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Close analysis questions essay

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It is one of the most dramatic moments in the novel and is described in a language that captures its terror and lasting significance for the young Balsam: My mothers body had been wrapped from head to toe in a saffron silk cloth, which was overfed in rose petals and jasmine garlands… (Her death was so grand that I knew, all at once, that her life must have been miserable.

My family was guilty about something) (p. 16). As he follows the procession to the river, Balsam experiences a profound moment of understanding.

He sees the relations of power and subordination that exist within his own family and the abject position that had been occupied by his mother.

The pageantry’ of the funeral procession, however, is continually undercut by the horror of the scene and the details that have Leary marked the memory of the narrator: ‘ l smelled the river before I saw it: a stench of decaying flesh rising from my right. ‘ What follows can only be described as a vision of hell.

The child witnesses multiple funeral pyres, ‘ four bodies were burning on the chat when we got there’, summoning an infernal vision that contradicts the celebratory religious ceremony of prayer chants, ‘ Shiva’s name is the truth! ‘ The connection established between religion and terror is firmly evoked in the memory, ‘ Then the priest set my mother on fire’. Balsam attempts to resist the overpowering control of the religious ceremony ND maintain some form of connection with his mother, refusing to believe that this really is the last time he will see her.

The holy site of the River Gang is described in monstrous terms, as a ‘ giant oozing mound of black mud where the river washed into the shore. The mound was littered With ribbons of jasmine, rose petals, bits of satin, charred bones’. Balsam watches with a mixture of terror and hope as ‘ l looked at the ooze, and I looked at my mothers flexed foot, and I understood. This mud was holding her back: this big, swelling mound of black ooze. She was trying to fight the black mud. The image of one of Indian’s most holy and revered sites, the River Gang, as a place of abject terror, is one of the characteristically bold authorial choices in the novel.

From describing his childhood terror at witnessing this scene of tremendous loss, grief and hopelessness, Balsam concludes with a typically insouciant comment: ‘ l haven’t been back to see the Gang since then: I’m leaving that river for the American tourists! ‘ This assertion captures neatly the refusal in the novel more generally to exploit Indian’s cultural mystery and exotic ‘ local color’ for purely literary purposes.

For Balsam this revered location is a place of childhood terror and loss, there are no associations of spiritual comfort or acceptance. It remains the most powerful lesson of Balsam’s childhood, along with the equally abject death of his father lying on sheets of newspaper in an unattended hospital ward. ; How does this scene challenge the reader’s expectations or preconceptions about the religious character of India? Is the scene attempting to be merely provocative and blasphemous or does Taiga have a genuinely serious repose in depicting this contrary vision of religious ceremony and belief? What is Balsam claiming when he says that while watching his mothers foot resist the black ooze ‘ l understood’? What has he understood from this obviously traumatic episode that will become more apparent later in the narrative, when he is faced with similar questions of life and death, family duty and personal survival? ; In what Ways is the death of Balsam’s mother a compelling rejection of caste and the ceremonial justifications for its continuance as an integral part of Indian cultural identity?

Passage two – Due The Fifth Night: up 173-175 Directly addressing Mr. Ojibwa, Balsam claims: ‘ The greatest thing to come out of this country in the ten thousand years of its history is the Rooster Coop.

‘ The image of the rooster coop is one of the most powerful metaphors in the novel, recurring throughout the narrative whenever Balsam wishes to evoke the deeply entrenched forces and social arrangements that prevent any act of personal rebellion or escape from poverty or oppression. In a passage of unusually florid language Balsam describes conditions within the coop:

The roosters in the coop smell the blood from above. They see the organs of their brothers lying around them. They know they’re next. Yet they do not rebel.

They do not try to get out of the coop. Just in case the reader is not fully certain of his intentions in describing the direct relevance of this image Balsam insists: ‘ The very same thing is done with human beings in this country. ‘ The metaphor of the rooster coop has a clear association with the system of caste and the maintenance of extreme poverty in India.

It describes the dehumidifying effects Of being denied basic sights and opportunities, it shows that the reduction of human beings to a state of annalistic servitude breeds collective passivity and resignation producing a subordinate ‘ species’, the poor, who are incapable of voicing objections to their endless incarceration.

Balsam identifies the cultural reach of the rooster coop as the fundamental pattern of social life in India. It is the dominance of the rooster coop, like an Indian version of Weeper’s Iron Cage, that allows the massive scale of corruption in India to go unchallenged by those most exploited by it:

Why doesn’t that servant take the suitcase full of diamonds? He’s no Gandhi, he’s human, he’s you and me. But he’s in the Rooster Coop. The trustworthiness of servants is the basis of the entire Indian economy (p. 175). The endemic corruption that Balsam witnesses while in the employ of Mr.

Shook, sharpened by the treachery Shook displays when Balsam is chosen to take the blame for Pinky’s accident in killing the child, combine to provide him with an especially clear understanding of the importance of the Rooster Coop in maintaining the privileges and authority of such corrupt families as those

Of the Stork. This is the ultimate metaphor for Indian’s archaic backwardness, the sheer waste of human potential that the Rooster Coop symbolisms, makes a compelling case for its abandonment, not only by exceptional servants such as Balsam, but by the nation itself. ; In what ways does the metaphor of the Rooster Coop synthesis many of the novel’s central concerns? ; What explanation does Balsam provide for his ability to see the reality of the Coop and decision to make his own escape? Can such an explanation be seen merely as a justification for his murder of Mr. Shook?

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