It is impossible to think about identity without also thinking about difference.(TM) Consider this statement in relation to the Buddha Of Suburbia(TM) by H
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'It is impossible to think about identity without also thinking about difference.' Consider this statement in relation to the 'Buddha Of Suburbia' by Hanif Kureishi and 'Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit' by Jeanette Winterson Identity and Difference are binary opposites, such as gay, and straight, Christian and atheist, boy and girl. It is impossible to think of one without the other, such as measuring ones self identity and uniqueness, the process cannot be done without comparison. 'Oranges' is both an "autobiographical fiction, as well as a fictional autobiography" (1) as stated by Winterson herself. A bildungsroman about a young girl named Jeanette from the 1960's (although published 1980's) who struggles in search of her identity breaking free from tradition to find her new role as a lesbian, though still a Christian. "I would cross seas and suffer sunstroke and give away all I have, but not for a man, because they want to be the destroyer and never be destroyed. That is why they are unfit for romantic love. There are exceptions and I hope they are happy. (2)" We are forced to consider how far protagonist Jeanette in the narrative represents Jeanette the author. Conflict arises between the teachings of the Catholic Church and sexual identity with an unorthodox use of fairytales, myths and stories. Religion and religious attitudes are challenged throughout and the hypocrisy of the church's stance against homosexuality is a prominent thread.
Presented by Winterson as an almost tyrannical figure due to her viewpoints, and that of Winterson's with society. Her problems with identity and the seeking of acceptance have been manipulated into her narrative of 'Oranges' letting us see in medias res through the eyes of Jeanette and her world. "In Hanif Kureishi's The Buddha of Suburbia, Karim, the protagonist, defines himself as "having emerged from two old histories" (6). Thus Kureishi immediately presents Karim's Identity as a hybrid of two dominant cultures, that of India and Britain. Like Winterson, Kureishi loosely bases the novel around personal experiences exploring both his cultural as well as sexual identity, in a struggle to ind and build his own. Racially hybrid himself, Kureishi is rapt by figures who destabilise supposedly pure categories. Since gay men and lesbians traditionally have been despised by conservatives precisely because they are seen to blur prescribed boundaries of gender difference, Kureishi sets out to further blur these boundaries with ambiguous apolitical Karim, who enjoys having sex with both men and women, but he does not identify himself as a bisexual any more than he does as an Englishman or a "Paki." Karim, and Haroon, his Indian father, seek purpose and meaning centrality in their move from the suburbs to central London, from the geographical but also social periphery to the centre.Regardless of their zealousness , their ethnicity is a literal reminder of difference and that they will have to work unjustly hard to 'belong' in their new city center surroundings .
Like his ethnic identification, Karim's sexual identity is also ambigious. Karim claims that he has no preference to gender and will sleep with anyone, male or female. His first really defining sexual experience is with Charlie. Karim's fluid sexuality positions him in a luminal role namely because he does not claim a homosexual/heterosexual identity nor an Indian/British identity exclusively; thus, he is consistently forced to negotiate between such binaries. Karim becomes involved in an increasingly accelerating social circle, associating with the arts community and participating in theatre, he begins a sexual relationship with Eleanor, an actor whom Karim truly loves describing their relationship, saying, "I'd never had such a strong emotional and physical feeling before" (14). For the first time, sex gains an emotional component, a marked difference from his prior sexual relationships. Success begins to appear on Karim's horizon, treating his family to dinner and stating "I began to enjoy my own generosity. . . I felt the pleasure of pleasing others" (15). Although, this pleasure is fuelled by materialism and money, Karim begins his transmogrification from a totally self-involved space to a place of awareness and caring for others. Thus his former identity is shown evolving into yet another hybrid, the old and the new. Witerson and Kureishi present us with narratives of bildungsroman adolescents struggling to keep up with their "renewing identity through interaction with one another" and their surroundings. Both deal with the deviance of sexual identity and difference. Through both arise issues of religious conflict and struggle.
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