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Significance Of Malaysian Literature In English English Literature Essay

The development of the Nation ‘s diverseness can be traced in the fiction produced by the Nation. The two chief fiction novels I will utilize to discourse the above statement are ” The Return ” and “ Green is the Colour ” , written by two of import first coevals authors KS Maniam and LLyod Fernando.

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This paper will research the inquiry of whether Malayan Literature in English has a important topographic point in the societal and cultural tapestry of the state along with historical and sociological literatures.

The definition of societal and civilization severally are, the former is anything refering to human society and the latter is characterized by the historical nature, the relativity and the diverseness of a state, which undergoes alteration alongside alterations in the economic, societal and political organisation of society

History is any written histories of the past and sociology is the survey of society, the operation, organisation, development and types of human societies.

Definitions from “ Collins Dictionary of Sociology ” by David Jary and Julia Jary.

I would wish to utilize an extract from Muhammad Haji Salleh ‘s “ Reclaiming Worlds: Theories in the Texts ” , that gives a topographic point for fiction in the societal and cultural representation of the state.

“ A civilization is as a great old tree from the Earth of history, traditions, societies and worldviews. Moulded over the centuries by complex procedures, an alloy and combination of these forces it has grown particular flowers and fruits with particular qualities and individualities. A LITERATURE, a literary head, is a great subdivision of this tree. ”

Fiction links history and sociology, in that it complements these two subdivisions of survey by giving a 3rd position, a originative word picture of the state. Literature has the sort of bureau to reflect and notice on society, to voice certain concerns. Literature is the fiction that gives new worlds to history, through the alterations the State has undergone.

“ Literature has the duty to reflect what the state is and what it has been and what it ought to be. ” ( Poole, R )

The history of a peculiar period in the state could be understood better by reading a text that depicts the historical recounts of the same period. It is two dimensional, one could read the chronological recount from a historical text and farther intensify their cognition and understanding through reading a work of fiction covering with the same facet of history but from a literary point of view or read a literary text better as we already know the context, a general thought of the state ‘s history. Yes! understanding facets of history by reading literature.This is what I aim to turn out in this essay, to place the relationship between history and fiction.

Literature decidedly has a topographic point alongside history and sociological texts in the societal and cultural representation of the state.

Malayan Literature in English sprung at the clip the State was in the procedure of being built, its coming in the 1940 ‘s with concerns of station universe war two and the self-satisfied trust on colonial power. Active Hagiographas began in the 1950 ‘s, the pre- Independence phase and easy made its manner to the station Independence phase capturing all the major bends in the historical milepost of the Nation. The recounts of history captured by eminent first coevals authors of the century viz. KS Maniam and LLyod Fernando in their Hagiographas runs parallel with the recounts found in historical texts, but farther delves into human facets, penetrations into issues, frights and sentiments felt by the state ‘s people who were bound and brought together by history. For the intent of this assignment on how literature is linked to history I would wish to near the treatment from the angle of pre-independence and post-independence of Malaysia and the two texts that will be the parametric quantities of the treatment are The Return by KS Maniam and Green is the Colour By LLyod Fernando. My picks are based on the fact that The Return depicts the history of the Nation, the plural Malaya, before the independency of 1957 and the novel “ Green is the Colour ” presents the multi cultural, multicultural Malaysia of station independency 1957. In other words I will be following the development of plurality and the development of diverseness ( multiculturalism ) through the eyes of the two novelists mentioned above. By showing close textual analysis of the two fiction novels, I will walk you through this periods of history, the before and after, and the transitional periods all of which forms the basic foundation history which led to the formation of society and the Nation as wonderfully presented in both the mentioned texts.


Before I go into length about the historical landscape of this novel a small spot of history on the topic would be required to ease a better apprehension of the cultural clime of that epoch. It would be utile to cognize how we came approximately to being “ plural ‘ . The British imported apprenticed labour, since late nineteenth century from south China and south India for their ain capitalist venture, resulted in the carbon monoxide being of the three chief races in Malaya so. This was further compounded by the British divide and regulation policy which kept these three races in their ain domains with British disposal implementing regulations and policies that hindered any formation of inter-ethnic confederations allow entirely any mingling among the races. This was to safeguard their ain political and economic involvements. The instruction system further drove a cuneus between the cultural groups as it was in the signifier of common school system. Thus the birth of plural society.

This is what is reflected in KS Maniam ‘s “ The Return ” . The novel is about a Tamil household life in Kedah after the 2nd universe war. The secret plan covers three coevalss, Ravi the storyteller and the cardinal figure of the novel, his male parent and his grandmother- the life and battles of a typical Tamil household of the post-war period. The cardinal subject of the novel is the hunt for identitiy of the supporter, populating amongst the civilization of the immigrant post-colonial society.The passage of a group of people traveling from one universe to another universe. The fresh trades with the cross brush of the immigrant civilization with the host community civilization. The other subjects are besides around the feeling of “ Unhomeliness ” , “ supplanting ” and “ life inbetween infinites ” experienced by the immigrant community as they struggle to accommodate to their new environment. The feeling of unhomeliness cause the characters, particularly the older coevals to hold hankering for their hereditary place and maintaining the nexus alive through the pattern of rites, rites and jubilations, making a place far off from the place they knew in the past.. Even if Maniam represents merely the Indian community as when he claims “ he writes best what he knows best ” , he is really stand foring the other cultural communities as good through his authorship. He writes how the different communities kept within their ain therefore life in isolation, with minimum interaction with one another and populating within their ain infinite. This description gives the reader a good indepth apprehension of the historical background of that peculiar epoch where plural society existed and how the different cultural communities lived.

J.S Furnivall 1948, 304, describes plural society ” as a potpourri of peoples, European, Chinese, Indian and native who do blend but make non combine.Each group holds by its ain faith, its ain civilization and linguistic communication, its ain thoughts and ways. As persons they meet, but merely in the market topographic point, in purchasing and selling.There is a plural society, with different subdivisions of the community populating side by side, but individually, within the same political unit.

“ It merely means different cultural groups lived side by side in their separate enclaves and are involved in different economic activities but seldom interact except, literally, at the market topographic point.

This is a definition of how people of different ethnocultural background lived and interacted with each other.This is besides a consequence of the Imperial bequest left behind by the British.Prior to the Colonial regulation by the British, there were migrators who were Javanese, Arabic, Indian and Chinese life in Malaya but they assimilated with the local civilization in the signifier of assorted matrimonies, merger and syncretism in civilizations, linguistic communication and even religion.After the debut of the system of apprenticed labour, the migratory communities were encouraged to keep and retain their societal and cultural heritage and political links to their fatherland, while life in the pockets of their ain communities. The kernel of which has been captured by Maniam in his novel.

He writes, “ I had been exposed to an environment and a linguistic communication that would drag me for the remainder of my life, the environment was the estate houses, the gum elastic trees and the ruddy laterite route that led off from the chief, tar route into farness. There was a alone trickling watercourse which I crossed to and from school and in the distance, the faintly bluish mountain tips. Nothing else could hold brought place to me the fact the Indians were isolated and lived in a universe of their ownaˆ¦ . ” ( The Return )

“ The linguistic communication was the Tamil linguistic communication, which we chanted in that two- room, green, board edifice called so and to this twenty-four hours, a school. The intonation was non without intent: the sound beat and imagination of the linguistic communication helped kill the asepsis of life outside the schoolroom. ‘

( The Return )

“ The two facts, environment and linguistic communication, have remained, unconsciously most of the clip within me. Though I was transferred to an English School after that one twelvemonth in a Tamil one, the Tamil linguistic communication had an influence on my plants. These facts have remained the same, with some alterations, but the fiction has developed for me, into world. That fiction I equivocally call, the fate of a people from whom I have non been able to do a complete interruption. That fiction has been the geographic expedition of the yesteryear, nowadays, psychological science, struggles and aspirations of the Indian Community in Malaysia. ”

( Fiction Into Fact, Fact into Fiction: A Personal Contemplation by KS Maniam )

The author in stressing the submergence he feels in his linguistic communication and the stray environment of the community he lived, gives us an penetration as to how a plural society functioned. The members of each community had a peculiar infinite carved out for them to populate life the manner they know best, therefore organizing a small universe for themselves within a larger one. They had their ain civilization, societal battles and festivals where the nexus to their hereditary place is strongly apparent.

“ These festivals ( Deepavali, together with Thaipusam and Ponggal created a particular state for us. We were dwellers of an unseeable landscape tenuously brought into prominence by the visible radiations, Mangifera indica foliages strung out over the room accesss, the pilgrim’s journey to Sri Subramanya temple in Sungei Petani on Thaipusam twenty-four hours, the picture of the bull horns after Ponggal and the many tabu that covered our day-to-day life ‘ ( The Return )

This is an penetration as to how profoundly immersed the members of the Indian community were in their civilization brought from their fatherland and how their day-to-day life is filled with rites and imposts practiced by their ascendants, how its embraced and practiced in a faraway land, its properness and significance ne’er questioned, its importance in making a sense of place for them out of a demand for a sense of belonging. There is no chance to larn and mix with other communities, no syncretism what so of all time be it linguistic communication, civilization, nutrient or merely meaningful carbon monoxide mingling. Even if there was it would purely be in topographic points such as the market where there is a necessity to acquire their indispensable nutrient supplies. Interaction would be at minimum as there would be linguistic communication and cultural barriers.

Therefore the effects of plural society are ; –

Lack of interaction between communities and ethnocentric position of the universe

Lack of intercultural kineticss led to the formation of enclave communities

Lack of a meaningful contact caused a deficiency of “ a common will ”

Therefore the different communities lived a unintegrated being, geographically, they were self sufficient and had small demand or see for the other in all spheres including instruction, political relations, civilization, faith, linguistic communication and more. This is the snapshot of how the plural society lived as clearly and briefly presented in the text “ The Return ” by KSManiam. Here historical texts with its chronological order of facts complements the more subjective, fiction based, but true historical recounts given by the literary head. An penetration and investigation into the lives of people who lived out the history of that peculiar epoch, a testimony and a touch of pragmatism that gives deeper significance and understanding to any reader.

Another facet of the novel that I wouldlike to foreground is the usage of clip. The narratives of three coevals household members give the thought of battle with the civilization of the response state ( Malaya ) and version required for alteration and cross cultural syncretism which happens much much later in the history of Malaysia but what is of import is the germinating procedure which takes topographic point from this point ( Pre-Independence ) to ( Post- Independence ) . The novel ‘s intervention of clip gives a sense of continuity, from the immigrant “ Ravi ‘s grandma who had arrived from India to her grandson who goes to England to foster his surveies and returns as a instructor. There is a sense of continuity as if the author really plans to walk us through the Nation ‘s history through the development of his characters personal life and aspirations. Through the narrative technique of the autobiography of the chief character, personal memories of the past gets shifted to the present and is understood as a procedure of alteration. It is this procedure which besides shows the development of society from being plural to going multicultural as the fresh moves with clip from one epoch to another. The novel spans three coevalss which can be traced with the reaching of Periathai in Malaya ( early 1940 ‘s to 1957 ) after Kannan, Ravi ‘s male parent ‘s decease. It is besides through this period that the author gives inside informations into the history of the Nation. Maniam takes the reader through British Occupation, the Interim Nipponese Occupation, the Communist Insurgency, the Emergency period and eventually the independency of Malaya.

“ But the infirmary compound was n’t ever dispute and category bias. There was the Kings birthday celebrated in a memorable mode. Then the entryway to the graveled infirmary route was straddled by an arch bearing the fable ” ” Long Live The Majesty ” Lights blinked at dark for a whole hebdomad.

( The Return )

“ That twelvemonth curfew, reduced by two hours was enforcing merely between 12 and 5amaˆ¦The Majestic in Bedong screened chiefly Chinese, Malay and Indian movies. Peoples moved about with less fright. An army unit was stationed at Merbok. ”

( The Return )

“ Bedong had been altering, the old tradesmans had to follow a more progressive attitude. They were unable to maintain out the going salesmen who conducted concern on the wayside. The old store facades came down. Boards that had served as shutters each numbered and slotted into a wooden channel, the door detached and assembled, were easy replaced by the Fe wicket. ”

“ One dark while we were still at work on the apparels, we heard Tunku Abdul Rahman, our Prime Minister, on the wireless, expressing the words: “ Merdeka! , “ Merdeka! Merdeka! “ aˆ¦.so Independence came and the immediate marks were the farther decrease of the curfew hours and in the sorts of goods displayed at the paving stalls. I saw a whole universe rise beside the route, cramped and glistening, towards the approachable extremums of personal dreams. Possesions was n’t sole any longer, it was everyone ‘s prerogativeaˆ¦ ”

( The Return )

All the above extracts show the advancement of the state ‘s history as seen through the eyes of Ravi, from the colonial jubilation of the King ‘s birthday, to the curfews during the Nipponese and Communist Insurgency and the Independence jubilation. Ravi, who represents his Indian community stands outside the circle and looks in every bit if he is an foreigner, he is non portion and package of the Nation ‘s battle nor proud of its new position as an independent state as he belongs to the constituent of a plural society and can non see beyond the demands of his day-to-day chores.He hears the proclaimation of Independence, yet is inactive and is seen go oning with the ironing of the apparels eager to complete his jobs. He can non partake in the joy of independency as being portion of a plural society, there is no common will or a vision, there is no sense of togetherness, therefore no sense of jubilation, pride or joy as a united, free and Independent State.

In this novel the author has besides alteration certain historical facts particularly on how the Indian community fared during this period of history, by giving voice to the forgotten or silenced community whose predicament was ne’er heard. This is a historical recount on the migrator community, the narrative of how they lived and survived in a new land can be read as a historical reading as it sheds visible radiation on the existent issues faced by this community. The birth of the new Ravi, who has undergone British instruction, and the procedure he goes through is about parallel to the procedure the stray Indian community goes through, no longer can they keep on to their individuality of being a member of a plural society but the demand to alter and germinate harmonizing to the alterations the state is traveling through, therefore the slow evolvement from the plural society towards multi cultural or multicultural society, which I will discourse on the 2nd half of my paper utilizing the text “ Green is the Colour ”


The novel “ Green is The Colour ” is set in the post- 13th May 1969, inter racial public violences in Malaysia. My ground for choosing this novel is due to the scene of clip, the first ground, as a continuum from the earlier fresh “ The Return ” which depicts the clip frame of pre-independence, this fresh takes into history the stage from the 1957 independency till the public violences of 1969, and so the after math stage, which is the chief model on which the secret plan is developed. The 2nd ground is, to foreground the development from plurality to the development of diverseness in Malaysia, pre and station Independence. In this peculiar text, the writer has re-lived and reconstructed a portion of National history through uniting his personal memories with his imaginativeness. A fiction is born and it gives so much penetration into a period in history that was dark and made people uneasy due to its sensitiveness. A historical recount would give description of events that led to the public violences and a factual study on the happening but this novel, a fiction, covers non merely the physical facets of the volatile state of affairs the state was in but besides presents an penetration into the heads of the multi racial characters and their clashing sentiments and visions. The writer shows how their lives and relationships are affected by the political developments in the state.

“ there is disturbance everyplace, force is interrupting out intermittently, civilians are traveling around with guns, the streets littered with roadblocks and broken glass, stores are being looted, autos set on fire and juncture sounds of bomb detonations peal through the air.. ”

The above is a physical description of the May 1969 public violences, from the novel Green is The Colour, taken from “ One Sky Many Horizon ‘s ” , by Mohammad A Quayyum.

The description that gives an penetration to how by and large people felt during that period of pandemonium and upset is “ Everybody spoke a different linguistic communication, everybody used different words, everyone was hurt and angry that the others did non understand them ” ( Fernando 1993:59 )

Merely literature is able to supply a deep penetration to both history and the human head, through the dramatisation of the characters in a fiction, their feelings, moral and psychological reactions to crisis. To a reader this would be valuable information non merely about the history of a State but besides the societal and cultural facet of the people who make the State.

I would wish to pull peculiar attending to the period in between 1957, Independence to the incident of the 1969 race public violences. The moral and sociological jobs of a freshly independent state with a bequest of colonial yesteryear and a multi-cultural, multiethnic and multi-religious makeup.

For this intent I would wish to pull the differences between both plural and multiethnic society. The major differences lie in the fact that a plural society is non managed, it merely exists but in a multi cultural society, the members are traveling towards a common wil, an “ imagined society ” in line with constructing a State, independent from colonial regulation. In kernel, a transmutation from plural to multiethnic or multicultural background. This gives a greater sense of carbon monoxide being between members of the different communities. As pockets of community convergences, this would of course do tensenesss. With interaction comes issues of race dealingss, racial intolerance and “ xenophobia ” , the phobic disorder of the “ other ” .

Xenophobia is defined as an overdone ill will towards or fright of aliens ( Collins, Dictionary of Sociology by David and Julia Jary )

When we learn to cover and get by with the above issues, that ‘s when tolerance and apprehension of race, civilization and spiritual barriers would show the ability for people of different races to populate together harmoniously.

Multiculturalism, the manner I would read it is direction of diverseness. Harmonizing to C W Watson in his book “ Multiculturalism ” , the word multiculturalism “ it denotes a society in which there exists several civilizations ” .

“ If a state is a multicultural society and a individual ‘s sense of ego worth is closely and inescapably bound up with their cultural individuality, so the province, if it wants the state to last can make one of the two things. It can seek to destruct the multicultural dimension of the society by rooting out all cultures other than the individual one which will go dominant. aˆ¦..The option would be to observe and promote multiculturalism in the outlook that citizens who are proud of their civilization and see that civilization being endorsed by the province will be dying to fall in in common citizenship with members of other cultural groups to protect the broad tolerance which is so of import for them. ”

Taken from the book “ Multiculturalism “ by C W Watson.

This extract is of import to me as it captures the kernel of the novel “ Green is The Colour ” . “ to fall in in common citizenship with members of other cultural groups tp protect broad tolerance ” , this is what is presented in the novel, a message that if we want to bask integrity and harmoniousness at that place must be a degree of tolerance and apprehension among the members of the different cultural groups.

Multiculturalism negotiations about the demands of the minorities, each race wants to be represented and demand for acknowledgment and equality. If non met, tensenesss brew and consequence in apprehensiveness and misgiving among the members, struggle and controversy for domination and control. The Malay ‘s wanted their political, societal and economic rights as the indigens of the land protected. The Chinese and Indians, on the other manus wanted greater political freedom as citizens of the shortly to be independent nation.The race public violences of May 1996 is a apogee of the above. It brought an consciousness that the society instability and issues of communalism needed to be addressed.This is the gap of the novel, the immediate wake of the public violence and the misgiving and intuition the people of different races have of each other.

The writer presents this landscape and through his assorted characters is able to foreground the issues and jobs that arises in the manner the state of affairs is handled. A assortment of sensitive issues chiefly on race, faith and gender, that require careful handling is brought to the surface and dealt with. The writer, Fernando, tells us indirectly that the direction of diverseness requires acknowledgment, credence and tolerance of the “ other ” .

In the novel, the writer has presented viing positions of the state through its cardinal characters. T he major cultural groups in the state, viz. Malays, Chinese and Indians are given equal attending. The stiff positions of Panglima and Omar.While Panglime is more in favor of the formation of a Malay Malaysia, Omar is for an Islamic Malaysia.

The words of Panglima,

“ I saw how the so called modern values have led us to the state of affairs we are now in. The people divided, so many faiths, existent rojak, partitioned non into two parts but many parts. We need a individual set of values to maintain us to-gether ‘ . ( page169 text )

Omar uses faith to get away modern Western values and rediscover the pre-colonial yesteryear,

“ He spoke about modern life and how it had become corrupt. Everywhere people were trailing money, populating immoral lives. This was a irreverent clip and he was lucky to happen Tok Guru Bahaudin to assist deliver his life.

He tells Sara, ” this state is oursaˆ¦ . We will do it our ain ” ( 109 )

He views his non-Malay, non-Muslim friends with misgiving because they do non portion his civilization and faith. His position on Gita,

“ Gita, she was a distraction and finally a danger. The same could be said about the others. No demand to cut them off wholly but if they wanted to populate with small or no faith and pray to graven images, they should be kept at a distance. ( 40 )

However in the character of Yun Ming, we see loyalty and dedication to the state. Even if he is described as kaffir by Panglima, he is acknowledged as “ sincere ‘ and willing to “ understand ” .Panglima counts on him to set about inconvenient undertakings, in penchant to his Malay officers.

Yun Ming is so acute to bridge civilizations and convey harmoniousness and homogeneousness that he is willing to give his ain tradition and civilization. He is willing to encompass Islam in desiring to get married Sara.

Dahlan is the character who speaks the right words, and does the right things to mend a state that is in problem, nevertheless he is viewed to be excessively extremist and vocal, that he offends many people. He preaches spiritual tolerance, demands equal chances for all races, marries a Hindu adult female without inquiring her to change over, stands up for a Chinese religious leader and offers to set about the funeral rites for Fatimah Neelambigai, a Muslim convert who will non be buried by either side of her household. Even if Dahlan represents the “ voice ” of every individual who wishes to see the ideal “ imagined society ‘ , he is criticized for his attack, which is deemed excessively “ euro interpellated ” . This is another message from the writer that infers the demand for a elusive, careful attack in managing a affair of such great sensitiveness that one merely can non travel caput on hit in accomplishing the ideal.

The characters that display human compassion and extraordinary deepness are Sara and Lebai Hanafiah.

Lebai Hanafiah does non pattern favoritism or bias intervention of persons and teaches the spirit of equality and self-respect to all.

“ There are so many who want to coerce you to follow the right way. Each one ‘s right way is the lone 1. I am tired of seeing the folly spread in the name of such right waies. I fear those who seek to come between me and love for all humanity. They are the beginning of hatred and devastation. ” ( 116 )

I peculiarly like Sara ‘s positions on how to manage and work out all the issues originating in a multicultural society on the route to constructing a new State.

“ She pondered over the utilizations of words like ‘disturbances ‘ , ‘trouble ‘ , ‘riots ‘ , and ‘killing ‘ , observing how the usage of each unerringly identified the user. She added that, after all, we are constructing a new state, we were working out our ain hereafter and we will work out our jobs as they arise. She developed and clung to the usage of the plural personal pronoun because they soothed her, they stirred feelings of nationalism, of love for fellow citizens whether Malay, Chinese, Indian or Eurasian. They exempted her from inquiring what truly had happened. ” ( page 77 )

Lloyd Fernando, has presented the multiple positions of the muti racial society, as a societal fact of our life in this state till today. The diverseness is shown through the potrayal of utmost modern heads in characters like Dahlan, extreme conservative on the other side of the spectrum, as in Omar and the balanced attacks required verymuch in a state similar ours as presented in the characters of Lebai Hanafiah, Yun Ming and Sara. In his novel the the multiracial characters interact and communicate with each other, each one ‘s individuality and sense of belonging is tested and their demands and wants recognized.

In comparing to the earlier fresh “ The Return ” , the secret plan revolved around the emerging of an idenetity of a individual character against the background of a plural society, there were tensenesss existing even in such a homogeneous make-up, within one ‘s ain community. By utilizing a parochial model and the scene of station colonial epoch of Malaya, Maniam presented the concerns of a plural society germinating to a multi-ethnic 1. In Green is the Colour, Fernando takes on where Maniam has left off and presents a multi racial and multicultural landscape and the jobs that arises from such a make up. Diversity is the chief model and he creates chances for inter racial dealingss. The message that comes through is the ability to accept and digest differences, irrespective of race and faith.

Both the writers have captured the kernel of Malayan history non merely in footings of references and descriptions of history of that epoch but these recounts gives us glances and penetrations into how society evolved from one period of history to another. The battles of persons and society in a multi ethnic, , multicultural background, carving niches for themselves through dialogue, tolerance and credence in a state invariably turning and developing. It gives a better apprehension of how we got here and we are able to appreciate and observe our diverseness better. The function played by these two fiction novels in showing history in such an enlightening and interesting mode is undeniable. Both the texts combine the properties of historical every bit good as sociological novel.

Read together, the histories presented by both the novels provide a comprehensive, elaborate image of the sociopolitical conditions and the consecutive flowering of the Malayan landscape. Therefore does fiction hold a topographic point alongside history and sociology texts in the societal and cultural tapestry of the state? The reply is a simple YES.

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