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Monday, February 24, 2014

Fwd: CIA III- Book Research: Blog Update

கோல்டன் வளையல்கள்- சிறுகதைகள்

(Pon Valayal- Golden Bangle)- (Siri Kathegal-Short Stories)

ஆசிரியர்(Author)- Purasu Balakrishnan (1914 – 1998)

The play of Hamartia (அவல நிலை உண்டு பண்ணும் குறை) and Hubris(துடுக்கான கர்வம்) in Pon Valayal (a collection of short stories)

Tamil belongs to the southern branch of the Dravidian Languages, a family of around 26 languages native to the Indian subcontinent. It is also classified as being part of a Tamil Language family, which alongside Tamil proper, also includes the languages of about 35 ethno-linguistic groups]such as the Irula and Yerukula languages. The closest major relative of Tamil is Malayalam. Until about the 19th century, Malayalam was a dialect of Tamil. It is interesting to note here that in two of the stories, the narrators happen to be placed in Trivandrum (Kerala).

Although much is not known about the author, he also wrote The Big Bang and Brahma's Day.

The age old understanding of the Hubris and Hamartia

The stories have a similar trend, the hero is in the process of achievement (Hubris), he meets a woman or the cause for his Hamartia and then he falls (tragedy). However, there is no experience of Catharsis (from the Greek κάθαρσις katharsis meaning "purification" or "cleansing") (ஆழ்ந்த உணர்ச்சி தூய்மை )-as seen in the series on Aristotelianism.

This book is a compilation of 7 short stories. Each story has a different narrator; however the narrators have not been named. The narrator here, being the hero for each story. The use of metaphors though rare is present in comparing the water flowing down one's back as pearls of sweat. The tamil vocabulary used is of the Old Tamil, and some of the stories are written in Brahmin Tamil.


Aristotle offered a different and quite original theory of the audience's response to tragic literature.They long to experience emotions and take pleasure in tragedy because it satisfies their apetite for emotional indulgence. Accordingly to Aristotle, tragedy represents characters experiencing intense sorrow, which is seen in the short stories of this book and it encourages the audience (here the readers) to feel the same feelings as the characters (i.e. to sympathise or to feel with them).

However, Plato believes that people should not engage in highly emotional and self indulgent behaviour and thus considers tragic drama an especially harmful literary genre. Aristotle strenuously disagrees calling the pleasure we take in tragedy and 'aesthetic'.

Although Aristotle does not go so far as to posit a 'pure' aesthetic sphere completely cut off from the social world, he does suggest that we should analyze and evaluate literature primarily in Aesthetic terms. Accordingly to him, the literary critic will experience the same pleasure and aesthetic appreciation when he/she reads a tragedy as he does when seeing it being performed. This critic will attend only to the content, technique and form of artwork; The Aristotelian critic, then, examines literature on its own terms rather than as a public or political mode of discourse.

In this book, I have analysed on how successful the author has been in portraying the Catharsis of the hero in every story. Also, how this book has fallen in Aristotle's category of a literary text as mentioned in Poetics. However, in reading many of the stories keeping in view the understanding of a literaray text as per Aristotle and Plato, one does wonder it deriving mere aesthetic pleasure from the literary text, is all the reader must derive or expect.

Story 1- To Call of Music

 Ratnambal is the reason for the narrator throwing away his music skills as a flute player away. What happens to the musician's Guru here?

Giving up on his disciple because of the love affair, he is left to himself to make best of his music career. When he was at the heights of achievement in his career as a musician, the hubris came upon him, when he falls ill with pneumonia. However, Ratnambal who promised to marry him does not return even on his recovery (after 6 months) refuses to marry him. Yet, the story end with the musician being alone and not understanding why she wouldn't love him anymore. Towards the end, he is left unloved seeking sympathy and feeling like an orphan.

Metaphor used- Ratnambhal's letter being the last thunderbolt he received.

Story-2 Munniyan

Initially the story begins with the old gardener looking at his grandson and being happy (Hubris). Much of his happiness is because of the only family he has left-his grandson. But when the Landlord's children come to play with the grandson Munniyan, things change. The Landlady refuses Munniyan the permission to come around the children and accuses him of theft (Hamartia). Eventually his grandson dies (tragedy), leaving the old gardener sad and alone.

Class Stratification has been well displayed.

Metaphors used for Dhanam's display of grief and anger.

Story 3- Unhappy Marriage

Here the Narrator is getting ready to marry, again. He is marrying his wife's sister this time. Although, he is happy and at bliss at the wedding (Hubris), the persuasion that goes around the older ladies to make the girl sing a song at the wedding stirs up dissention in his heart (Hamartia). Though one of the young girls begin to sing the song 'Sugarcane Garden', he is momentarily happy and enjoying the song. However, once the women begin criticizing the song being sung, he is disturbed. He looks at the 14 year old girl he is going to marry and suddenly questions the whole idea of the marriage (tragedy, here can also be interpreted as the Catharsis that he experiences).

Story 4- Golden Bangles

Here the narrator beings in Myth, the story of Kannagi and Kovalan. Kannagi a legendary Tamil woman, is the central character of the Tamil epic Silapathikaram (100-300 CE). The story relates how Kannagi took revenge on the early Pandyan King of Madurai, for a mistaken death penalty imposed on her husband Kovalan, by cursing the city with Disaster.

When the wife is handing over her Golden bangles to the narrator for him to sell it for help their financial issues, he is reminded of an incident that took place between the both of them, but it still pains him. Memory, he says knows it's power and looks for an opportunity and the state of mind.It kindles your memory but picking out only what is required and leaves the rest out.

He reminisces over the memory where they were fighting over a toy and he broke her bangle and went on the break another bangle, making her cry – "Mystery of the memory", as he retold the story, "Love started blowing like a storm" between them. She forgives him, but he realises at the end of the story that they are still in a financial crisis and he needs to use the bangle.

Metaphors used- Memory is like a vapour.

Story 5- Mother's love

Pankajam is suffering from high fever, no matter what the parents have tried, it has not helped her fever come down. But when the stray 12 year old boy comes by and sings to her from the window, it is like the lifeless wind is awakening her. The narrator claims, " It is what humans cannot understand that this Earth is formed by a song". He uses metaphors throughtout the story saying the strength of the boy's song is filling the room, while the parents of Pankajam are busy arguing in the background. Yet, the narrator knows that the thoughts os her heart are unknown and it seems that she is focussing only on the song and her face begins to glow. The mother realises, it is what she has been waiting for days to see, because of Pankajam's fever. She offers the boy some food, even before he leaves he sings a song over her and leaves, yet the Mother does not understand the thoughts of her daughter's heart.

Metaphors- The hot sun is compared to the child's fever.

Story 6- A Beautiful Girl's grace

Kalyani here being the hero of the story and not as previously seen the narrator. Kalyani here was a happy child with her playmates (Hubris) but when she is 18 years old, she dies of typhoid (tragedy). However, one of the playmates who happens to be the narrator's younger brother goes on to become an international artist at the age of 16. He travels to Paris and his paintings are much admired and acclaimed. His most famous painting brings him back to Chennai- the painting of  an Angel (Messenger of the Skies-Yakshin). He called her the cloud carrying love but only later did everybody realise that the memories of Kalyani still stayed with him and reflected in his paintings.

Story 7-One Day's happenings

The narrator was having a good married life, which the usual small arguments that were overlooked from time to time. Just when the narrator was appreciating the beauty of his marriage (Hubris), the wife begins to complain. This time she is persistent and stubborn and refuses to compromise over a desired sari. When the husband agrees to buy it for her, she argues back that she had to initiate for him to buy her the sari, he is in a state of dilemma, where he does not know what to say next and therefore the wife decides to leaves the house over this argument(Hamartia).

In each of the stories we see that the narrator has invoked in us a sense of pity for the hero or lead character of the story, causing us to fall when he/she falls.He has been successful in the structuring of the catharsis causing the reader to respond to the tragedy, he has artistically 'tamed the horrible'.

In conclusion, we could say that although Plato inaugurated an approach to literary criticism that is now very much in vogue: the examination of literary texts in their cultural, socio-political context. Aristotle has offered a completely different conception of literary texts, as can be seen in analysing the text of study here- Literature, he claims should be judged by artistic criteria rather than in moral or ideological terms. Aristotle separated literary texts from their socio-political context and analysed them in aesthetic and formalistic terms.

Could we say by these arguments that Aristotle rescued literature by writing a dry philosophical treatise?  As opposed to Plato who attacks literary texts while having produced some of the most complex pieces of literature ever written.


·         Bertolt Brecht (German playwright)

Brecht criticizes the aesthetic tradition initiated by Aristotle for its preference for dramatic narratives that please but do not instruct or provide real learning about the sourse of human suffering. Brecht attacks Aristotelian catharsis and a kind of 'opium for the masses' arguing that empathising with characters prevents the readers for critically viewing and questioning the social causes of human suffering.

·         Cynthia A. Freeland (Author and Chairman of Department of Philosophy-University of Houston)

Feminist Re-readings which are quite different from Aristotelian focus on individual error as a source of misfortune in them. By focussing on social context rather than individual error, we can look beyond the surface of representations of women that feminists find objectionable and can show that these play/ stories/ readings actually contain critical feminist social commentary. Using the methodology of feminist re-reading therefore we are able to reveal what tragedy can offer for feminism.

·         Trevor Pateman (Author and specialist collector and dealer for Russia and related areas.)

A well-constructed tragedy shows individuals better than ourselves, but not so different that we cannot identify with them in the unmerited afflictions which overcome them. We experience sympathetic pity for their suffering, and a kind of terror arising from the thought or recognition that such suffering could befall us (`there but for Fortune'). The experience of pity and fear is the catharsis affected by the play. Catharsis is not pure emotional release, still less discharge of pathological emotions though this is how the concept tended to be understood in the nineteenth century (for example, by Nietzsche). Rather it is, according to Stephen Halliwell, `a powerful emotional experience which not only gives our natural feelings of pity and fear full play, but does so in a way which conduces to their rightful functioning as part of our understanding of, and response to, events in the human world'.

Key Works:

Balakrishnan , Purasu. Pon Valayal. Chennai: Kalaymagal Kariyalayam, 1970. Print.

Srinivasan, S. New Centur'ys Compact Dictionary(English-English-Tamil). 6th Ed. Chennai: New Century Book House, 2012. Print.

Ford, A., The Origins of Criticism: Literary Culture and Poetic Theory in Classical Greece (Princeton: Princeton University Press 2002)

Goldhill, S., 'Literary History without Literature: Reading and Practices in the Ancient World', Substance, 88 (1999).

Written by:

Esther Priyanka Sundar


I M.A.

Christ University.


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