The IUP Journal of English Studies
The Subaltern Saga Continues: Politics of Silence and Poetics of Articulation in Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

Article Details
Pub. Date : Dec, 2018
Product Name : The IUP Journal of English Studies
Product Type : Article
Product Code : IJES11812
Author Name : Rajeshwar Mittapalli
Availability : YES
Subject/Domain : English Studies
Download Format : PDF Format
No. of Pages : 14

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Abstract

In more ways than one, Arundhati Roy’s latest novel The Ministry of Utmost Happiness continues the subaltern saga initiated in her debut novel The God of Small Things. Velutha, the titular “god of small things,” was permanently silenced for trespassing on the upper-caste social spaces and violating its moral codes. In the forty years’ interregnum between the fictional times of the two novels, the religious and sexual minorities too have joined the dalits in experiencing discrimination and ill-treatment and are required to constantly contend with outmoded moral codes, caste-based discrimination, and majoritarian violence. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness offers a mind-numbing account of how almost all its major characters experience silence for reasons beyond their control—birth, sexual orientation, social/cultural impositions, and so on—but finally learn to break it in their own individual ways. In the process, they achieve a limited realization of their true selves and learn to manage the fear, hypocrisy, and negativity imposed on them. This paper charts their passage from passivity to autonomy and concludes that they offer, as a collective, a way out of the morass Indian society is now embroiled in.


Introduction

Art and aesthetics are nowadays prone to be explained and discussed in multidisciplinary context. Accordingly, though “empathy” is a term more used in psychology and neuroscience, studies on the term have enriched the domain of art and literature as well. Redefinitions and reinterpretations have endowed the term with connotations. The English word “empathy” has been derived from the Greek word empatheia, meaning “physical affection or passion” as en means “in or at” and pathos means emotion, suffering, pity, feeling, and so on. According to Wind (1963), German philosophers Rudolf Hermann Lotze and Robert Vischer adapted the term and invented Einfühlung in 1873, meaning “in feeling” or “feeling into.” In the late nineteenth century, German philosopher Theodor Lipps adopted the notion and helped it flourish. British psychologist Edward Bradford Titchener translated the word and coined “empathy” in English in 1909 (Wispe 1987, 17-18). Ultimately, the word gained its present momentum in the early twentieth century in American experimental psychology:


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