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The Remains of the Feast : Summary and Analysis

Analysis of Githa Hariharan’s The Remains of the Feast

Writer:              Githa Hariharan

Born:                  1954

Nationality: Indian

Her First Novel:    The Thousand Faces of Night (1992)

Setting:         Nursing Home

This is an essayic form of story. It has the setting like nursing home and home. It has the characters like Rukmini, Ratna and others, and it has a plot with the beginning, middle and ending. It’s around the activities of the great grandmother, 90 years old Brahmin widow who remains very very cultured for the whole of her life. But at the end of her life, she challenges the norms and values that she has been obeying for the long time. The focus of the story is not in the plot but in the ideas it generates. Like a story it is narrative and like an essay it is descriptive. It combines narration and description therefore is a narrative essay in the sense of essay, as a form of story.

This narrative essay is based on the activities of 90 years old Brahmin widow. The word widow represents the gender difference existing in the society in the name of the culture. After the death of the husband, a woman is not allowed to put on the red sari and many other jewels in the Hindu cultures. At the same time, Brahmins are compelled to follow the certain norms and values. In this respect, this narrative essay moves around the caste and gender demarcation. Caste and gender are the phenomena produced by the society and imposed upon the individuals. It is the conscious or the so-called rationality that imposes caste-gender demarcation upon us.

But the great grandmother Rukmini challenges them, though unconsciously, at the end of the life. She wants to taste coca-cola and cakes which were prohibited to her. Her demands were the manifestation of the unconscious desire, what she has been doing throughout the whole life, belongs to her conscious reality but her demand belongs to unconscious reality. When we examine the conscious and unconscious reality side by side, we observe that the human conscious is with full of prejudice and biasness. But deep in the unconscious one favors the justice and equality. By exploring into the unconscious the writer wants to explore the theme of equality.

When the great grandmother shows her desire for the socially prohibited food items and clothing mother and daughter respond in two different way. Mother perceives and daughter implements what she has perceived. The writer locates hope in the generation of grand daughter who dares to cover the dead body of grandmother with the red sari.

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