Bye Bye Blackbird | Analysis of Anita Desai’s Bye Bye Blackbird
Anita Desai’s Bye-Bye Blackbird is an exploration of the trauma of dislocation, an acute sense of loneliness and the pangs of estrangement suffered by the millions of ‘exiled Indians’ who try unsuccessfully to balance themselves between ‘home’ and ‘abroad’. The novel is an urbanized, simplified example of psychological depth, where more focus is given to the interplay of scheme of characterization for the treatment of cultural contact. Focusing on the marginalized, the expatriate, the outsider, London is depicted as a hybrid social space that carry the melting pot syndrome which sustains the notion of contact zone.
The novel carries the theme of negation and affirmation, hatred and love, apathy and fellow feeling-the phenomena of contact zone. The process of search for new values, the ideal of integration, and the quest of the individual to come to terms with his/her universe-a process of cultural mediations-build up the pattern of novel. The vastness of the migrated life, complex cultural difference and the problem of adjustment and easterner’s constant efforts to come to terms with this unfamiliar land are keenly observed by Desai. Johnson presents Rutherford Calhoun as a writer and creator of fiction who narrates the whole events through monologue, which posses many truths. He presents the reality of freedom, slavery and contemporary stratus of African American people in the form of which collects the history of subaltern consciousness of slave the slaves. He has presented Allmuseri tribe to represent the endemic quality of inter subjective. A problematic situation here in the novel seems of the Allmuseri and exposes their lacks of ‘unity of being’ and complications of African-American experience.
The characters are torn between their root cultures and adapted one. Though they live in materially prosperous land, they are psychologically always drawn towards their origin. Everywhere, people have the tendency to define themselves along cultural lives: people often ask themselves where they belong? And, who they are? Through these remarks, we can realize the fissured identities of expatriates alongside problems of belonging as a consequence of globalization. People experience the pleasant and unpleasant aspect of living in two cultures with two identities. Johnson’s fiction shows the homage to the picaresque about sea travel, human nature and self discovery in a riveting and thrilling way. This detailed, historically precise and phase of the trans-atlantics slave trade and on the adventures of ex-salve, is in an advertent. He also presents an unwilling participant in the enslaving of the Allmuseri tribe. He had given the fictional date of the year 1830; to make the fiction seems to be real. The story is presented through the protagonist of the novel Rutherford Calhoun, recently freed slave, who is in the voyage.
The England and the English Culture for outsiders, becomes a place where they are marginalized. Through the portrayals of outcasts like Adit and Dev in England Desai has shown the two sides of relationship of outsiders with the land of their adaptation. Adit, at last fails to assimilate himself with the English culture despite his strong attempt for the reciprocal relationship. And at the same time, Dev who once hold the Anglophobic position also develop a warm and enriching relationship with English life. He knows, he won’t be fully absorbed by the English culture but still continue his journey even after Adit’s return to India. In the novel Allmuseri tribe has been presented as the subaltern group, marginalized group and is shown in the positive way. They didn’t eat meat and were easy to feed. They didn’t like property. They were so simple to wear cloth. They required no medicine. They seldom fight and steal things. They feel so sick if they wronged anyone. These all characteristic of Allmuseri have clearly proved that they were so simple and loving creature. But the reality and culture of Allmuseri have already been abducted and were taken to make slave of their master.
So, showing two Indian characters in the scenario of London or by bringing into contact the people belonging to two different cultures and traditions, Desai has striven to establish mutual understanding and harmony between the westerner and the Indians. The novel opens with Calhoun playing the role of the freeman being enslaved after being set free. Calhoun presented the time situation of June 14, 1830 upto August 20, 1830: as the time period of the novel starting and its ending. When the novel ends with Calhoun’s freedom, we can find the psychic consequences of slavery. From Calhoun’s role we can assume that neither of us are freeman nor can we get rid of it. Calhoun came from Illinois form in search of freedom at New Orleans but can’t get there and ran to the republic for new life of freedom by his own will. When the novel ends he seems to be free but is again in bond of marriage with Isadora and as a father of Baleka. But Calhoun is ready to establish his existence, struggling with the problems.
Treating the cross-cultural relationship between the Europeans and the Indians, she deals with the ever-widening gulf between East and the West as a result of the tension created by cultural differences. She speaks of the emotional stages Indian characters experience in England. Through a host of uprooted and alienated characters from their native land, Desai beautifully absorbs the predicaments of these outsiders in an alien English milieu. These characters try to replace their haunting past by the meaningful present, but most of the time they fail to materialize their dream. The protagonists of the novels Adit Sen and Dev fail to identify themselves with English norms and values. But it is not that they remain totally unrecognized in an alien milieu. At times outsiders like Dev fully absorbed the English way of life though he is not absorbed by it. Johnson focuses on slavery, psychological notion and about the subaltern consciousness. During the course of middle passage, Rutherford Calhoun discovers several things about cultures and dignity, about disillusionment of himself and the other character.
Through the process of acculturation that appears initially in Adit’s character and later in Dev’s character, the novel focuses on the multi-cultural and multi-focal inter relationships between the westerners and Indians. And focusing upon the multi-cultural scenario, it depicts the phobia-philia relationships of the expatriates as the new realities created by the cultural contact. As a consequence of cross-cultural ethos, the reciprocity and conflict both arises in the relation of outsiders and insiders. The immigrants are always either partly or totally rejected. Their feelings of otherness in new culture create the experience of diaspora, hybrid identity and problem of representation. Lacking adjustment in new culture, their position become of in-betweens which deprived them from secure sense of personal and cultural identity. They are emotionally too incapacitated to encounter the hazards of life-social, ethical and spiritual. Their emotional sterility is at once the cause and consequence of their failure to achieve an authentic and integral selfhood. The Allmuseri tribe is presented as humble, passive and ignorant. They are being chained and are being dislocated from their homeland. They are treated cruelly by the chip crew and the captain. But also they remain passive. They lack unity of being. Calhoun plays the vital role for them (slaves) to make conscious. When subaltern group that was subordinate to a dominant group revote against them, they gained power and eventually became the new dominant group. In the novel Diamelo was presented as signifier of a new dominant group after their revolution. He ordered the member of the crew to follow the Allmuseri language, culture etc.
So, consequently within highly complex cultures we can observe the easterners relationship with west through love and hatred illusion and disillusionment, continuing the notion of conflict and mutual bond in cross-cultural ethos. As for Spivak, “representation and organization are key to subalternity and once they are achieved, the subaltern cease to be subaltern” (Spivak). The novel seems to be modern one which optimistically portrays the picture of marginal/subaltern/ suppressed voice that will be ultimately raised because of their conscious or the disillusionment inherent in them from many experience and got its position in the mainstream.
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