Rushdie's SHAME ... Fairy tale?!?

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Offline Gopa B. Caesar

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Rushdie's SHAME ... Fairy tale?!?
« on: December 04, 2011, 09:02:38 PM »
Before going into detailed disbussion of the modern fairy tale, let's have look at the plot for a while...
Shame begins and ends in a fantastic house in the town of Q., located on the arid, isolated border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Nicknamed Nishapur, home of the great Persian poet Omar Khayyam, it is inhabited by three sisters who for twelve years raise a son, named for the poet. They rear him in strict isolation from the world, instilling in his brilliant mind a strange feeling of being peripheral and inverted. In exchange for being allowed to attend school, Omar is ordered never to feel shame (sharam in Arabic). He goes away to medical school and a brilliant career as an immunologist and shame does indeed appear to have no part in his voyeuristic, misogynistic character.
Omar befriends and debauches with a rich playboy, Iskander ("Isky") Harappa, who marries Rani Humayun, who immediately sees Omar as a threat. Isky and Rani have one daughter, Arjumand, nicknamed the "Virgin Ironpants," for her determination to overcome her gender sexually and professionally. On his 40th birthday, Isky hears the call of History and abandons his debauchery to enter politics. For years, he has been the rival of Raza Hyder, a military hero who calls himself "Old Razor Guts." Raza has married Bilquìs Kemal, a woman whose mind is shaken by the suicide of her idealistic father. After a wrenching stillbirth, they bear two daughters, Sufiya Zinobia (nicknamed "Shame") and Naveed (nicknamed "Good News").The elder, left mentally retarded by a fever as an infant, takes within herself all the unfelt shame of the world, which eventually becomes incarnate as a Beast. The Beast makes her behead a flock of turkeys and she falls ill with the plague of shame. Omar treats her immunological disorder and falls in love with her. At her sister's wedding, the Beast again makes her lash out and she bites the groom in the neck. Omar marries her quietly, nonetheless, but he is forbidden to have sexual relations with her. Despite her mental limitations, Sufiya Zinobia knows husbands are for giving women babies and when her Omar impregnates her ayah Shahbanou,, the Beast again takes over and four young men are forced to make love to Sufiya Zinobia and have their heads torn off.

Omar and Raza Hyder realize the truth and drug and imprison Sufiya Zinobia, unable to kill her. Raza Hyder, who was placed in charge of the army by Prime Minister Iskander Harappa, has overthrown him, instituted Islamic law and allowed Isky to be tried, brutally imprisoned and executed. Raza is himself overthrown by a military coup and flees with Bilquìs and Omar, to supposed safety in fortress-like Nishapur, disguised shamefully in women's burqas. There, Omar's three mothers rejoice to find Raza, the murderer of their second son Babar, in their hands. After the visitors endure the wild ravings of malaria, the three sisters dispatch Raza Hyder with great gore in the dumbwaiter they had specially customized to serve as their means of limited communications with the outside world. The Beast that has taken over Sufiya Zinobia hunts Omar in the bed where his grandfather died and after a last eye-to-eye confrontation, beheads him. The shell of Sufiya Zinobia is cast off, set free and the spouse-protagonists are consumed in a great fire.

Offline Gopa B. Caesar

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Re: Rushdie's SHAME ... Fairy tale?!?
« Reply #1 on: December 04, 2011, 09:04:34 PM »
a coherent fairytale poetics

Rushdie’s technique involves a consistent paraphrasing of Western and Oriental fairytales.
        -addresses the complex status of the genre in contemporary culture
Shame, a Rushdiean reinterpretation of the Beauty-and-the-Beast fairytale motif
        -a postmodern feminist subversion of the master narrative of Euro-American androcentric culture.
Fairytale came under suspicion of feminist critics during the women's movements in the United States and Europe in the late 1960s
        -exposes the genre's alignments with patriarchal cultural practices in Western societies
        -questions about how canonical tales sustain gendered perspectives 
For example, fairytales inculcate in female readers the conviction that only through marriage can they attain social status and wealth and garner moral plaudits.

Offline Gopa B. Caesar

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Re: Rushdie's SHAME ... Fairy tale?!?
« Reply #2 on: December 04, 2011, 09:15:20 PM »
From Cinderella to Barbie
Karen E. Rowe shows how romantic fantasies of Cinderella, Snow White or Sleeping Beauty, which praise female subjugation to male power, "encourage women to internalise only aspirations deemed appropriate to our 'real' sexual functions within a patriarchy" (Rowe 1986, 211).
           -In the mass media they become fully commodified and paralysed-mass-produced images that can be manipulated to suit various purposes.
Whereas fairytales glamourise female helplessness, beauty and submission, self-aware and non-conformist women are depicted unkindly; they invariably have to pay for their rebellion by being either ostracised or killed.
           -The powerful women are usually wicked witches or stepmothers, whose assertiveness and independence prove destructive.
Revisionist feminist stories focus on recycling old paradigms or on experimenting with themes, structures, and styles in ways that de-emphasise male domination and show that existing social arrangements are not natural but artificial constructs.
            -Ex. Angela Carter or Margaret Atwood

"men in feminism"
How should we react to male sympathisers of the feminist struggle if they are part of the system which privileges men?
Stephen Heath contends in his essay on "Male Feminism":
... no matter how "sincere," "sympathetic" or whatever, we are always also in a male position which brings with it all the implications of domination and appropriation, everything precisely that is being challenged, that has to be altered (Heath 1987, 1).
According to Heath, when a male author attempts a feminist reconfiguration of a fairytale, one should expect that his story should combine the following elements:
the archaeological task of "excavation," sifting through the strata of hostile patriarchal representations (Sellers 2001, 22). Also the revelation of how patriarchal systems victimise and reify women, often with the victims' acquiescence, and how fairytales perpetuate these dominant ideologies;
a subversive postmodern agenda of discontinuities, paradoxes, and multivocalities; and
emancipatory departures from previous representations of women, encouraging readers to reconstruct gender perspectives and identities.

Offline Gopa B. Caesar

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Re: Rushdie's SHAME ... Fairy tale?!?
« Reply #3 on: December 04, 2011, 09:16:55 PM »

From Beauty to Sufiya Zinobia

Rushdie has rewritten Beauty and the Beast.
is it simply a writerly strategy?
Rushdie is aware that fairytale images or motifs have become significant cultural factors that mediate between culture, social groups and individuals in the process of constructing our perception of reality. 
does this story become an act of femaling and a move against sexist bias;
does he resort to the language of patriarchy,
does he use it to offer any workable options to the sexist archetypes?
In Shame, Rushdie presents his critique of social and political life in Pakistan, marked by the unification project aimed at transforming the country into "the Land of the Pure."
resorting to the strategy of fictional historiography and reflecting "that world in fragments of broken mirrors" through the arbitrary selection and interpretation of facts, juxtaposed with official historical accounts
He uses this subversive method to suggest that the development of Pakistan has been thwarted by the repressive rule of dictators, and that the country remains in the darkness of feudalism, theocracy and misogyny.

Offline Gopa B. Caesar

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Re: Rushdie's SHAME ... Fairy tale?!?
« Reply #4 on: December 04, 2011, 09:17:53 PM »
Shame depicts Pakistani history through the stories of several native women, Rani Harappa, Bilquis Hyder, Naveed "the Good News," Arjumand Harappa, and Sufiya Zinobia.
"it is commonly and ... accurately said of Pakistan that her women are much more impressive than her men-their chains, nevertheless, are no fictions. They exist. And they are getting heavier" (Rushdie 1995, 173).
One dominant story (shaped after Beauty and the Beast) of Shame is that of the elder daughter of Bilquis and Raza Hyder, Sufiya Zinobia
"the wrong miracle" : a son would have brought a more positive history of Pakistan
"Once upon a time there was a retarded daughter who for twelve years had been given to understand that she embodied her mother's shame." (135).
 
Affected by a brain fever, the retarded Sufiya is doomed to become "shame made flesh" (139)
An arranged marriage in which "the opposed poles of Beautyness and Beastdom" gradually approach each other so as to finally merge in the union of "Beauty Bibi" and "Beast Sahib"
Woman must make the best of her fate, for if she does not love Man, why then he dies, the Beast perishes, and Woman is left a widow, that is to say, less than a daughter, less than a wife, worthless (158).

"[W]hat if the girl really couldn't bear the husband chosen for her ... what if a Beast somehow lurked inside Beauty Bibi? What if the beauty were herself the beast?"

Offline Gopa B. Caesar

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Re: Rushdie's SHAME ... Fairy tale?!?
« Reply #5 on: December 04, 2011, 09:18:47 PM »
Violent Metamorphosis

the overpowering shame changes into "one of those supernatural beings, those exterminating or avenging angels, or werewolves, or vampires, about whom we are happy to read in stories" (197).
As a child she develops a habit of tearing hair
First she kills 218 turkeys, then gives her sister's bridegroom a painful bite on the neck; finally, she begins to murder people.

Offline Gopa B. Caesar

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Re: Rushdie's SHAME ... Fairy tale?!?
« Reply #6 on: December 04, 2011, 09:20:20 PM »
Marriage Redrafted

Omar is the only man who would marry his unmarriageable daughter.
The doctor desires a brainless beauty
He is a beast inside, although a smartly clad ’beautiful’ man outside
Shameless social-climber
"a private affair; no guests, no marquees"
Not as pompous as in fairytales
Overweening father stops Omar from sleeping with his bride; Omar sleeps and impregnates the ayah
Sufiya tears off the heads of four men:
Alludes to the Shariah and four wives
Omar, however, begins to feel "a twinge of shame" about his extramarital affair with Sufiya's ayah (235).
He gradually gains awareness of the true nature of his wife's beastliness: "Sufiya Zinobia's metamorphosis must have been willed, because even an autohypnotist cannot ask herself to do what she would be unwilling to do. So then she had chosen, she had created the Beast..." (244).
Sympathises with her animality and equates it as a gesture of freedom
"proud of her strength, proud of the violence that was making her a legend, that prohibited anyone from telling her what to do, or whom to be, or what she did not "wish to hear ... nobility in ... savagery …for the first time in her life ... that girl is free" (254).
Sleeping Beauty
Fairytale like accepatance of a beast-spouse
In Heath’s term, Rushdie then is a man "aware of feminism" .
Instead of acknowledging women's right to equality, which is relatively easy, he must accept the inequality of his own status, which in turns means understanding that his "equality is the masking term for [women's] oppression”
women are not equal with me and the struggle is not for that equality
Rushdie seems to understand that, even though it may not be possible to fully identify with the female cause, he may still advocate admiration and the happy acceptance of the irreducible.
Inderpal Grewal critiques Rushdie’s ‘feminist project’
it does not form any alliance between the writer and women and it does not erase "the Self-Other opposition with which women have been patriarchally reified"
because of the "Othering," Rushdie's women have no individual identity and fit stereotypical patriarchal conceptions such as, in Sufiya's case, woman as insane and retarded yet mysterious, vampire-like and murderous, a temptress who must be feared.
Virgin-monster dichotomy: both killed
Silence or enacted: postmodern lack of closure

Offline Gopa B. Caesar

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Re: Rushdie's SHAME ... Fairy tale?!?
« Reply #7 on: December 04, 2011, 09:25:49 PM »
looking for some other women to talk from Shame??? here they goooooooo...

Bilquis Hyder is allowed to vent her long-muted scolding of her husband, but her rebukes are "full of curtains and oceans and rockets" (229-30).

Arjumand Harappa is so blindly devoted to her father that she ignores all the atrocities he commits, and thereby espouses the very hegemony that causes the oppression of women.

Virgin Ironpant

Offline Tamanna Islam

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Re: Rushdie's SHAME ... Fairy tale?!?
« Reply #8 on: December 05, 2011, 04:28:47 PM »
:)

Offline Gopa B. Caesar

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Re: Rushdie's SHAME ... Fairy tale?!?
« Reply #9 on: December 05, 2011, 11:07:54 PM »
i hope you liked it. :)

Offline Tamanna Islam

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Re: Rushdie's SHAME ... Fairy tale?!?
« Reply #10 on: December 07, 2011, 10:12:19 PM »
can i borrow your copy?

Offline Gopa B. Caesar

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Re: Rushdie's SHAME ... Fairy tale?!?
« Reply #11 on: December 07, 2011, 10:43:28 PM »
sure!

Offline Ferdousi Begum

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Re: Rushdie's SHAME ... Fairy tale?!?
« Reply #12 on: December 07, 2011, 11:01:47 PM »
Rushdie must be your favourite :)

Offline Gopa B. Caesar

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Re: Rushdie's SHAME ... Fairy tale?!?
« Reply #13 on: December 07, 2011, 11:14:54 PM »
i like Rushdie a lot (^_^)

Offline Antara11

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Re: Rushdie's SHAME ... Fairy tale?!?
« Reply #14 on: February 02, 2013, 09:40:46 AM »
Thanks Gopa for this interesting story.
Antara Basak
Senior Lecturer
Dept. of English