Comparative Literature Essay

Comparative Literature


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            As globalization is bringing the people, belonging to various countries together, the cultural boundaries are being blurred - Comparative Literature Essay introduction. In pursuit of their dreams, people are migrating to other countries and settling there. But while living in these countries, they strive to preserve their native culture. This leads to a struggle, as conflicts arise in the human mind, owing to the differences in his/her native culture and the culture of the society, in which he/she is living in. The struggle of human beings to cope with shifting cultural boundaries and drastic technical advancements is depicted in the novels Ceremony by Leslie Silko and Tropic of Orange by Karen Tei Yamashita. The protagonist in the novel Ceremony is Tayo, who has fought for his country in World War II. Although he survives the war and returns to his family, he is haunted by the horrors of war. He struggles to find his true identity in a land where diverse cultures exist.

The novel Tropic of Orange focuses on the multicultural society of Los Angeles and presents the cultural conflicts of the humans living there through the element of magical realism. Both the stories bring forth the cultural conflicts in the age of globalization and migration. The narrative structure employed in both these novels differs from each other in various aspects. In the novel Ceremony, the narrative structure leads to disentangle Tayo’s dilemma whereas the narrative structure in the novel Tropic of Orange brings forth the chaotic world, formed owing to the mixing of diverse cultures.

Narrative Structure

            The narrative structure employed by the author in the novel Ceremony, aids in understanding the disturbed state of mind of Tayo who is being troubled by the memories of war. The events in the life of Tayo are not presented in a chronological order; they are interspersed among the Native American stories. The real stories and mythical stories, which are a part of Native Culture, are mentioned in the novel in the same tone and language. The author shows no difference while narrating the real events and the mythical stories. The mythical stories are an important part of the plot, for they are the stories which are bringing Tayo closer to his native culture. The stories are unraveling the mysteries of his native world to Tayo. “It took a long time to explain the fragility and….. that went with being human, old Ku’oosh said, the story behind each word must be told so there could be no mistake in the meaning of what had been said; and this demanded great patience and love.” (Silko 101). The events of the past and present merge together in the novel.

 The narrative keeps shifting from the real world to the mythical space, which is created by the stories. As Tayo discovers his true identity and culture, he begins to free himself from the bonds of the alien culture. “He cried the relief he felt at finally seeing the pattern, the way all the stories fit together-the old stories, the war stories, their stories-to become the story that was still being told.” (Silko 260). The stories and the Native American Ceremony are the factors which resolve the cultural conflict that has gripped Tayo. The concepts of space and time keep on changing in the novel. The events in the present and past are presented in the novel in the same manner whereas the real world and mythical space converge in the novel. The mythical world provides a meaning to the people, living in the real world. Tayo, an individual living in the real world, is able to overcome his cultural conflicts with the aid of the mythical world. The narrative structure in the novel opens with the account of the real world, with which Tayo is struggling to cope with, but with the initiation of the ceremony, the narrative structure shifts to the mythical world. The author emphasizes the meaning of this mythical world to the humans through the pattern utilized by her in the narrative structure of the novel. The conflicts of Tayo and the manner, in which these conflicts are resolved, are depicted in the novel through the narrative structure. The novel Tropic of Orange focuses on the same theme of cultural conflicts but its narrative structure differs from the narrative structure of the novel Ceremony.

In the novel Tropic of Orange, the narrative structure incorporates the elements of magical realism. The story depicts the changes that are brought in various cultures when the Tropic of Cancer is shifted from its original position. The Tropic of Cancer gets entangled in an orange and as the orange is brought to Los Angeles from Mexico by a migrant worker, numerous changes occur in the positioning of the countries. The Latin American countries are shifted to the north along with the Tropic of Cancer. The novel follows the lives of Gabriel, a Mexican-American reporter, working for a newspaper in Los Angeles and his girlfriend, Emi, a television reporter. Both these characters are busy in collecting interesting and exciting news for achieving success in their respective careers. They are so occupied with their work that they fail to notice the cultural changes, which are taking place, around them.

The narrative structure in the novel brings forth these cultural changes through the thoughts and actions of the characters in the play. The character of Bobby Ngu in the novel represents the assimilation of the various cultures, owing to the changes brought about by the shifting of Tropic of Cancer. The choices that Booby Ngu is offered while deciding what he will have for his lunch, depicts the multicultural society in which he is leading his life. “Got to get something to eat. Down the corner, there’s a sign; Chinese burritos. Fish tacos. Ensopada. Camaron chow mein. Hoy Especial: $ 2.99. Comida to go. Por que no?” (Yamashita 127). The language used by the author highlights the mixture of varied cultures in the city of Los Angeles. The cultural changes are accepted by some characters whereas some characters refuse to recognize themselves as members belonging to dual cultures. For instance, Emi denies accepting herself as a Japanese-American woman. She reveals her thinking while saying to her mother that, “Maybe I’m not Japanese American. Maybe I got switched in the hospital.” (Yamashita 97). The magical realism in the narrative structure also influences the lives of the characters.

The magical realism in the narrative structure leads to the creation of imaginary world and communities. This imaginary world contravenes the conventional views about time and space. The concepts of time and space that are held by Manzanar, one of the characters in the story, are in contrast to the accepted notions of time and space. “There are maps and there are maps and there are maps. The uncanny thing was that he could see…..Although one might have thought this capacity to see was different from a musical one, it was really one and the same.” (Yamashita 58). The emphasis in this novel is on the imagined world, a world where strange things are happening. Chaos reigns in this world whereas the mystical world portrayed in the novel Ceremony provides peace to the humans living in the real world.


            The novels Ceremony and Tropic of Orange present the cultural conflicts of humans while living in a multicultural society. The narrative structure is significant in expressing the theme of the novels. The narrative structure in the novel Ceremony depicts the convergence of the real world and the mythical world of the Native American stories. The mythical world of the Native American aids Tayo in solving his cultural conflict. In the novel Tropic of Orange, the author portrays an imagined world through the element of magical realism. In this imaginary world, human beings are struggling to cope with the cultural changes brought about by the shifting of geographical borders.

Works Cited

Silko, Leslie. Ceremony. Penguin Books. 1977.

Yamashita, Karen T. Tropic of Orange. Coffee House Press. 1997.


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