Materialism in Aravind Adiga’s Last Man in Tower

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Published on January 19, 2017

Author: Kommuru.Dasaradhi

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slide 1: www.ijellh.com 241 Materialism in Aravind A d i g a ’ s Last Man in Tower K. Dasaradhi Research Scholar Rashtrasant Tukadoji Maharaj Nagpur University Nagpur A. Karunasri Asst. Prof of English Balaji Institute of Technology and Science Narsampet Warangal Telangana Prof. Dharmapal B. Fulzele Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar College Center for Post- Graduate Studies Bramhapuri Dist. Chandrapur Maharashtra India Abstract: This paper is an attempt to explore materialism in Aravind Adiga’s ‘Last Man in Tower’. Marxism offers a sociological context and interpretation of cultural forms. It finds all cultural forms within socio-economic situations prevailing in a specific society. ‘Base and Superstructure’ is a one of the significant concepts associated with Marxist thought. For Marxism economy is the base and superstructure rests upon it. Marxism is a materialistic philosophy which is against the idealist philosophy that believes in the existence of a spiritual world. Materialism in AravindAdiga’s ‘Last Man in Tower’ tries to see the sights how the desire to become rich makes people dehumanized in the age of globalization. Adiga in the slide 2: www.ijellh.com 242 novel reveals the crimes associated with real estate which is one of the booming industries in the age of globalization. Key Words: Materialism Marxism Base and Superstructure Globalization Real Estate Literature and society are i ‎ nterconnected with e ‎ ach othe ‎ r. Literature inf ‎ luences and get ‎ s influence ‎ d b ‎ y the society. It is no ‎ t o ‎ nly mer ‎ e a ‎ n ar ‎ tistic wr ‎ iting that expr ‎ esses a ‎ esthetic se ‎ nse bu ‎ t als ‎ o a piec ‎ e of wor ‎ k that echo ‎ es the socio-economic cultural and political sce ‎ ne of a parti ‎ cular society. Indian Eng ‎ lish nove ‎ ls are n ‎ o excepti ‎ on to th ‎ is ph ‎ enomenon of literature. Earlie ‎ r Indian fictions dea ‎ lt with national social and domestic issues such as pos ‎ t-par ‎ tition p‎ roblems c ‎ ommunal v ‎ iolence social di ‎ sparity untou ‎ chability and huma ‎ n relationshi ‎ ps. Af ‎ ter the daw ‎ n of globalization t ‎ here has be ‎ en a gr ‎ eater thema ‎ tic swi ‎ ng fro ‎ m national and domestic issues to the issues co ‎ ncerning to globalization in the rec ‎ ent Indian fictions. Althou ‎ gh globalization has bo ‎ th positiv ‎ e and negative effects on the developing nations they b‎ ecome mor ‎ e h ‎ elpless to the negative cons ‎ equences of globalization as co ‎ mpared to the develo ‎ ped nations. Hen ‎ ce contempora ‎ ry Indian writer ‎ s mainlyg ‎ ive pro‎ minence to the socio- economic cultural political and eco ‎ logical effects of globalization on the developing nations. Befor ‎ e goin ‎ g to defin ‎ e mat ‎ erialism it is imp ‎ erative to kno ‎ w about Marxism. Marxism off ‎ ers a soci ‎ ological conte ‎ xt and interpretatio ‎ n of cultural forms wheth ‎ er it is a film or forms of literature such as drama poetry and novel. It fin ‎ ds al ‎ l cultural forms within socio- economic situat ‎ ions prev ‎ ailing in a specific society. Thus it trusts that cultural forms mirror social conditions and the poetry or drama or novel or film often discloses the truth about classes class conflict and power relations within a society.Pramod K. Nayar pointed out “Marxism is often termed „materialistic criticism‟ because it seeks to establish a link between actual material conditions-the economy salary factory conditions profits forms of living population-and cultural formsart and abstract representations in cultural forms”126. One of the most common concepts associated with Marxist thought would be „base and superstructure‟. „Base‟ denotes the factors and relations of production such as industry the labour the markets and the commodities. „Superstructure‟ refers to the law literature the arts religion media etc. The economic conditions in a society establish the „base‟ because they determine the nature and character of the social and cultural forms. The cultural aspects create the superstructure. „Base‟ denotes the factors and relations of production such as industry the labour the markets and the commodities. „Superstructure‟ slide 3: www.ijellh.com 243 refers to the law literature the arts religion media etc. The economic conditions in a society establish the „base‟ because they determine the nature and character of the social and cultural forms. The cultural aspects create the superstructure. The aim of the Marxism is to create classless society based on the common ownership of the means of production distribution and exchange. Peter Barry gives detail description of Marxism as: Marxism is a materialist philosophy: that is it tr ‎ ies to ex ‎ plain thing ‎ s wit ‎ hout assumi ‎ ng the existence of a world or of fo ‎ rces beyo ‎ nd the natu ‎ ral world ar ‎ ound u ‎ s and the so ‎ ciety w ‎ e liv ‎ e in. it l ‎ ooks for concre ‎ te scie ‎ ntific logic ‎ al explanations of the world of ob ‎ servable fac ‎ t. It ‎ s oppo ‎ site is ideal ‎ ist philosophy wh ‎ ich d ‎ oes bel ‎ ieve in the existence of a spiritual „world elsewher ‎ e‟ and woul ‎ d off ‎ er for instance religi ‎ ous explanations of life and conduc ‎ t. Bu ‎ t whe ‎ reas o ‎ ther phi ‎ losophies m ‎ erely se ‎ ek to understa ‎ nd the world Marxism as M ‎ arx famous ‎ ly s ‎ aid seek ‎ s to c ‎ hange it. Marxism see ‎ s progress as comi ‎ ng a ‎ bout thro ‎ ugh the struggle for p ‎ ower betwe ‎ en differen ‎ t social clas ‎ ses. Th ‎ is v ‎ iew of his ‎ tory as class struggle rath ‎ er than as for instance a success ‎ ion of dynas ‎ ties or as a gradual progress towards the attainment of national identity and sovereignty regards it as „motored‟ by the completion for economic social and political advantage. The exploitation of one social class by another is seen especially in modern industrial capitalism particularly in its unrestricted nineteenth- century form. The result of this exploitation is alienation 150-151. Oxford Advanced Learner‟s Dictionary of Current English defines „Materialism‟ as: “the belief that money possessions and physical comforts are more important than spiritual values”948. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines „Materialism‟ as: “a theory that physical matter is the only or fundamental reality and that all being and processes and phenomena can be explained as manifestations or results of matter”www.merriam-webster.com on 01/08/2016. According to Cambridge English Dictionary Materialism is “the belief that having money and possessions is the most important thing in life” www.dictionary.cambridge.org on 01/08/2016. Thus materialism gives emphasis on the material objects by rejecting the spiritual intellectual and cultural values. Materialism in Aravind Adiga‟sLast Man in Tower endeavors to look at the sights how the desire to become rich makes people act less empathetic and humanitarian in the age of globalization. The Man Booker Prize winning writer AravindAdiga‟s debut novel The slide 4: www.ijellh.com 244 WhiteTiger throws light on the dark India which remains untouched by the rapid economic transformations of the 21 st century. His second novel Last Man in Tower reveals the crimes associated with real estate which is one of the booming industries in the age of globalization. Real estate is the property in the form of land and building or the business of selling houses or land for building. The novel explores how the lust for wealth to become rich makes people more selfish and incites them to do filthy inconceivable things to other fellow-beings. In reality globalization which seems to have contributed to the growth of developing nations has widened the divide between the rich and the poor in developing nations. As a result the unquenchable lust for wealth drives the middle class and the under privileged to indulge in criminal activities and for becoming the human beings moreinhumane. When one peeps into the human history one comes to know that the commencement of any new century epitomizes a symbolic change in the lives of human beings. The 21 st century is no exception to this manifestation of change. The present century is facing incredible changes in economic social cultural and political spheres which are often referred to as „globalization‟. It is a lively process of liberalization and international assimilation of markets and technology. Manfred B. Steger defines globalization as: “a multidimensional set of social processes that create multiply stretch and intensify worldwide social interdependencies and exchanges while at the same time flustering in people a growing awareness of deepening connections between the local and the distant” 13. In essence it refers to the procedures of worldwide interconnectedness and inter-relatedness across all spheres such as the social the cultural the economical the political and the ecological site. In contemporary decades the blossoming real estate industry which is one of the growth engines of the national economy turns out to be the richest and powerful agency in reorganizing social life of the middle class. It would be valuable to know the concept of middle class in the Indian context as the novel centers around the Indian middle class. Pavan K. Varma pours a new insight while defining the middle class in the Indian context as: Anybody who has a home to live in and can afford three meals a day and has access to basic health care public transport and schooling with some disposable income to buy such basics as a fan or watch or cycle has already climbed on to the middle classbandwagon XVIII. In countries like India China and Nepal the new middle classes are viewed as motivated as they believe “the privileged lifestyles” and “distinctive images” described by slide 5: www.ijellh.com 245 media culture and corporate world through the advertisements and the projection of commodities as natural as possible. Consequently the ambitious middle classes are victimized by exploitative property developers who make profit out of such popular dreaming. Although the urban middle classes are the beneficiaries of economic globalization but often they become open to economic disaster. As Li Zhang clarifies: Although the national economy has been growing at a fast pace there is a profound sense of uncertainty about how long the economic miracle will last and where one can put his or her newfound wealth in safekeeping. Yet this fear can also drive individuals to take bigger risks such as venturing into the “gray” economy in order to accumulate more wealth and secure their privileged position. 204. Thus the fear of falling persuades people to do vicious and illicit activities. It is this galling greed for money and the loss of fellow feeling in the age of globalization make people more materialistic. People care more about money and possessions than anything else. Adiga‟sLast Man in Tower is the story of Yogesh Murthy the retired science teacher lovingly known as Masterji who turns down the plentiful offer of Dharmen Shah the callous real estate mogul of Mumbai. The storycircles around the Indian middle class residents of Tower A of Vishram co-operative housing society in Vakola Mumbai. AdigapronouncesVakola as “On a map of Mumbai Vakola is a cluster of ambiguous dots that cling polyp-like to the under-side of the domestic airport on the ground the polyps turn out to be slums and spread out on every side of Vishram Society” 3. Although Tower A and Tower B are built within the same compound wall often Tower A is referred to as „Vishram society‟. Its residents are proud of the fact that Vishram is “pucca absolutely unimpeachably pucca” 3 compared to its crumbling neighborhood.Adiga gives a beautiful description of the Vishram as: Vishram is a building like the people living in it middle class to its core.Improvement or failure it is incapable of either extremity. The men have modest paunches wear checked polyester shirts over white banyans and keep their hair oiled and short. The older women wear saries salwarkameez or skirts and the younger ones wear jeans. All of them pay taxes support charities and vote in local and general elections.Just one glance at Vishram in the evening as its residents sit in white plasticchairs in the compound chit-chatting fanning themselves with the Times ofIndia and you know that this Society is – what else – pucca.9 slide 6: www.ijellh.com 246 The colour of Tower A “once pink is now rainwater-stained fungus-licked grey…. Luxuriant ferns green and reddish green blur the corners of some windows making them look like entrances to small caves” 5. Tower A is in the precarious state after more than four decades of monsoons air pollution and erosion. Although it has possible chance to collapse in the next monsoon “no one either in Vishram Society or in the neighbourhood at large really believes that it will fall” 9. Tower A of Vishram society was built in late 1950s. The three – foot-tall polished black-stone cross indicates as: “the building was originally meant for Roman Catholics. Hindus were admitted in the late 1960s and in the 1980s the better kind of Muslim - Bohra Ismaili college-educated. Vishram is now entirely „cosmopolitan‟ i.e. ethnically and religiously mixed”5. Adigaexplicates the problems and struggles met by the residents of Vishram society as: Like most buildings in Vakola does not receive a 24 - hour supply of running water. Since it is on the poorer eastern side of the train tracks Vakola is blessed only twice a day by the Municipality. The residents have fitted storage tanks above their bathrooms but these can only hold so much larger tanks threaten the stability of a building this ancient. 7 They may be in the midst of the slums of Vakola or have their own personal problems but the members of Tower A are well-known for their Good-neighborliness‟ and middle class virtue. The suitable occupiers of Vishram society includean old retired science teacher a real estate broker a social worker a retired accountant and a cyber café owner. Sixty-one years old Yogesh Murthy is the protagonist of the novel who lives alone in his apartment in the memory of his deceased wife Purnima and daughter Sandhya. He feels his wife‟s presence through the vapors of mothballs old newspaper and silk sari. Hi ‎ s only survivin ‎ g son Gaur ‎ av a ba ‎ nker is living in Sou ‎ th Mumbai Marin ‎ e L ‎ ines. In his s ‎ pare tim ‎ e he offers to ‎ p-u‎ p c ‎ lasses to the chi ‎ ldren of the residents and play ‎ s with his rubi ‎ k‟s cub ‎ e. Mran ‎ d M ‎ rsPuri a Hi ‎ ndu middle-age ‎ d coupl ‎ e living with their 18 – yea ‎ r-ol ‎ d son Ra ‎ mu w ‎ ho has D ‎ own s ‎ yndrome. Rames ‎ h Ajwani a real estate bro ‎ ker has l ‎ ost his inve ‎ stments not only in s ‎ tock market but also in real estate busines ‎ s. S ‎ omeone o ‎ r other has always deceive ‎ d hi ‎ m: “In the m ‎ ovie of his ow ‎ n life he h ‎ ad to admi ‎ t he was just a co ‎ median” 134. Mrs Georg ‎ ina Reg ‎ o the b ‎ attleship always trie ‎ s to trum ‎ p h ‎ er w ‎ ell-of ‎ f si ‎ ster. Mr. and Mrs. Pin ‎ tos s ‎ hare a go ‎ od relationship with al ‎ l their nei ‎ ghbours. Fo ‎ r de ‎ cades th ‎ ey have b ‎ een living togethe ‎ r as a c ‎ ommunity in har ‎ mony. slide 7: www.ijellh.com 247 Tho ‎ ugh the residents ar ‎ e ki ‎ nd and lovin ‎ g to ‎ wards each other A ‎ diga ex‎ plicates the thi ‎ n line of l ‎ ust for money that prev ‎ ails am ‎ ong the dis ‎ tinctive middle clas ‎ s p ‎ eople as: S ‎ he envied Kudw ‎ a his happ ‎ y fam ‎ ily life - just as s ‎ he kne ‎ w he in secre ‎ t envied Ajwani for owni ‎ ng a Toyot ‎ a Qual ‎ is just as Ajwani probab ‎ ly envied so ‎ meone el ‎ se and this c ‎ hain of en ‎ vy lin ‎ ked t ‎ hem showing each what was lacking in life but offering also the consolation that happiness was present right next door in the life of a neighbour an element of the same Society. 74 The delightfulopen relationship of the residents has started chipping away when Mr. Dharmen Shah the ruthless property developer decides to build his luxury skyscraper named Shanghai in the place of Vishram society. He generously offers a huge sum nearly twice the market value to the residents of Vishram society to make their way for his magnificent new project. Starting with smuggling and slum clearance Shah has now become the managing director of the Confidence Group one of Mumbai‟s real estate. Shah offers such a huge amount not out of his generosity but because of the expanding financial center: You have Santa Cruz airport there you have the Bandra-Kurla Complex there and you have the Dharavi slums there. Why is this line golden Air travel is booming. More planes more visitors. Then‟ - he moved his finger – the financial centre at Bandra-Kurla is expanding by the hour. Then the government is starting redevelopment in Dharavi. Asia‟s biggest slum will become Asia‟s richest slum. This area is boiling with money. People arrive daily and have nowhere to live. Except - he dotted his golden line in the centre – here. Vakola 54-55. The advance of globalization has not formed amazing growth to all that it promised to bring. Instead it widens the divide between the haves and have-nots in developing nations. In this regards Joseph E. Stiglitzaptly remarks: “To many in the developing world globalization has not brought the promised economic benefits. A growing divide between the haves and the have-nots has left increasing numbers in the Third World in dire poverty living on less than a dollar a day” 5. Adiga candidly portrays the uneven growth and development of globalization as: … like butter on a hotplate was melting and trickling into the slums enriching some and scorching others among the slum-dwellers. A few lucky hut-owners were becoming millionaires as a bank or a developer made an extraordinary offer for their slide 8: www.ijellh.com 248 little plot of land others were being crushed - bulldozers were on the move shanties were being leveled… 37-38 Though the butter in the form of large offer has reached Vishram society it comes with a strict deadline: “Important: The last date for the acceptance of the offer is the day after Gandhi Jayanti: 3 October. Non-negotiable The offer will not be extended one minute beyond this date.” 80 Since it is a co-operative society the proposal must be accepted unanimously. Otherwise everyone will lose the fortune: “if one person says no you can‟t tear down the Society. That‟s the whole idea of a Cooperative Housing Society one for all all for one”. 95 In the beginning four occupants refuse the proposal. Ibrahim Kudwa has delayed his acceptance just because he worries “How would his neighbours interpret his character if he rushed to take MrShah‟s money” 132 Mrs Rego declines Shah‟s offer because she distrusts the property redevelopers who often fail to keep up their promise. Mr Pinto rejects the proposal for the sake of his blind wife who may find it difficult to move around in a strange new building. Adiga vividly depicts MrsPintos emotional trauma: “W ‎ hat if the ot ‎ hers over ‎ powered th ‎ em and car ‎ ried her off to a building with str ‎ ange wall ‎ s and neither „the Diam ‎ ond‟ nor „the Ba ‎ d To ‎ oth‟ nor her mill ‎ ion ot ‎ her eye ‎ s He ‎ r hea ‎ rt bea ‎ t fast ‎ er”. 96 A ‎ s Adiga p ‎ oints out: “A m ‎ an‟s p ‎ ast keep ‎ s grow ‎ ing even when his fut ‎ ure has com ‎ e to a ful ‎ l sto ‎ p” 150. Yo ‎ gesh Mu ‎ rthy resi ‎ sts the gene ‎ rous offer for the memories of his deceased wife and daughter. Adiga skillfu ‎ llyrecounts: Thou ‎ gh the m ‎ en and w ‎ omen around him dream ‎ ed of b ‎ igger home ‎ s and c ‎ ars his j ‎ oys were t ‎ hose of the expa ‎ nding s ‎ quare footag ‎ e of his inn ‎ er life. The more he loo ‎ ked a ‎ t his daughter‟s sketche ‎ s the more c ‎ ertain plac ‎ es within Vishram - the stairwel ‎ l wher ‎ e she r ‎ an u ‎ p the gar ‎ den that she wa ‎ lked around the g ‎ ate that she li ‎ ked to sw ‎ ing on - beca ‎ me more beau ‎ tiful and i ‎ ntimate. . . Sometime ‎ s he f ‎ elt a ‎ s if Sa ‎ ndhya and Purnim ‎ a were watch ‎ ing the rai ‎ n with him and there was a sens ‎ e of femin ‎ ine fulln ‎ ess in ‎ side the d ‎ im fla ‎ t. 150 Shah ever ‎ y t ‎ ime fav ‎ ors “to e ‎ ntice a rec ‎ alcitrant ten ‎ ant out of a building with a c ‎ heque rat ‎ her than with a kn ‎ ife” 88. Subsequ ‎ ently firs ‎ t the oppon ‎ ents are provi ‎ ded with s ‎ weeteners. I ‎ f they conti ‎ nue to resi ‎ st they are fo ‎ rced to accept the prop ‎ osal by th ‎ reats. MrsRego accepts the offer to trump her well-off sister. The Pintos are threatened to accept the offer. slide 9: www.ijellh.com 249 Masterji is the Last Man in Tower who holds out till the end.He values the memories of his deceased wife and daughter more than monetary gains. He firmly declares: Vishram Society Tower A is my home and it Will not be sold Will not be leased or rented Will not be redeveloped. 262 The maddening lust for money and the dream of better life scathe the relations built over years. His neighbours friends and even his son expose their resentment by boycotting Masterji: “in the early days of the „boycott‟ there was an apologetic smile on the Secretary‟s lips when he evaded Masterji‟s attempts to make small talk now there were neither smiles nor apologies” 217. His neighbours who once treated him with respect and called him “an English gentleman” now begin to treat him with increasing contempt and ferociousness. He is expelled from the society for the false charges that “he has not paid his dues with regularity and has engaged on questionable and immoral activities within his premises” 274. Being fascinated by Shah‟s large offer and his bribes the residents fail to understand Masterji‟s emotional affections to his home. Shah who always employs brutal ways to eliminate the opponents from his path remains malicious. He manipulates the inhabitants to do the brutal thing to get away with Masterji by building up pressures. Their frantic desire for monetary gains and material benefits induce them to stoop as low as possible. Since all their efforts fail to convince Masterji to accept the proposal before the deadline they decide to do that simple thing a simple thing to take away someone‟s life. Adiga flamboyantly expounds the life-death struggle of Masterji: Now when he opened his eyes he could not tell if he were dead or alive these men seemed to be demons though kindly who were forcing his body to budge from some place between life and death where it was stuck. And this was because he was neither good nor bad enough and neither strong nor weak enough. He had lost his hands he had lost his legs he could not speak. Yet everything he had to do was right here in his head. He thought of Gaurav his son his living flesh. „Help me‟ he said. 391 The modern money-oriented society where people value money and material benefits above all is showed through the words of Shah: “you have to respect human greed” 107. The slogan of the contemporary globalized world where people strive to elevate their status is exemplified through Shah‟s words: “You should look around you at people. Rich people. slide 10: www.ijellh.com 250 Successful people. You should always be thinking what does he have that I don‟t have That way you go up in life.” 230 In a nut shell it is concluded that Adiga in his novel Last Man in Tower brilliantly portrays the burdens of progress dehumanization and the rising imbalances in the globalized India. The novel exposes how the lust for money and material benefits turn the life-long friends into rival and force them to kill their friend. Hence itis palpable that the urge to become rich in the contemporary globalized India makes people more materialistic. slide 11: www.ijellh.com 251 Works Cited: Adiga Aravind. Last Man in Tower. New Delhi: HarperCollins 2011. Print. Barry Peter.Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory. New Delhi: Viva Books 2010. Print. Cuddon J.A. Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory. New York: Penguin Books 1999. Print. Hornby A. S. Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English. New York: Oxford UP 2010. Print.„ Nayar Pramod. Contemporary Literary and Cultural Theory. New Delhi: Pearson 2010. Print. Steger Manfred B. Globalization: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford UP 2003. Print. Stiglitz Joseph E. Globalization and Its Discontents. 2002. New Delhi: Penguin 2003. Print. Varma K Pavan. The Great Indian Middle Class. New Delhi: Penguin 1998. Print. Zhang Li. In Search of Paradise: Middle-class Living in a Chinese Metropolis. New York:Cornell University Press 2004. Print. Web Sources www.merriam-webster.com on 01/08/2016. www.dictionary.cambridge.org on 01/08/2016

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