The Postcolonial Mother Country
Corey Binns '00 English 27, 1997
Because women associate strongly with their bodies, Suleri suggests that a woman can call anywhere home. "Oh, home is where your mother is, one; it is where you are mother, two." (Suleri, 147). Women are homemakers, their bodies are their homes. For Suleri, therefore, the mother country moves with the mother as a transient place in which the woman is always at home. Suleri writes about one of her dreams, she places part of her dead mother's foot under her own tongue, as if to announce, "I got this part of me from my mother." Dreaming of her mother under her tongue, Suleri has taken a most influential maternal detail and savored its endearment. As a Welsh woman, Suleri's mother feeds her the language of her mother and her mother's mother. Suleri's history of motherhood brings with it the mother English tongue with which she reads her mother's favorite novels and eventually writes her very own.
The fens in Waterland exemplify a colonized space; man reclaims land by disrupting a history, a river's path, a mother country. The act of reclaiming requires renaming someone's mother country and calling it someone else's colony, a subset of a larger more masculine Imperial empire. In contrast to belonging to the familiarity of one's mother country, the naming of a colony requires the colonized to abide by that name, to reinstate themselves as belonging to a force large, foreign and unrecognizable. Mothers act as reminders of one's identity, deferring the confusion of allegiance to either colony or colonizer. "Mair Jones, your mother, is standing outside and calling up to you, asking you to wake a become this thing, your name." (Suleri, 152). Waking to her mother's voice, Suleri quickly establishes her allegiance and her place within her mother's realm. Her mother's naming ritual awakens Suleri into a place of self identity, ensuring her of a mother country and her position within it.
The theme of postcolonialism represents another example of the combination of land and maternity which Suleri most poignantly describes:
Just as men repeatedly reclaim the fens from the feminine flow of river water, Suleri's father clambered for a position of power in Pakistan's postcolonial hierarchy. Suleri's mother appeals for forgiveness by subjecting herself to her husband and his colonization of her body. She offers her body as a peace offering, while her husband uses her body as battlegrounds for the empire's fight back.
Did she really think she could assume the burden of the empire, that if she let my father colonize her body and her name she would perform some slight reparation for the race from which she came? Could she not see that his desire for her was quickened with empire's ghosts, that his need to posses was a clear index of how he was still possessed? (Suleri, 163).
Rushdie also suggests that postcolonial men act revengefully towards women due to their colonized past and their need to assert their diminutive power. In regards to Omar's relationships with women, the narrator recalls "that all his subsequent dealings with women were acts of revenge against the memory of his mothers." (Rushdie 35). Forever frustrated by his mothers' twelve years of protection and imprisonment, Omar holds all women in contempt for his suffering. As a man living in a postcolonial society, Omar's revenge comes from a memory of his mother country, his unsuccessful home of mothers.
- Feminizing Narrative and Landscape: Images of Women in Three Postcolonial Texts
- The Female Landscape
- Imagery of Locked Women
- The Postcolonial Mother Country
- "An Empty Vessel"
- The Shame of Motherhood
- The Joys of Motherhood