong to. Therefore, as she fearlessly breaks between boundaries they become blurred as the readers cannot decide where she belongs.
Henri is also present in a so-called them and us category as he justifies the killing of British soldiers by calling them, ‘the enemy’ rather than recognising their humanity and the responsibility associated with taking human life. Under Napoleon’s personal governance, Henri insidiously expresses his feminine side. He feels sympathetic to the abused prostitutes and feels fear by the inhumanness of the war. Henri is actually a weak, even feminine soldier, who has a passion for Napoleon which implies that he is also sexually attracted to him.
After losing an eye at Austerlitz, Henri questions himself if he should run away from the war. Henri then says, “to survive the zero winter(… ) we made a pyre of our hearts and put them aside for ever. There’s no pawnshop for the heart”. His decision to abandon is certain. Henri starts to hate napoleon and himself for loving him. Henri is tackling boundaries as he isn’t conforming to orders and love laws. Napoleon lacks the passion Henri is in search of. The words ‘Untouchable’ and ‘Touchable’ are a formation of adult boundaries as it assesses who is allowed to interact with whom.
Ammu imagines touching Velutha’s muscular body which she is not allowed; this shows that passion can take over the boundaries. Villanelle admits that “Somewhere between fear and sex passion is”. This is true because your passion can lead you into dangers which you would usually fear yet it satisfies you at the same time. For instance, France’s unjustified love for Bonaparte, who has exploited them, sent their sons to death and ‘bled them dry’. ‘Love Laws’, the boundaries imposed by traditional caste societies, are torn down in both novels as Winterson and Roy refuse to accept the classic ‘fairy-tale’ model of love.
As the audience found Estha’s joyful singing irritating, they sent him out where he lost his voice forever. Estha losing his voice was like losing his virginity. His innocence is stolen by this man. While Rahel senses that this man cannot be trusted, she tells Ammu, “So why don’t you marry him then? ” only to be told that now Ammu loves her a little less. Consequently Rahel is inconsolable and unable to forget Ammu’s words. This is certainly contravening because while Estha is more loved Rahel is being less loved. Roy may be doing this to show that Love laws can sometimes be unfair and that no one has control.
More importantly, the peculiar sexual intimacy between Estha and Rahel completely destroys boundaries. Loredo believes the cause for incest is “the desire for affiliation and affection; a combating of loneliness, depression, and a sense of isolation; and a discharging of anxiety and tension due to stress”( www. pamramsey. com/incest. htm). Although the twins having a high intimacy, Roy most probably wanted to show innocence as they had known each other before life began, – two separate individuals who share a single womb for nine months.
Estha saw his mum in Rahel and it was as if Estha had returned to her after he was sent away. I do not believe “the taboo breaking coupling of the twins”( Aijaz Ahmad reading Arundhati Roy politically) should be seen acceptable as this will scar them forever when they realise their guilt. Similarly, in ‘The Passion’ the so called holy priest “had been forced out of the church for squinting at young girls from the bell tower”. A priest is supposed to be a person who gives direction and sin-free. However the priest is not innocent anymore.
Both authors refuse adult boundaries in order for everyone to be equal and free. However if there were no rules and orders the joy and satisfaction of breaking them would not exist. Ammu wouldn’t feel the pleasure where she secretly seeks for Velutha. Estha and Rahel wouldn’t be able to enjoy running off to Velutha. Villanelle wouldn’t feel pleasure of confusing men with her codpiece and powdered face. At the end of the day, “The one who breaks the silence is never forgiven. ”( Jeanette Winterson- ‘Why Be Happy When You could Be Normal’)
Control encourages adult boundaries to form. In ‘The God of Small Things’, the history house seems to be very powerful. “To understand history,” Chacko says, “we have to go inside and listen to what they’re saying. ” The twins acknowledge that the river acts as a barrier to them, preventing them from getting the cruel truths, putting the pieces of the puzzle together. Chacko also told them that “the whole contemporary history, (…)- was no more than a blink of the Earth Woman’s eye”, compared to whom they were inconsequential.
This story is actually really important in shaping the twins’ later life. They openly are being told that they’re insignificant. They are just a small part of a great picture that will have little lasting effect. Correspondingly, as Anne Clarke mentions, “Chacko, (…) explains to Rahel and Estha that they are a family of anglophiles(…). From Chacko’s disillusioned perspective, cultural hybridity is seen as emphatically negative as it alienates the subject from both cultures”: “we belong nowhere. We sail unanchored on troubled seas.
We may never be allowed ashore”. ( Anna Clarke, ‘language, hybridity and dialogism in ‘The God of Small Thing’) This will instantly create boundaries for them as they will know they have no freedom and are controlled by larger external powers. Both authors dislike the human enthusiasm with wealth but they do not reject adult boundaries, they debate adult passion to treat rich with great regard. Roy tells her reader that wealth alone does not determine the moral integrity of a person, as Pappachi’s treatment of his wife and his children demonstrates this. They were beaten, humiliated and then made to suffer (…) for having such a wonderful husband and father. ” It is visible that she is being controlled because Chacko starts to take control of the pickle factory just as it was doing well. Pappachi beats Mammachi because he feels that women should not have so much control, – he is afraid that it’s shaming his manhood. Concurrently, Villanelle is living a life Winterson wanted to live herself; – she allows her character to live freely. In reality women in the 17th and 18th century would not be as free as Villanelle.
For instance “Women who spoke out against the patriarchal system of gender roles, or any injustice, ran the risk of being exiled from their communities. ”( http://www. enotes. com/feminism-criticism/women-16th-17th-18th-centuries) Georgette is another example of the women at the time although she was not “tried for heresy in 1545 and eventually burned at a stake”( http://www. enotes. com/feminism-criticism/women-16th-17th-18th-centuries) like Anne Askew, an outspoken English protestant. “Georgette actively opposed to the established system of patriarchy”. ( http://www. enotes. om/feminism-criticism/women-16th-17th-18th-centuries) One might suggest that Georgette is a ‘positive heroine’. Unlike a fairy-tale character, she does not deny her father’s authority but rejects being manipulated as a product. Winterson is blatantly frustrated as she questions, “Why should a woman be limited by anything or anybody? Why should a women not be ambitious for literature? Ambitious for herself? ”. ( Jeanette Winterson- ‘Why Be Happy When You could Be Normal’) However, this is easy to say for Winterson because the consequences of rebelling may outweigh the benefit of freedom.
Therefore with Villanelle, Winterson creates a role model for women to follow. ‘The Passion’ and ‘The God of Small Things’ uses language to escape the reality of the adult boundaries. The twins Rahel and Estha want to move away from reality because 2what you end up remembering isn’t always the same as what you have witnessed”( Julian Barnes-The Sense of an Ending) which is why they often seek refuge in the fiction world. “Like the actor-dancers [of Kathakali…] the twins feel as if they were living in two worlds at the same time”. Joelle Celerier-Vitasse – The Blurring of Frontiers in Arundhati Roy’s ‘The God of Small Things’) After witnessing the action of the Touchable police towards Velutha, Rahel does not accept his death. There are many similar cases in history as Edward Luce says, “In much of rural India caste discrimination is as rampant as ever and hundreds die every year from caste violence, some at the hands of police”. ( In spite of the gods by Edward Luce (pg. 125)) When they see that “blood spilled from his skull like a secret. Rahel refuse to believe that it is his body whereas Estha refuses to see it a fiction anymore. Perhaps the reality is too hard for Rahel, as Velutha is a father figure to them. Both writers’ characters deny the unpleasant realities like a child. In ‘The Passion’, Henri justifies his killing by calling them the ‘enemies’ instead of giving them any human qualities, – he does not come to term with his action. Similarly, when Comrade Pillai wants the workers to stand against Chacko, he talks about him as ‘The management’. By doing this he is taking away his human side so the workers will not feel any guilt.
Winterson seems particularly discontented by the boundaries enforced by the physical world, and utilizes the freedom offered by the creation of her own reality. Villanelle’s tendency towards theatrical cross-dressing dims the boundaries of reality; her excessive make-up, “I made up my lips with vermilion and overlaid my face with white powder“, conveys a fantastical image of a person from real one. The arrival of Sophie Mol in the Ayemenem household, whilst is theatrical, with the veranda becoming the set for the performance gave it the dignity of a stage and everything that happened there took on the aura and significance of performance.
Whilst Winterson aims to “sharpen and multiply the possibilities of the actual world”( http://nccur. lib. nccu. edu. tw/bitstream/140. 119/33324/6/55101206. pdf) and create a better reality, Roy’s use of the comparison to theatrics is scornful. Roy mocks the rehearsed pleasantries that convention dictates and the characters go with it. Roy believes that they are another sign of society’s suppression of genuine human interaction. Overall, both authors clearly feel let down by the oppressive nature of many of the adult boundaries which are customary in the society.
They also seem to resent the reverence many show for history, particularly when elements of history – war, oppression, and suffering – are so brutal. Both authors revel in the creation of their own realities as metaphorical escapes from the physical world and, in this, they once again come to resemble their characters: seeking refuge in their own fabricated stories. Bibliography 1. Roy, Arundhati. The God of Small Things. IndiaInk, India. 1997. 2. Winterson, Jeanette. The Passion. Grove Press. August 7, 1997. 3. Luce, Edward. In Spite of the Gods: The Rise of Modern India. Anchor.
March 11, 2008. 4. 4. Clarke, Anne. language, hybridity and dialogism in ‘The God of Small Thing’. Routledge. 2007. 5. Winterson, Jeanette. Why Be Happy When You could Be Normal. Grove Press. March 6, 2012. 6. Barnes, Julian. The Sense of an Ending, THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW. USA. October 5, 2011. 7. Dick, Michael. ‘Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit’. Ryerson University. November 25, 2005. 8. Roy, Winterson. Homosexuality Quotes. Brainy Quote. 2001 – 2012 BrainyQuote. BookRags Media Network. http://www. brainyquote. com/quotes/keywords/homosexuality. html. 9. Ramsey, Pam.
Psychological Effects of Incest on Girls Focusing on Sibling Incest. Pamramsey. 1994. http://www. pamramsey. com/incest. htm 10. Cengage, Gale. Feminism in Literature. eNotes. 2005. http://www. enotes. com/feminism-criticism/women-16th-17th-18th-centuries 11. Book by Onega, Susana . Refracting the Canon in Contemporary British Literature and Film. 1994. Quote by Winterson, Jeanette. 1996. 12. Ahmad, Aijaz. Reading Arundhati Roy politically. Frontline. 8 August, 1997 13. Celerier-Vitasse, Joelle. The Blurring of Frontiers in Arundhati Roy’s ‘The God of Small Things’. France. 2008.

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