dc113507 on May 9th 2012
With the theme of my blog being contemporary parallels and reflections in world literature I find it so fitting that our semester ends with a text that takes us into the modern day world we know and, sometimes love, today. The World literature texts we have read throughout the semester have given our class the opportunity to become introduced to many lifestyles and societies void of Western world attributes that encompass our lives daily.
Anita Desais novella ‘The Rooftop Dwellers’ switches the analytical gears in the minds of our class readers. Up until this point we have had the task of trying to identify ourselves with characters such as Ivan Illyich, Tartuffe, and we can’t forget Gregor the bug. Desai published this novel in the year 2000. The main protagonist of ‘Rooftop,’ Moyna lives in a time period that we as young adults can more easily relate to. Authors at the turn of the century began to take their own unique approach to the development of their texts. These texts were responses to their surroundings. But this time around their surroundings are ones in which our present day readers can envision themselves living in.
Society is ever changing, and ‘Rooftop’ succeeds in portraying the changes occurring in the beginning of the 21st century. Compared to the prior generations in India, the society Moyna lived in showed a society in which the typical familial and societal roles were starting to change. As an example, the role women were expected to play in society in ‘Rooftop’ differs vastly when compared to the role expected of them during Liusu’s life in ‘Love in a Fallen City’. These changes are much more representative to the lives of modern day readers. A society in which a mother works a 9 to 5 job is a society in which a Baruch college student, or any college student for that matter can more strongly identify with. Compared to the lifestyle of Liusu in ‘Love in a Fallen City’ the lifestyle and ambitions of Moyna in ‘Rooftop Dwellers’ are more relative and relatable to a young audience today. As a young woman I found it difficult to identify with Liusu’s character. When I compare the vast differences between our societies it’s hard for me to even imagine myself in her shoes. From the harsh treatment she receives from her family because of her divorce to the role she is asked to play in her ex-husband’s wake, many aspects of this society would make a 21st century young adult cringe. Obligation to one’s family is something I strongly believe in. But the sacrifices Liusu made for her family, only to receive emotional abuse in return is atrocious to me.
As a reader, I have always felt that it is easier to immerse myself into a literary text that was more relative to my life. To be able to read a story as if you were the protagonist facing whatever dilemma he or she was confronted with allows you as a reader to engage in a completely different level of understanding and analysis. I felt this way when I read ‘Rooftop Dwellers’. Ok ok so maybe I have never had to experience the living conditions of a basarti. And I’ll admit that I’ve never had to wake up at 4:30 in the morning to fill buckets with water for the day so I could shower. But so many struggles Moyna faces as a young woman, coming of age and trying to thrive in a society that is ready to reject her, are so easy for me to relate to. As a young woman, especially a college student trying to work hard in my academics and maintain a life at home, I can almost feel Moyna’s frustrations throughout the novella. Is her basarti glamourous? No, but it’s hers, something she can be proud to call her own, unattached and separate from her family. This independence is something I so strongly admired and valued in her character. Is her job in publishing her dream job? Of course not! But it got her foot in the door and a step in the right direction. Her unwavering perseverance and desire to maintain independence is true of so many young people today who are trying to build themselves from the ground up. The heavy importance her family places on higher education rings so true for young people today. How much more unacceptable is it now for a person’s education to stop at a high school level when compared to a few generations ago? The discrimination Moyna faces as she tries to independently start her own life as a naïve woman is a major change from a society where an ambitious young woman wouldn’t even go as far as to consider attaining a higher education or even a life outside of her husband and family. This struggle is something we all have in common with and I feel this blatant aspect of emerging western life is something that makes ‘Rooftop Dwellers’ so easy and enjoyable to read. My ability to identify with Moyna’s life allowed me to develop a deeper level of attachment to her character which only lead to a greater appreciation of Desai’s brilliant text!
I wonder if this is the kind of rooftop living Moyna had to live in. If so I could get used to it