Rony George- Subverting the tyranny of the nation state through the Grotesque body imagery: A Bakhtinian Reading of O Vijayan’s The Saga of Dharmapuri

Janardhanan, Prathyaksh. Subverting the tyranny of the nation state through the Grotesque body imagery: A Bakhtinian Reading of O Vijayan’s The Saga of Dharmapuri. RESEARCH HUB – International Multidisciplinary Research Journal. Volume-3, Issue-04, April 2016.Web.

Class and caste struggles of an individual can only be understood by looking into the sociopolitical and economic context of in which he/she lives in. As a novelist, O V Vijayan’s interest lies in bringing under scrutiny the multiple and varied forces that determine the plight of the proletariat. This essay too, is investigating the sam cause using a Bakhtinian lens.

The main argument of the essay is that the subversion of the oppressive system of totalitarianism masquerading as democracy is being carried out by employing repulsive and scary imageries in the primary text. This is done by the help of the concept named grotesque realism. O V Vijayan’s The Saga of Dharmapuri is an exemplary work that is very much suitable to understand these concepts. Haunting images and portrayals of incidents are exaggerated accounts of extreme violence and aggression. The author, by trivializing the serious and vice versa, makes the readers think of the fierce challenges waiting for them. Even international politics becomes the focus when Dharmapuri is shown as a third world country as opposed to the soviet Russia and a capitalist America.

A key point that the essay offers is that, in accordance with the Bakhtinian concepts, the villainous characters are shown as engaging in the acts involving the body and its pleasures. On the other hand, positive characters such as Sidhartha is shown as a saintly person. While we are exposed to the grotesque bodily acts of the former characters, the latter is always associated with more aesthetically pleasing descriptions of the body. In effect, the gran narratives of the nation are being challenged. The subjugated group of people seeks relief in the use of praise – abuse vocabulary. This too, is a Bakhtinian concept. Parallels of this notion can be found in many historical practices that are still in practice.

The limitation of the study is that is argues that the novel is a response to the emergency period in India during 1975-1977. However, this is a factually wrong notion. The author had penned the novel much before the declaration of the emergency period and had published parts of it. However, the novel turned prophetic when the incidents portrayed in the novel started getting implemented in the real life.

Further, there are deeper levels of issues to be probed into in this scenario. Though most of the criticism is being levelled against the flaws of modern day democratic governments, it also talks about the ways in which class struggle eventually leads to revolution and how the existing corrupt systems will get sabotaged. On a closer examination, it can also be found that the bodies and their acts being portrayed sends clear political messages and raises questions of class and caste. This opens up the scope for a study along a different trajectory involving caste and class struggles and their evolution and contexts.


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