Representation of Nativist Others in Anita Desai’s Clear Light of Day

  • 何 瑞雲

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


In postcolonial Indian writings, the shock and aftermath brought by the 1947 Partition of the Indian subcontinent is very difficult for people either to confront or to neglect. Whereas most of the postcolonial Indian writers engage with the questions of the nation-state, as they enter into an explicit dialogues with the political disputes and conflicts in both colonial and postcolonial Indian society, Anita Desai, a female Indian writer known for her modernist writing style, chooses to lead readers to approach her country from a different angle—the struggles for life of Indians, mentally displaced by the 1947 partition, and the conflicted mentality of her characters. In Clear Light of Day, readers can notice her detailed, careful observations about her hometown Old Delhi and how the native Indians face the social transformations in the postcolonial era. By representing India through individual histories rather than national narratives, she provides an alternative entrance for us to get closer to postcolonial India and its people. What’s more, the elegiac and nostalgic atmosphere throughout the whole novel also draws readers’ attention to the fleeting reality of the twentieth-century Indian society. Although the story centers on the collapse of the middle-class Das family around 1947 and their later temporary reconciliation, it is almost impossible to ignore the beautiful descriptions and the congealed tensions created by Desai’s appropriation of Western modernism. Accordingly, in my thesis, I assert that Desai portrays the complicated inner feelings of the native people and delineates a different postcolonial India through her sophisticated combination of modernism and the rapidly changing Indian cultures. Starting from exploring the language and the form Desai adopts to write the story and then turning my focus to her representations of the entangled sisterhood and the social misfits either inside or around the Das family, I read Desai as a postcolonial writer that, with her alternative modernist techniques, registers in Clear Light of Day a poetic and melancholic social reality that is seldom known to readers outside India.
Date of Award2010
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorShuli Chang (Supervisor)

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