Im studying it in my IB Diploma, and i dont understnad anything from it.
Does anyone have any good notes on it, and can help me with the main themes?
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Anyone studied 'Heat and Dust' by Ruth Jhabvala? watch
- Thread Starter
- 06-04-2011 20:24
- 11-04-2011 20:05
Coincidentally, I made a mindmap on it today. Some critics argue that Heat and Dust is a post-colonial novel. In any case, most critics agree that it is a post-modern novel at least; it demonstrates key themes and ideas through literary devices more than anything else.
Try to see it more as a novel of ideas, rather than a novel of a plot. The protagonist of the novel is not Olivia or the narrator. It's INDIA. One of the main themes of Heat and Dust is the impossibility of bi-cultural integration. The fact that no matter whether we are in colonial India, or post colonial India, it is not possible for the British to cross "to the other dimension" without suffering severe repercussions.
Such repercussions are symbolised through disease and illness (e.g. Chid and Harry), as well as the Heat and the Dust itself. Jhabvala also uses a LOT of satire and juxtaposition to show this big gap between the British and the Indians. For example, when Olivia sees the Nawab's dinner table she is in awe to see Sevres dinner service, crystals, pomegranates and pineapples (The irony is that Sevres dinner service is very expensive, whereas pomegranates and pineapples grow two a penny in India!). Moreover, when the British are having dinner, they are are having bland, soggy British food, served by bearers in turbans...
However, one must be fair to Jhabvala, as she's not merely satirical. She has her moments when she becomes lyrical about the beauty of India (which is intentional, as it represents how it can pull you in, and once you're drawn in, you cannot separate yourself from India again - exemplified by Major Minnies, Harry and the narrator). But even when she's lyrical, she cannot help emphasising her main message of how the British cannot cross into the other dimension: Major Minnies: "All these dew drops on the rose, are they tears? Moon your silver light turns all to pearls... Doesn't sound like much in English, I'm afraid" (The English language can't even describe the true beauty of India... because it is belongs to Indian understanding)
Juxtaposition also exists in the dual narrative, where you have Olivia's sections often ending at some 'Mills and Boon'-type sentimental moment, and then the narrator's section beginning in 1975, with some very factual narrative about the beggars. Even more juxtaposition exists in the description of the streets of Khatm "The streets are dense, run down and dirty. There are many many beggars.". This is immediately followed by a description of the palace: "Protected by high pearl-grey walls, the Palace is set in spacious grounds with many tall trees.". They two are highly contrasted, which also represents the complexity of India (another of Jhabvala's themes).
Another one of Jhabvala's themes is that of the British correctness and snobbery in the colonial years. Once again, she demonstrates it comically or sarcastically, through for example, Beth Crawford's posture when she went to meet the Begum, somewhere near the start of the book (can't remember an exact quote, I'm afraid!). Likewise, when they are going to the Nawab's palace in Khathm (which, by the way, means FINISHED in Urdu, giving the perfect description of the town), Jhabvala describes them to be "stoic about the uncomfortable journey, as well as about the entertainment that lay ahead of them". Stoic is a very fitting description to the typical, restrained British individual (also exemplified at times through Douglas' behaviour).
Another aspect which Jhabvala often 'attacks' is that of snobbery. Especially Olivia's. She is often sarcastic about her ("she played with her slim bracelet on her slim arm") and even when being the omniscient narrator through Olivia, she's rather bitter - e.g. "Olivia was by no means a snob, but she was aesthetic and the details Mrs Saunders gave were not; also Mrs Saunders' accent was not that of a too highly educated person"
The writing of the narrator in 1975 is purposely journalistic. She frequently describes scenes factually and descriptively, with an absence of sentimentality. This is deliberate. Jhabvala wants the reader to empathise with India - not the Characters. I don't know about you, but I found I couldn't truly be fond of any of the characters in the book, bar Major Minnies. The narrative is bound up with its epistolery heritage, as it is based on Olivia's letters and the narrator's journal, thus it reproduces reality using style. The distance that Jhabvala creates between characters and the reader allows the reader to become critical and alert to the satire.
As with most novels, there is a a bit of symbolism in Heat and Dust too. Namely, the musical chairs game which ends with the Nawab and Olivia is a type of symbol of India vs. Britain. This makes it all the more symbolic when the Nawab doesn't let Olivia win, but actually competitively grabs the last seat and wins (also a bit proleptic, as in the end he succeeds in tainting the British name and getting the British District Officer's wife pregnant). Another symbol is the marble angel, which in the 1975 narrative is described to be "a headless, wingless torso". This symbolises what happened to the British power in India, and this is further enhanced by the "weed-choked" British graves, which are contrasted to the clean, Indian christian graves, which were evidently kept in a good condition.
Ummm... I can't think of much else off the top of my head. It's not my favourite out of the novels, but it can be pretty handy with some of the questions on Paper 2!
- Thread Starter
- 11-04-2011 22:09
I like u.
thanks SOOOO much. Beautiful notes!
- 04-05-2011 18:53
uh wow that post has saved me, thankyou SO MUCH
- 04-05-2011 19:16
happen to have anything for Wide sargasso sea and/or like water for chocolate?
yes.. i am attempting to salvage a decent grade in english by shamelessly picking other TSRer's brains