postcolonial theory of Homi Bhabha applied to V.S.Naipaul’s novel The Mimic Men
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Among the different novels that reflect on the alienation of a dominating culture on colonial subjects, The Mimic Men is surely a masterpiece that is an autobiographical memoir of Ralph Singh, who has undergone a sudden; yet, an abrupt transition in his life. The cultural shock faced by the colonial exile politician living in the imperialistic metropolis is an imitation of dystopian and utopian complexes in his lives. As V. S. Naipaul has described this novel as “a novel about the vacuum” (Mahood, 1977, 187) has presented distorted themes of illusion and disillusion. Naipaul’s Mimic Men has presented a view of self-criticism, self-examination, self-construction, self-understanding, along with spatial and historical consciousness (Naipaul, 1967, 37) that is characterized profoundly as Ralph. The core themes presented within the novel related to the sense is an outcome of colonialism of sub-continent. Apart from that, the sense of alienation, identity crisis and most importantly, development of neo-colonialism within ex-colonies is some of them. Ralph is the pictorial depiction of the persons going through identification crisis followed by the loss of their cultural values and traditions.
India, which was a country limping under the pressure of ignorance and poverty (Ravi, 2013 161) has soon become a nexus of political and religious movements. It also had brought about a significant change of Indian identity and was dominated by various appeals that include color and race (Ravi 2013, 161-162). Homi Bhabha has also shared quite same views of Naipaul in adopting the mimicry of colonialists and has resulted in a rather more chaotic outcome of colonial dominance.
Alienation of Naipaul and Development of Themes
Naipaul had gone through different alienation and identity changes crisis in his life-time, and it is clearly depicted in his writings. Trinidad and Caribbean Islands, both share the “bloodiest and most barbaric” (Çulhaoğlu, 2015, 88) in the course of history. The cultural settings through which Ralph has gone through can be viewed as a designed place for French and British Empire to rule. The alienation of people all around the South Asia has transformed the regional natives into indentured laborers during the late nineteenth century under the disguise of sugar production businesses. Trinidad has gone through several phases of rootlessness, alienation, exile and oppression during the time span in which the writer has written his novels. The similar themes of identity issues, ambivalence and rootlessness, were also reflected during colonization history.
Issues of Identity and Ralph Singh
In the famous masterpiece of Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul’s mimic man, Ralph Singh has showed different aspects that reflects his nature of a “prototypical colonial character” (Ferdous, 2015, 2) who is quite commonly confused with the biased and pluralistic society he has inhaled most of his breaths in it. For Ralph, identity is a core issue that is depicted by his mimicry of European or Western views on different aspects of life. Also, Ralph’s self identification is in strong conflict with that of the Western world. For following the footsteps of colonialists, he has abandoned his home, family and even his self identityonly for the sake of mimicking the West. He has married an Englishwoman and has gone through formal education in the West. This mimicry has more detrimental impacts on his life; it has alienated him from his self culture thereby defying the traditional values set forth by his very ancestors. The alienation of his identity has resulted in the scattering of his personal being thereby leading towards vulnerability and corruption of his inner self.
Based on the same argument, Homi Bhabha has grasped strong belief on colonial mimicry and its ambivalence which has originated from disruptive “clear-cut authority of colonial dominance” (Ferdous, 2015, 2). The representation of it can be viewed by the character of Ralph and the creation of his identity and reality by accepting colonial language as the part of his culture and traditions. Naipaul has imitated the English language by putting it in contrast with the Hindi language. Words from Hindi language, local reality, and cultural alteration are vivid illustrations of alienation of Ralph’s identity and most importantly, showed the resistance faced by Ralph in uprooting his origin thereby accepting the dominance and authenticity of English language. Both Bhabha and Naipaul have reflected quite similar understanding of accepting an alien (colonial) culture and have warned about the consequence of adopting and subsequent, accepting the culture of West. Naipaul has deemed this act of what Research has described an act of “demoralizing their souls” (Naipaul, 1967, 2). Surely, Naipaul has not pronounced accepting alien culture as a demonizing act; however, he has urged on the issues of paving new paths for different generations of complacent state thereby recreating their identity in the complex post-colonial era. For doing this, Naipaul also likes to communicate the medium of English for transmission of their own feelings and thoughts. Moreover, it can also be an outlook for introducing their self identity and culture to the world (Ferdous, 2015, 2-3).
Bhabha and Naipaul Constructs of Mimicry, Ambivalence and Hybridity
Considering the dynamics of post-colonial theory, ambivalence and mimicry have become the foundation stone for different discussions regarding anti-colonial sentiments, colonial discourse and most importantly, colonial history. The studies of post-colonial phenomenon have been a part of creolization, hybridity and diasporas together with colonial/colonized relationships. These crossovers and mobility of these ideas and notions have been developed through the rootedness of colonialism on foreign soils (Loomba, 1998, 173). In multicultural and complex societies with more than one cultural existence, hybridity implies to the mixing of discrete and separate modes of living (Ferdous, 2015, 3). In idealized cultural settings, hybridization of societal aspects occurs quite commonly on the grass-root level and is based on mutual respect, equality, and open-mindedness. Most of the post-colonial writers including Bhabha and Naipaul showcase their hybridity as an anti-colonial tool for cultural, identity and language shocks natives has to face during the transitioning phase. Ashcroft et al. (2004, 119) have translated this effect as the breaking down of strict imperialistic polarization. This is regarded as the mutual trans-cultural activities in relations to both colonized and colonials in general. Hybridity is also referred to as the assimilation of policies that defies the inequality and imbalance of power relations thereby masking the cultural differences. However, the ideal construct of mutual rather than an equal exchange of cultural diasporas is a part of a colonized community (Ashcroft et al., 2004, 119).
Regarding the thought process presented in Homi K. Bhabha’s conceptual construct of hybridity in the post-colonial studies, it has been a controversial and the most influential topic that dictates the development of colonial identities and subsequently resulting in partial or complete mimicry of an alien culture. For Bhabha, colonial identity has been a subject that involved agonizing fragmentation of colonized identity. Like Naipaul has suggested, Bhabha also shares the same views regarding development of hybridity as the necessary conditions in a colonial society. For Naipaul, Ralph is merely a depiction of that character that has faced severe psychic trauma on the realization that he would never attain all the attribute of colonials. The most significant feature of it includes attaining the whiteness of a colonial imperialist.
Near Bhabha, the analysis of colonial/colonized relationship along with their mutual and independent constructions of various subjectivities is entirely based on the core view of Bhabha’s hybridity. Colonial hybridity is what is described as “strategy premised on cultural purity” (Ferdous, 2015, 4). However, Bhabha, unlike Naipaul, considers that all the cultural systems and statements are part of spaces which he calls the “third space of enunciation” (Bhabha, 1994, 37). Moreover, cultural identity stems out of the ambivalence and contradictory space. For the same reason, Bhabha shares the view that purity of cultural hierarchy is not possible. Considering his essay, “The Location of Culture,” he has propped his views that It is quite important that the useful capacities within the third space have both colonial as well as postcolonial provenance. Considering the notion of alienation, he said that it is the willingness for descending into that area of conflict (“alien territory”), and it may open the pathway towards international culture conceptualization. Also, it would be purely dependent not on the “exotism of multiculturalism” … “but [also] on the inscription and articulation of culture’s hybridity (Bhabha, 1994, 33). Proceeding with Bhabha’s interpretation of cultural hybridity, Ashcroft et al. (2002, 119) have also noticed that this notion is because of the “in-between space” that encompasses the meaning and most importantly, it also includes the “cultural burden” that is actually enhancing the perception of hybridity. On the other hand, Naipaul shares some of the similar views as Bhabha. In The Mimic Men, Naipaul has presented a fictional character having Indian Brahmin Origin, who has been subjected to alienation of colonial culture during the early 1840s. Rather than accepting the cultural notions and the mechanics of hybridity, Naipaul has showed great deal of detestation for hybridity. He has showed strong discomfort in the intermingling of things (Govrevitch, 1994, 27). For Naipaul, the origin, purity and essences. Culhaoglu (2015, 90) has described the outlook of Naipaul for hybridity as an obsession for purity. For Naipaul, he holds a strong view that the cultural shock faced by the Trinidad and other former colonies is nothing but the violation that includes intermingling of cultures thereby destroying the cultural fabric of that specific society. Naipaul is surely not an idealist and knows that the society can never attain the complete and utter degree of cultural purity; however, he incorporates a desire for the attainment of the supreme level of purity through his character’s psyches along with the awareness that the characters can never attain their original identities and original values. For Naipaul, the question of adjusting within a hybrid societal setting has never been a good condition, and it is quite commonly about criticizing the change as part of colonization in post-colonized societies.
Bhabha argues the notion of hybridity and identity as part of colonial presence, and it is always ambivalent and fragmented between its outward appearance as authoritative and original and on the other hand, its enunciation as different and repetitive. Bearing that in mind, Bhabha has argued that the colonial discourse does not quite commonly demarcate between ‘self’, ‘a home culture’ and more importantly, ‘an alien culture’; nevertheless, it is about ‘self’, a ‘double’ reflection and ‘a mother culture and its bastards’ (Bhabha, 1985, 150). For devaluing the violence of colonialism, Bhabha has maintained the perception of what Childs and Patrick (1997, 134) has described disavowing the repressing and repeating aspects in hybridity. The construct of defining mother culture and its bastards is a rather strong stance that props up the arguments presented by Naipaul in The Mimic Men. Both the writers have shared a strong, yet, different ways of interpreting hybridity and its association with cultural imbalance in colonial societies.
As previously illustrated in Bhabha’s perspective that includes repetition as a strong force that connects mimicry to hybridity. In most of the post-colonial societies that have evolved out of exploitation and slavery, the hybridity usually transforms itself to mimicry of an alien culture. As described in Ferdous (2015, 4), mimicry is nothing but the strategy for attaining colonial knowledge and power”. In Bhabha’s perspective, colonial mimicry is nothing but the strong urge and desire for attaining recognizable and reformed identity; rather than, “subject of a difference that is almost the same but not quite” (1994, 86). The same feeling can be viewed by Ralph’s assertion that he was fascinated quite less by the act and the labor as compared to the order and calm, that the act might have implied (Naipaul, 1967, 157). It is quite evident that the colonial discourse encourages the colonized subjects like Ralph Singh to mimic the cultural habits, institutions, assumptions and values of the colonizer by following the same footsteps. However, Ashcroft et al. (2004, 139) describe it as the blurred copying of the traits that are threatening to individual’s identity. Bhabha has also said that the hybridity is nothing but a mere introduction of synthetic positioning and cultural relativism the includes resolution of two cultural dialects. It also incorporates a form of colonial authority together with its content that has somehow “terrorized” authority with the deception of identification along with mockery as well as mimicry” (1994, 115). This aspect also describes the complicated relationship between the colonized and colonizer. Also, the ambivalence of these two diverse powers describes the fluctuating relationship between mockery and mimicry. Mimicry is an ambivalent condition because it requires different similar and dissimilar aspects. Furthermore, it is also related to the perception of incomplete along with “partial transformation of colonized to colonizer;” however, it includes staying different under the microscope of Naipaul’s creation of Ralph who has got an education in an alien culture and subsequently married to blend in within colonial society. The Mimic Men have described a shifting political dynamics of a colonized society. More importantly, the story of Singh, who has not been a victim of ignorance, poverty, along with a lack of the persecution or natural talent (Mishra, 2013, 2) and has enjoyed all the public eminence and materialistic success in his life as compared to Biswas, Harbans, and Ganesh. As part of the foreign education in London, he does have recognized and later, articulated the various wrong-doings in his different and sophisticated society. However, regardless of his acute consciousness along with the superior nature, it has not made him any less harmful to the cultural shock or alienation based on his confusing and most importantly, fragmented past. In reality, it has enhanced his alienation to the colonized environment rather than helping him blend himself into the colonized society.
Naipaul, as Mr. Singh has also showcased his West Indian experience that is surely a vivid elaboration of West and East Indian psyche along with the common reactions of these` different and conflicting Creole, English and Indian cultures. Mr. Singh, who was the confessor, narrator, and visionary, has commented on different aspects of post-colonial societies that include, politics, power, racial and social interactions between colonized and colonial beings. As part of Mr. Singh’s experience considering the life of London, he has soon come to a realization that there has been a greater deal of relentlessness in his life in his fantasy city. During his stay in Mr. Shylock’s house, he has encountered the same feelings of discomfort from other immigrants going through the same psychic trauma. He has described the place as “a conglomeration of private cells. In the city as nowhere else we are reminded that we are individuals, units” (Naipaul, 1967, 15). The suffering of Lieni, who is the Maltese housekeeper with an illegitimate son has also provided him with an inspiration to handle harsh environments while coming to a realization that “We become what we see of ourselves in the eyes of others” (Naipaul, 1967, 20). Leini has made him realize that he has paid little or no attention to his physical looks thereby making him content that he is “no monster” (Naipaul, 1967, 20). However, his development of mimicry considering the colonial environment has allowed him to move further and develop his attraction with Isabella (Mishra, 2015, 3). Bhabha has also mentioned this uneasiness for the characters that follow colonial discourse. Also, the colonial discourse is quite commonly compelled with the ambivalence of environment and colonial/colonized interactions. The core reason behind it is that colonial subjects cannot completely create what Ashcroft et al., (2004, 13) describes as the “replica” of different traits and social aspects of an ideal colonizer. Bhabha (1985, 153) has also argued that the detrimental aspect of mimicking an alien is that it creates “double vision” that is greatly revealing “the ambivalence of colonial discourse” thereby also hindering with its authority. Bhabha has further reinforced his argument by saying that this specific gap is a clear demarcating point of colonial discourse. Moreover, it also accounts for a provision for resistance that unsettles the foundations of colonial centrality and subjectivity. He has added that the resistance is surely neither an essential oppositional “act of political intention”, nor it is the complete or partial exclusion of the contents of other culture, as perceived previously” however, it is “the end product of ambivalence that is produced within the boundaries of dominating discourses recognition as they are coherent with the different signs of cultural diasporas. (1985:153).
The introduction of different literary styles that are a follow-up of Bhabha’s arguments of post-colonialism, Naipaul has further explained the problems faced as part of the split identity of mimic men. Regarding this phenomenon, Naipaul has taken the position that there exist no alternative that can stop a colonized person from becoming a mimic man along with the mere depiction of centralized colonial power. This analysis clearly shows his perception of cultural power along with writing. Naipaul’s approach to mimicry has somewhat striking resemblance to the views of Bhabha, which is that “the performance of mimicry is masked by ambivalence” (Ferdous, 2015, 4). The multilayered and ambivalent idea of mimicry is a quite common feature presented within The Mimic Men. Depicting the complex nature of mimicry, Naipaul has uttered, “I paid Mr. Shylock three guineas a week for a tall, multi-mirrored, book shape room with a coffin-like wardrobe … I thought Mr. Shylock looked distinguished like a lawyer or business person or politicians. He had the habit of strolling the bot of his ear inclining his head to listen. I thought the gesture was attractive; I copy it. I knew of secret events in Europe; they tortured me; and although I was trying to live on seven pounds a week I offered Mr. Shylock my fullest, silent companion” (Naipaul, 1967, 7). This passage is quite an elaborative depiction of mimicry in its finest form. Apart from that, the complex nature of mimicry is also presented in the above lines. It reflects not only copying the traits of the landlord; but, it also has covered the remorse of post-war Europe regarding the Jews. It was the guilt that had been embedded in the name Shylock. As a narrator, Ralph has been encouraged to follow the footsteps of person that has exploited him. The mockery that has been presented a quiescent version. Surely, it was not Shylock’s mockery that is a part of narrator’s mimicry; rather, it was the process of colonization that was incorporated as part of cultural understanding. Considering the above example of mimicry, Ralph’s character is surely a fine masterpiece and object of the colonial chain; however, it is also an appropriate colonized subject (Ferdous, 2015, 5).
Mimic Men is more than a novel; rather, it is an attempt for magnifying the conditions and surroundings of expatriates in a colonized and displaced world. Naipaul; like his different novels, has showed the great degree of confessional tone as part of his exploration together with an in-depth analysis of problems and woes faced by expatriates. It is surely a fine example of authenticity and genuineness showcasing the protagonist’s sense of discontent, alienation and most importantly, the search for stable values and rooted identity. The Mimic Men has presented an in-depth understanding Naipaul’s alienation from three different culture as mentioned before. He has neither rejected his previous values and traditions of Indian origin nor has completely adjusted to the Caribbean culture. Finally, the story has showed that Naipaul’s protagonist character has failed to become a part of London and more precisely, a colonial empire. The failure to do so has turned him into a deracinated individual having uprooted identity. The vision of three-times exile and alienation has brought him into the newly formed dimension as reflected in The Mimic Men. The story of the protagonist, Ralph Singh was to acquire success, money and power following the easiest way. Like any other pragmatic politician, Ralph decries dishonesty for hiding his feelings thereby making him a mimic man and a character of identity issues. He has presented the picture of a person with pretentious nature concealed behind the face of intellectual sophistry having shallow and lack of values in his character. Besides that, Ralph Singh is also quite aware of his mimicry of life. Surely, there is the completely no-or-little degree of affection and commitment to society and life. Defining his mimic obsession he has said, “We pretend to be real, to be learning, to be preparing ourselves for life, we mimic men of the New world, one unknown corner of it, with all its reminders of the corruption that came so quickly to the news” (Naipaul, 1967, 146). The fragility and uncertainty of his character clearly reflect corruption of the human soul.
It is worthwhile to note that the educational systems also constitutes to what is called a “privileged instrument” (Martins, 2011, 5) that allows the individuals to follow the same cultural steps as colonialist thereby play their characters and roles as colonials. It also implies wearing masks that do not fit in any way considering their empirical and daily lives. However, problems start arising whenever, the colonized individuals starts believing in the roles and characters the play as part of imitation. Based on the coherence in views of these two authors, it is this role of mimicry and imitation to achieve the goal of imperial mimicry. Bhabha in his book, “The Location of Culture” has recalled that mimicry of colonial culture is nothing but the desire of attaining the status of being recognized and reformed; however, the difference of colonized/colonial are quite similar but not the same in all contexts (1985, 86). This idea of not attaining the level of perfection and impossibility of becoming the same also highlights the alienated nature of colonized. On the other hand, it also pronounces the degree of the cultural ambivalence of colonized people considering the struggle of identity that they strive to attain for the rest of their lives. On one end, the complexity and demarcation of mimicry and hybridity are quite difficult to define; on the other end, there are some cases that define the extent to which mimicry has an impact on hybridity.
From the closer examination of Naipaul’s novel, it is well evident that the discourses of slavery and subordination are quite fickle among colonized people in both colony and metropolis settings. Apart from that, it is also worth to note the impact of education along with other degrees of mimicry on some colonized subjects’ mimicry and their identity diasporas within post-colonial time. It was also reflected as part of Naipaul’s protagonist character Ralph Singh. He has tried to mimic himself as a colonizer since his childhood that has hindered his ability to assess his behaviors and create his definite identity of his self until the age of early forties. Most of his negative outcomes of Ralph’s mimicry have stemmed out from the deconstructive representation he has formed of Isabella. It was nothing more than an island on which he has spent most of his life and an outlook for achieving the colonialist dream. For him, it was clearly depicted that besides his family links with some Coca-Cola business owners along with novel social prestige in society. The island was a place having a lack of opportunity, deprivation and most importantly, unhomliness. In other words, it was a self-created prison from which the character was eagerly trying to escape by creating a sphere while thinking about his glorious ancestors. He has done so by changing his name without saying about it to any of his parents and has tried to identify himself with different wealthy relatives. Moreover, he also detested his father’s actions and behavior towards his maternal family. It was mainly because of the social status of her maternal family within colonial society. Ralph has created a fictional imagination of character that has aided him to cope up with the unhomliness and origins that he has felt quite ashamed since the beginning of his story. In conjunction with the negative imagination of island and islands, he was faced with quite an opposite and yet, aggrandizing reality. It was the same reason he has not come to the realization of ridicule behind most of his attitudes. Ralph has showed the level of imitation when he has gone to London for the first time and has copied Mr. Shylock habit of stroking his ear lobe and then inclining forward to listen. However, it is mainly because of the core understanding of Naipaul’s protagonist when Ralph has lived his life as an expatriate in London. He has usually traveled from the sea between London and Isabella. During that period, he has mimicked quite like “a leading politician”. He was also aware of his behavior before facing the colonial outlooks in his life. It has created severe implications on both personal and political scales and has made him a fragmented personality of his former self. Also, he has started to put his fragmented feelings using pen and paper. He has also described his experience in the boarding house. It was nothing more than a way to bring the true meaning in his life. Moreover, it is also for overcoming and somewhat finding a way of redemption for the crisis that he has faced as a child. The most important aspect of his life is the feeling of loneliness and being adrift which was also experienced by his father but in a more diverse perspective. With the narration of Ralph’s life in flashback, he has showed his disorganized memories thereby depicting that his father was idealized by different missionaries who have dwelled on Isabella. He has been described by a missionary lady as the person who “had the marks of grace” and someone who has never “hesitated for the protection of missionaries” so that most of the people could “receive the Gospel of grace” (Naipaul, 1967, 94).
Cultural Confrontation and Identity Crisis
In The Mimic Men, the mixing of cultures, hybridity and creolization has provided no sense of stability to the society; however, it has created a more fragmented and inorganic society during post-colonial era. Naipaul, through the narration of Ralph, has shown quite a deep sense of powerlessness concerning the colonial and hybridized society. Regarding such fragmentation, he has said, “The bigger truth come: that in a society like ours, fragmented, inorganic, no link between man and landscape, a society not help together by common interests, there is no true internal source of power” (Naipaul, 1967, 206). Naipaul’s creation Isabella was merely an artificially formed society that is quite commonly designed for the sake of colonial development. It was a place where people from different cultures have been forcefully living together. It is because there exists no certain mutual hybridization of different cultures. Hence, it facilitates no comfort or alternative to the people dwelling within it. Ralph has also acknowledged the same perspective by saying that the disorder and relentlessness that was the result of different exploration within three continents has brought about the unhealthy bringing together of different people who could have their fulfillments only as part of the security of their societies along with the landscapes provided by their elders. He also added, “the empires of our time were short-lived, but they have altered the world forever; their passing away is their least significant feature” (Naipaul, 1967, 52). Here, Naipaul has clearly depicted that a comfortable coexistence and hybridity within society having colonial settings is not possible.
As society’s bastard whom Bhabha has described, the position of Ralph was nothing more than a mere survivor of the colonial era. Being a part of the alienated culture, he was unable to create his true and own identity and has been caught mimicking the colonizer along with an attempt to incorporate roles and traits of colonizers in his life. Ralph came to an understanding that he had become a mimic man and trapped in the clutches of imperialistic society. He has said, “an awareness of myself not as an individual but as a performer, in that child’s game where e action of the victim is deemed to have been done at the command of his tormentor, and where even refusal is useless, for that too can be deemed to have been commanded” (Naipaul 1967, 81). Like most of the actions of players stemming out from playwright, Ralph actions has also been a part of consciousness and thought that are purely originating from colonialist regime. Initially, Ralph has come to become a part of imperialistic society for achieving the “flowering” along with “extension of self”, he has found that e thing has been put into words by the colonial authority, and his mere part is to play the role of mimicking for what he has chosen for himself. Nevertheless, his position as the mimic man is something that he has not desired; instead, he does not have any other options left for himself. Ralph has arrived London for seeking his true identity; however, he has found himself stuck in between colonial authority and complex identity issues (Ferdous, 2015, 10).
Ralph’s memoirs document his peculiarity thereby failing to recognize “What emerges between mimesis and mimicry is a writing” that is usually a way for expression. Hence, it has also “marginality of history, quite simply mocks its power to be a model” that is supposed to be imitable (Bhabha, 1985, 87). Naipaul’s fixation on his writing along with the relationship with knowledge clearly implies that the memoirs’ frame of reference is the pathway Naipaul used for preventing instead of allowing Ralph to negotiate himself out of the role into which he has narrated himself. The knowledge that has originated from the self-knowledge and experiences of Ralph through writing is more of an “existentialist epiphany of marginality through choice” (Mustafa, 1995,106). Apart from that, the reclusiveness of at the end of novel stems out of choosing himself to be embarrassed thereby depicting that repetition and mimicry are the two narrative forms that are used by Naipaul. These two forms lock the foundations of colonial and post-colonial characters that he has created along with their relative thematic settings (Mustafa, 1995, 106).
Considering the political identity, Ralph has also felt alienated in his political career along with marriage, and business success. It is mainly because all these aspects of his life are strongly dictated by colonial idealism embedded in his mind. Due to this fact, Ralph cannot construct any good interpretation of his political experience within a decolonized country. Most of his slogans are based on different borrowed phrases, and he is quite commonly known as the faceless politician who has been “made by distress and part of [distress]” (Naipaul, 1967, 240). Also, the lack of power has made all the efforts of Ralph gone into vain and of no use. He has become quite aware of the political dynamics of colonial power and has found that the government cannot run without the help of colonial officials (Naipaul, 1967, 209). This crisis has created a vacuum in the life of Ralph and a sense of alienation by failing to create his identity as a business person and politician.
Besides that, sexual profligacy is another important aspect that should be considered. Most of the third world immigrants who have migrated towards the colonized society have faced a more liberal outlook of sexual liberation as compared to their own respective countries. Ralph, being a part of third world country has also faced the same outlooks of sexual frustration during his lifetime. This frustration has made him attracted to not only colonial culture but also to different Western women. His attraction to Sandra was a part of her exuberant confidence and rapaciousness. However, a part of his attraction was because she was English and would provide him with a strategic advantage of stepping into English culture. Sharing the same outlooks of mimicry, Ralph has also become attracted to Stella for the same reasons. His fascinations of colonial culture have urged him to adopt colonizer lifestyle and culture along with prompting him to have relationships with Stella and Sandra. This frustration has led him on a road to endless disappointment and frustration and afterward, resulting in complete alienation from his family and society. Ralph memoirs, imaginations, and consciousness, have brought him under the effect of different psychological imbalances as well. His initial childhood imaginations are the reflections of his education from the school as well.
The protagonist Ralph has gone through some phases in his life. Each phase depicts different character played by Ralph and in different capacities. However, his role as a mimic man remained the same. In retrospective terms, he has usually asked the readers to “understand unsuitability’s for the role “I had created for myself, as politicians, as dandy, as celebrant” (Naipaul, 1967, 124). Hence, it is for sure that the person should have to prepare themselves for inevitable failure. He has also asserted that he has found himself in a repetitive cycle of different actions and reactions that feeds on the notion of mimicry. Another reason for his failure is that he strongly felt that he has pretended and that the colonized can never become identified as the colonizer, nor they can completely follow the footsteps of the colonizer. This sense of rootlessness is also propped by the notions put forward by Bhabha. For Bhabha, the alienation and loss of identity is inevitable for the colonized imitating the ways of the colonizer. The stance taken by Naipaul under the domain of mimicry is considered as ambivalent. Also, the mimicry of English literature as Naipaul has described it as “English language was mine, the traditions were not” (Naipaul, 1976, 26). For showcasing this aspect, Naipaul has used English language but has incorporated the cultural traits of English words. In The Mimic Men, he has also used different English words under the syntax and context of English language. For him, the mimicry is not a matter of subservience but it was of resistance of the root and origin of the colonized (Ferdous, 2015, 10-13).
Accords of Identity in Post-Colonial Literature
Identity alteration and subsequent alienation have been a prominent part of most of Naipaul’s and other post-colonial literature. The story is quite related with Naipaul’s A House for Mr. Biswas, which has shown alienation of Caribbean families during the post-colonial era. However, Ralph Singh like most of the previous characters can be portrayed as a castaway between two dissimilar worlds. His core hope is to find a place of security and comfort, and it would surely lie within his Hindu background. For finding his true identity at first, he has changed his name from Ranjit Kripal Singh to Ralph Singh. Afterward for gaining political power, he has used his Hindu ancestral roots of a rebel’s son. The idea of identity near Naipaul is more like that of a borrowed culture that has influenced the cultures of colonized countries and nations. As Bhabha has noted that the colonial mimicry has become the desire “for the reformed, recognizable “Other” as a subject of the difference that is almost the same, but not quite” (Bhabha, 1994, 86). It has become a foundation stone for different aliens to lose their true identity and mimic a foreign culture.
The character of Ralph Kripal Singh in Naipaul’s The Mimic Men has gone through the phase of finding his true identity in different cultures. However, he has not considered his past to be an important aspect of his lifestyle that has generated a sense of homeliness within him. While giving a sense of this lack of identity, Ralph has written that he was “born on an island like Isabella, an obscure New World transplantation, second-hand and barbarous, was to be born to disorder” (Naipaul, 1967, 127). By comparing it with a barbarous and second-hand society, he has translated his feelings and emotions that were deeply embedded within him but they were obscured by his very ambition of becoming more like a colonialist instead of following his ancestors’ footsteps.
The ills of colonialism were far more than on identity rather the culture of the subjects were also altered, and the very fabric of society was also distorted by different colonial invasions. From another masterpiece of Naipaul, A House for Mr. Biswas, the story is also centralized around the identity issues a person has the face as part of abandoning his identity. One of the core aspects includes changes in political epoch while considering locality and subjectivity. Most of the colonial subjects who emerge in colonial ranks were at one instance a subject of colonial rule. Ralph has also reflected this subjectivity that was formulated by his colonial experience along with some political ramifications associated with the post-colonial period. Following the steps of colonials is one aspect of Ralph’s life; however, becoming a subject of colonial rule has also made him distance himself from his rooted and programmed identity. Roshan Cader (2008, 24) has shed light on the life of V. S. Naipaul and its implications for his novel characters including Ralph Singh and Mr. Biswas particularly. Roshan has noticed that the core nature of colonial subjects and their experience is nothing but uprooting and uneasiness of subject’s life. He has also added, “Identity formation is always contingent” (24) which has reflected that Ralph Singh has found his true identity, not as part of ancestor’s heritage; rather, it was in bits and fragments that were “haphazard” (24) as reflected by his writings. Ralph has found himself surrounded in a fragile position having not a complete identity as a colonial subject or Indian with strong ancestral values or even as a Caribbean national.
Naipaul’s character of Ralph Singh has also shed light on author’s very own cultural shock and the transition that he has to face during his lifetime. A unique blend of Indian, British and Caribbean cultures has showcased the life-long choices that Ralph has to make as an alien on foreign soils. Naipaul character’s autobiography is also a tale of transitions that he has to face from time to time. The Indian roots of author and Ralph have made these two characters remarkably similar in different contexts. Naipaul also had to go through the thought process and it is depicted by his reflection of colonialist culture along with strong emphasis on colonial and colonist’s relationship dynamics. Development of Ralph newly formed identity and its confrontation with ancestral values of Indian culture was also presented in ample depth and details as part of the novel.
All in all, the inception of Naipaul’s Ralph Singh brings forward different outlooks of an alienated life under colonial dominance. From the very outlooks of mimicry to complete loss of identity; Ralph has gone through different phases in his life. His early life as a Ranjit Singh along with his transformation as Ralph Singh has brought forward different aspects of the identity crisis, ambivalence and hybridity. The character’s sense of mimicry and identity issues was not present at the very beginning. His early life education in English school has alienated him from his very Indian roots and ancestral culture and tradition. The development of such diversified outlook has left in complete despair and turmoil. Bhabha theory also strongly adheres to Naipaul’s outlook for an alien – a person who mimics foreign culture with no cultural background left him.
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