To Look Back Is to Suffer: The Lost ‘Masculinity’ of Esthappen in The God of Small Things and the Loss of a Conforming Childhood Memory of the Contemporary Young Men in Bangladesh
Abdullah Al Muktadir
Abstract: This paper is an attempt at understanding the formation of “masculinity” apropos conflicting childhood memory with reference, first, to Esthappen in Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things and, second, to the young men in Bangladesh. The paper is divided into three sections. The first section focuses on the “unusual” present as well as the split/shared memory of Esthappen to explore how he gradually develops a marginalized self and eventually stops claiming “masculinity.” The formation and evolution of a person’s childhood memories go through a culturally predetermined gendering process. It is not rare that a person, like Estha, fails to survive the gendering of memory and is, thus, led to cling to an always-traumatic childhood to look back upon. The second section, referencing differing versions of “masculinity” and Jan Assmann’s idea of “Cultural Memory,” concentrates on the young men in Bangladesh who, like Estha, have experienced stunted development of subjectivity. Acknowledging the fact that these young men live in a different spatio-temporal and socio-cultural scenario, the section shows, based on a number of interviewbased case studies, how culturally pre-determined gendering works on the development of male subjectivity. The third section places Roy’s Estha and the young men in Bangladesh, the fiction and the fact, face to face to show how unconventional dealing with childhood memory may lead a male individual to resist or fail in conforming to the mainstream ideas of masculinity.
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Published in December 2015