The fiction of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala : irony within a dual philosophical framework
The thesis examines how Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, writing from the ironic perspective of the rootless, displaced European writer, utilises a dual framework of Hindu philosophy and religious tradition, and Platonic thought on Love to augment the .ironic narrative of her Indian and Western novels. The framework is discerned in allusions as well as fluid suggestions and associations to the Bhagavad Gita, The Symposium, moral precepts, ideals, cultural norms, myth and folk-tales. Northrop Frye's schema for narrative fiction as developed in Anatomy of Criticism provides a useful theoretical basis for the study. In particular the phases or literary structures of the comic and ironic mythoi, together with the typical traditional characters of comedy and irony - the deceiving and self-deceived alazon, the self-deprecating eiron and the scapegoat, the pharmakos - facilitate a grouping of the novels that corresponds to Jhabvala's darkening ironic viewpoint. The moral paradigms that operate in each novel are integrated with the particular features of the ironic mythos it manifests,to highlight the discrepancy be tween i deal and reality, between what is hoped for and what is achieved. The analysis traces how the Hindu frame work enhances the workings of Jhabvala's irony in the first two groups of ironic comedies and comic ironies. In the group of later and darker ironies, Hindu and Platonic ideas are ironic foils t o the quests of Western spiritual seekers in India. Finally in the two Western novels the hopeless search for Love and Beauty features ironic parallels to and inversions of Platonic and classical ideals and archetypes. The thesis is thus primarily a close reading of Jhabvala's ironic fiction. It also offers a perspective on contemporary fiction; as the work of the initiated - outsider her Indian writing suggests a contrast to that of new literatures in English which call upon cultural and traditional heritage mainly to highlight national identity and vitality.