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Narayan’s and Rushdie’s Perspectives Regarding Hybrid Identity Essay


The movement of people from one place to another has raised certain concerns in almost all aspects of life. This phenomenon has been evident in literature especially Indian literature. An individual’s interaction with his/her immediate environment at any given time affects their beliefs. It also shapes the individual’s preferences in life as far as identity is concerned.

It is noteworthy that identity is related closely to one’s cultural heritage as well as their interaction with the other members of the society. Literary works have played a pivotal role in unveiling the different perspectives of people about hybrid identity.

This paper highlights the perspectives of two renowned Indian writers, R.K Narayan and Salman Rushdie, about hybrid. Although both writers have a broad sense of hybrid identity, Rushdie has a stronger idea of the subject due to his immigrant status.

Rushdie is an immigrant who writes about his home from another country. His movement to a foreign country gives him ability to interact with people from different cultures. His multicultural experience gives him a rather unclear picture of most of the aspects in the Indian society.

One could argue that Rushdie lives in a complexity of fictionally recreating a culture that he does not have adequate exposure to since he does not live in India. Rushdie (1992) claims that “Any writer who writes about his homeland from outside must allow himself to deal with broken mirrors, some of whose fragments have been irretrievably lost” (10).

Despite the fact that he lives in a foreign country, his interest as well as appreciation of his homeland through literature shows that he values the Indian culture-his home country’s culture. Additionally, his immigrant status requires him to uphold the standards as well as the culture of the country that he lives in an aspect that portrays his hybrid identity.

On the other hand, Narayan lives and writes his literally works from India, his home country. He has first hand information about the culture of the Indians thus he does not have to put a lot of effort on collecting the pieces or rather information for his works.

In his short story, A Passage to America, Narayan out rightly expresses his take on hybrid identity by noting that, “Ultimately, America and India are profoundly different in attitude and philosophy, though it would be wonderful if they could complement each other’s values.” He also shows his familiarity with the two cultures.

He knows what the Indian culture values most-“austerity and unencumbered, uncomplicated day-to-day living.” On the other hand, he noted that individuals who are in constant pursuit of prosperity characterizes the American society.

Despite these differences, he still believes that one can embrace the values of both communities. In this story, he explicitly gives his point of view about that when he says that “One may hope that the next generation of American-grown Indians will do better by accepting the American climate spontaneously.”

According to him, the success of the Indian people within the American community is dependent on their willingness of embracing both cultures.

Rudshie’s central theme in Imaginary Homelands to some extend shows that he does not fully support hybrid identity. In normal circumstances, when one moves to a new place, they would make effort or rather attempt to learn the culture and values of the communities living there without losing their heritage.

On the contrary, Rudshie shows that migration is a way towards the loss of one’s country, culture as well as language. He associates it with getting a different/another way of not only thinking but also speaking. Owing to this, anyone who buys his idea about the interaction with a new community may end up perpetrating unnecessary conflicts in the society.

As a child, Rudshie records that he had grown up with “an intimate knowledge of, and even sense of friendship with, a certain kind of England…” (18). He was so in love with the English nation that he could not wait visiting it.

Eventually when he visits England, instead of appreciating the community’s way of living, he continues to live in a fantasy of the dream-England. H e condemns the Britons way of living arguing that they needed to wake up from some sort of a dream.

In his story, he quotes Richard Wrights statement that “black and white descriptions of society are no longer compatible” (19). Moreover, he refers to the English culture as old and adds that the people needed to build a new ‘modern’ world out of it.

Despite his disapproval of some of the aspects of the English culture, Rudshie urges people to be open-minded or rather to get rid of the ‘ghetto mentality’. He strongly feels that people should never overlook the fact that there is a world beyond the community to which they belong.

He likens one’s confinement to narrowly defined cultures to some internal exile. This shows his recognition of the existence of other equally important cultures all over the world that one should not hesitate to explore. His argument supports Habra’s view of hybrid identity in that a fixed identity cannot be ascribed to place and cultural roots because they are the product of interrelationship and diversity (35).

As Fludernik (11) asserts, hybrid identity is “the contact between two or more cultures, between the self and the other”. Additionally, he cautions people against finding cultures that are equivalent to theirs because they will never be the same. This serves as his driving force in literature since he states that he has never had a reader in mind-he is open to all types of audience.

Narayan’s short story, A horse and two Goats, shows his undying attempt to educate people on the importance of learning some aspects of other communities. The important aspect that the writer demonstrates is the necessity of learning as well as being able to use another community’s language.

The failure to do so brings misunderstandings between the parties in question as it is evident between Muni and the American tourist. Since the American tourist could not speak Tamil and Muni (the old Indian man) could not speak English, they could not communicate even though they wanted to-each wanted to achieve something.

The old man wanted money while the American tourist wanted the statue. In this case, Narayan shows that people should not only have interest on aspects of the other culture but also they should try to learn each others’ cultural aspects. It is the key to the development of a mutual relationship and understanding between communities.

As far as the practical experience about hybrid identity is concerned, Rudshie is in a better position to address the issue. His immigrant writer’s complex situation helps him grow beyond external perceptions of differences and changes to underlying similarities and motives. This aspect of being in-between countries helps such a writer to be deeper in his/her insight as far as the nature of literature is concerned.

Being an immigrant gives the writer in question an advantage in that it enables the writer to speak and articulate facts properly and concretely on a subject of universal significance and appeal (Rushdie 12). With time, an immigrant’s grip to his/her home country’s culture tends to weaken.

This increases one’s urge to seek the self-made identity between the two contrary lives, which include time and place. In essence, it plays a fundamental role in enabling writer’s that have dual identity to work hard to have quality pieces of work about their home country.

The distance and the long geographical perspectives provide the angles that are weaved together through literature, which turns their thoughts in reality. Hybrid identity gives one the advantage of being able to appreciate two different cultures at the same time.

To answer the question to whom his stories are meant for, he says that he has no specific reader in mind but rather writes for ideas, people and events. His target audience is not only the Indian community but also to people who appreciate the diversity of cultures across the globe.

The two authors have portrayed hybrid identity in their works. I agree with Rushdie’s idea of hybrid identity and literature and feel that it is stronger than Narayan’s. The practical knowledge as well as the understanding of two different cultures gives one the ability to know the specific aspects that need more emphasis as far as upholding culture and one’s heritage is concerned.

The writer is in a better position to compose appealing and life changing works about a given culture. Rushdie, whose hybrid identity is not only by virtual of being knowledgeable about two different cultures but also by being an immigrant, has proven that one cannot forget about their homeland or rather past culture and heritage even if it is imaginary in literature writing.

Works Cited

Fludernik, Monika. Hybridity and Post colonialism: Twentieth-Century Indian Literature. Tübingen: Stauffenburg, 1998. Print.

Habra, Home. The Location of Culture. London: Routledge, 1994. Print

Rushdie, Salman. Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism 1981-1991, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1991. Print.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Narayan’s and Rushdie’s Perspectives Regarding Hybrid Identity." April 15, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/narayans-and-rushdies-perspectives-regarding-hybrid-identity/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Narayan’s and Rushdie’s Perspectives Regarding Hybrid Identity'. 15 April.

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