Belonging and not belonging : understanding India in novels by Paul Scott, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala and V.S. Naipaul
This thesis is essentially about the "how" and "why" of the Indian experience as documented in novels by Paul Scott, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala and V S Naipaul. The study points to the difficulty of arriving at any conclusive definition of the country and its people. I show that differences in attitudes, responses or behaviour are both overt and subtle, and depend upon whether the writer or the character identifies with the situation or community with which he or she interacts. It is the individual's sense of belonging or not belonging to his or her own group - be this along racial, cultural or gender lines - that accounts for the differing perspectives evident in these novels. The points-of- view of the outsider and the insider can therefore be seen as mutual comments upon the other. Since the struggle between belonging and not belonging becomes acute when the old meets the new, focus is centred on communities experiencing change. These include the British in India, West-Indian Indians and westernised Indians. Despite their differences, all three communities share similar reasons for either an acceptance or rejection of the 'Other'. The thesis argues that the need for emotional stability compels allegiance to the traditional group, while the desire for individuality encourages surrender to the new. The former nurtures a sense of belonging while, it is argued, that the latter is perceived as the hallmark of those who do not belong. Tensions arise when both these needs demand to be met. What I show to be ironic in this struggle between belonging and not belonging is that those things which individuals overtly reject are often unexpressed parts of their personal pysche. The barrier between "them" and "us" is therefore very fragile.