Monday, October 8, 2012

Salmon Rushdie's Shame

 In Salmon Rushdie’s novel Shame, the character of Sufiya Zinobia is the shame of Pakistan as well as the shame of her family because she represents the unconscious feelings of those that surround her. Like a sponge, she absorbs all of the emotion that is not “allowed” to be expressed outwardly by her family and friends. Sufiya is the shame of her parents because she was born the wrong sex. Although this is not her fault, she is made to feel that it is, and is treated rather badly. In Pakistan, the first born child is always wanted to be a boy, and since their first born boy was choked by the umbilical cord, Sufiya’s parents feel especially mal towards her. She grows slowly, adding to the frustration of her parents who want nothing to do with her. In one certain episode, she killed about 200 turkeys which belong to her fathers mistress. I believe that she, even though it was done unconsciously, killed the turkeys to satisfy and gain the affection of her mother. This backfired however, and Sufiya was forced to feel the shame of her family and her actions once again. Sufiya in her culture, represents everything that she is not supposed to be. She is not supposed to be a girl in a mans world. She is not supposed to show emotion, yet she blushes all the time and under any circumstance. She is essentially a monster, created (I believe) by her mother alone. After their supposed-to-be-son was killed during child birth, her mother was so full of shame that she decided she would try again to create a boy. Her shame turned inward on herself, allowing Sufiya to become her shame embodied. She must live with it forever. “What seems certain is that Surfiya Zinobia, for so long burdened with being a miracle-gone-wrong, a family’s shame made flesh, had discovered in the labyrinths of her unconscious self the hidden path that links sharam to violence; and that, awakening, she was as surprised as anyone by the force of what had been unleashed (Rushdie 162).” This quote explains the connection between shame and violence. Sufiya had been so overcome by the shame of her family that she committed such a heinous crime of killing nearly 200 turkeys, that instead of pleasing her mother, she upset her even more, causing even more shame to rain down upon herself. After the turkey deaths, Sufiya is so overwhelmed with shame that she inflicts a sort of sickness upon herself, undoubtedly a sort-of self-punishment for causing her family even more shame than necessary. It wasn’t only her family’s shame that caused Sufiya to blush so much however, Sufiya felt the shame of the world. According to Rushdie; “Sufiya Zinobia Hyder blushed uncontrollably whenever her presence in the world was noticed by others. But she also, I believe, blushed for the world.” This quote is interesting because it plays with the idea that Sufiya Zinobia is a kind-of “scape-goat” for the worlds problems and issues. She is a girl growing up in mans world, in a country that is in turmoil for it is not yet formed. Sufiya feels the emotions of the people that surround her, and she absorbs their feelings and ideas like a sponge and, bottling them up, eventually bursts with a type of violence that only a monster could. According to McLeod, nationalism and gender are very important. Each gender has their own role to play in the formation of a society. In the context of Shame, Sufiya Zinobia serves no true purpose but to embody the very essence of what the novel is about. So far, she is neither a reproducer or a participant in ethnic collectives. Historically, says McLeod, women have been positioned within national discourses as reproducers of members and boundaries of ethnic collectives. Sufiya Zinobia is neither of these, but her story is essential as she represents the ways in which the other characters SHOULD feel and act, but do not because of their culture and stati.

The difference between this blog post and my last is that I feel I have a more substantial thesis. I have also used direct quotes and incorporated ideas from McLeod into my writing. However, I do feel that it was hard to write about what Sufiya Zinobia truly represents because we have not finished her story. I have just finished part 3 and she just got married, I feel that her true significance to the novel is yet to come.

This is an interview with the author of our novel. He states that in Indian culture "honour" resides within the male and "shame" resides within the female. Throughout their lives, each are required to do things, or not to do things, that would either enhance or compromise these qualities. However, the only way to be sure that the female does not bring "shame" upon her family or husband is by allowing her to do basically nothing. She has to be repressed on a variety of different platforms, or else it is unavoidable to bring some form of shame upon her family. This was the case with our main character Sufiya. To the eyes of the Indian culture, she represents shame, she IS shame. But I see her as representing power. She essentially, doesn't let anybody get away with anything, and although the things she does may be unconscious, in the absolute being of her soul she is power. I believe that Rushdie represents her this way to show the connotation that developed out of the fact that she was born a girl when her parents so desperately wanted a boy. From her very birth in the eyes of the Indian culture, she was shameful. Through her maturity and her actions she brings the wrath upon her family and the society which she represents. Rushdie does an incredible job of portraying the Indian values and culture, while also bringing the character to the forefront so the audience can experience what it means to be "shame." He also speaks towards the end about "honour killings" in which a father or a husband would put to death the member of the family that had brought shame upon their good name. He states that these killings are still occurring, even within contemporary society.

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