Imagination vs Reality in Literature Essay
“Aren’t grown-ups supposed to read realistic fiction? What good are these wild tales, anyway?” (“Speculative” 200). In author Vandana Singh’s “A Speculative Manifesto”, she describes how important speculative fiction is in the education of students in literature. Speculative fiction is combination of several different genres of literature, such as mystery, science fiction, historical fiction and fantasy. Vandana Singh asks in her manifesto if education is based on the truth then “[w]hy not discard the old myths, legends, tall tales, and their modern counterparts, as we discard other childish things” (200).
Vandana Singh believes that both children and adults need the literature for their imagination. In the manifesto, she describes who imagination allows us as humans to dream. Although science fiction and fantasy can also help ones with their imagination, through our imagination we can make up “ingenious thought-experiments, through asking ‘what-if’ questions and attempt to answer them” (202). According to Vandana Singh, speculative fiction allows us to question our lives and “live out possible futures before we come to them” (202).
Speculative fiction and feminist literature can be intertwined together to make stories as well. Vandana Singh uses a blend of these two literature genres in order to write her short story The Woman Who Thought She Was A Planet. Although these two genres may be viewed as two separate pieces of literature, Vandana Singh uses her imagination and her background in her Indian culture to create the story. In one of Vandana Singh’s short stories, The Woman Who Thought She Was A Planet, she uses her speculative fiction beliefs and her imagination to describe a story about a woman going through “changes”. This story starts off at the kitchen table where Ramnath Mishra is partaking in his usual morning routine when his wife announced, “’I know at last what I am. I am a planet’” (39). Shocked and confused about his wife’s announcement, Ramnath believed that his wife, Kamala, had merely lost her mind. Ramnath believed that the only way for his wife to get better was to phone the doctor, however Kamala did not think she was ill. Kamala states to Ramnath, “’I am a planet. I used to be a human, a woman, a wife and mother’” (40). Ramnath could not understand how he did not actually know the person whom he has lived with for the past forty years, “[s]he looked like a stranger” (43).
He thought that a planet has to be “an inanimate object circling a star” and that there was no way Kamala, a human, could be a planet (40). Living in an Indian culture, Ramnath was extremely embarrassed by his wife’s actions. She constantly tried to undress her clothes because she believed that planets do not need a sari. As Ramnath described how his great aunt went mad, “[w]hat a terrible dishonor the family had suffered, what indignity” (41). He worried that Kamala was going to create great embarrassment, not only for him but for his family’s name as well. At night, Ramnath found himself wishing Kamala dead, even began plotting different ways for going about killing her, “[h]e could not live like this” (46). One evening, as Kamala was sleeping, Ramnath noticed that she seemed to be coughing something up, which was exciting for Ramnath because he believed that she was going to die on her own, without his help. Moments later, Ramnath observed some “jelly-like” substance coming out of her mouth. He realized that this substance was made up of “small, moving things” (47). These “aliens” began pouring out of Kamala’s mouth attacking Ramnath, but not waking Kamala. In the morning, still terrified by what happened last night, Ramnath laid in bed until his wife woke up.
Once awake, she explained that if she knew what was happening she would have explained to these creatures not to hurt him. Kamala explained to Ramnath that these creatures were “inhabitants” and reminded him that she is a planet. Kamala then went on to describe how the younger “inhabitants” were trying to colonized and asked Ramnath to be a planet with her. Kamala explained to Ramnath that “[a] planet needs sun… My journey is just beginning” (50). Later, Ramnath and Kamala went on a walk, where Kamala ran into the park where there was a man selling balloons, which she is fascinated by. After being captivated by the way the balloons floated into the sky when letting them go, Kamala began “[s]lowly and majestically… rise over the ground” (52). Her clothing slowly began to fall from the sky, as she was rotating and floated higher and higher. “For a moment [Ramnath] almost envied her” as she floated into the starts, he ran into the house and as he went to scream, “the insectoids were already marching up his back, over his shoulder and into his terrified, open mouth” (54). In an interview, Vanadana Singh was asked what her appeal to speculative fiction was, her response being, “[t]he best speculative fiction demands a boldness of imagination and a vastness of scope that no other literature can offer (Tan).
In Vandana Singh’s short story, The Woman Who Thought She Was A Planet, it is shown that her imagination was used enormously in order to not only come up with the story, but to use such great detail. Speculative fiction, “with its aliens and magic and warp drives, set against the backdrop of the universe itself.” (“Manifesto” 203). In the interview, Vandana Singh also adds that “the sense of wonder that [speculative fiction] evokes, the engagement with ideas, and the fact that it provides a two-way mirror for looking at the world one wonders why everyone doesn’t read the stuff” (Tan). Not only does Vandana Singh’s short story, The Woman Who Thought She Was A Planet, use great imagination, it also includes the truths behind the Indian culture in marriage. The man of the house is the “leader” of the family. Also this story shows how it is extremely embarrassing for a woman to not only get nude in public, but in the house. The Woman Who Thought She Was A Planet is a wonderful example of a piece of feminist literature.
Feminist Literature is described as a question of women’s role in society and complex conceptions of gender. In this short story, it shows that Kamala was trying to become her own woman. She believed that there were “inhabits” inside of her. She routinely attempted to take her clothing off, which infuriated Ramnath and also embarrassed him to an extreme end. An additional example of how The Woman Who Thought She Was A Planet was used for feminist critique is that it shows that in other cultures besides our own, woman are always trying to be themselves and not have to be held down to the “norms” that are expected of them. Although in this story Kamala may not have been able to control her actions completely, it shows the way the Indian culture views people when they act out and how one little action can be viewed as such an embarrassment.