Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Destruction of Both a Plane and a Language

“…there floated the debris of the soul, broken memories, sloughed-off selves, severed mother-tongues, violated privacies, untranslatable jokes, extinguished futures, lost loves, the forgotten meaning of hollow, booming words, land, belonging, home.” (Rushdie, 5)

By studying colonialism and its impact on the colonized this semester we have identified a number of things that are most important when considering the negative impact of the colonizer on the colonized. There are certain elements of a people’s culture, that when destroyed, are particularly devastating. Of these, we have considered language to be one of the most important. Rushdie criticizes colonialism vehemently in his novel by showing us the modern, negative impact it has on a group of people by contributing to the destruction of its language.

Looking at the quote and in particular the items between the several commas that deal intimately with language we can identify how Rushdie feels about colonialism. Language is one of the very most important facets of a people’s sense of common identity. This is also one of the first things to be damaged by colonialism; a people’s language can be either completely destroyed or bastardized into some form of a hybrid. It is also one of the first indications of an “other,” either by accent or the use of native words. Rushdie’s novel is full of examples of native Indian words, either full sentences or words thrown in here and there, but the critique comes usually after the phrases. This is also applicable to the idea of untranslatable jokes and I feel they are intimately related. Several times throughout the novel the narrator uses a joke in its original Indian and then immediately afterwards translates it for us into English. Rushdie uses this technique to show us how unimportant the Indian language is to English-speaking audiences; we haven’t learned it and most of us probably never will, we expect the colonized to conform to our use of language.

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