"Bi-culturalism pervades Toru Dutt's 'Our Casuarina Tree'." Discuss.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the most basic of understandings, I think that the statement is true.  Dutt is writing from being the benefactor of Western education and being able to apply this to a Bengali context.  In this, it is evident that a sense of both Western lyricism as well as indigenous reality ("creeper" is an Indian construct) contribute and pervade the poem.  Yet, I think that there is some danger in seeing binary oppositions govern everything, and the loss of complexity and intricacy might be part of the problem with this.  Dutt's work is multicultural on several grounds.  The first is that she does have an experience with Western culture through her own background, but this involves an embrace of the British and French literary traditions, distinct elements that filter in her life and her work.  Both elements might be seen in the poem, as there is a tragic sensibility that is uniquely French and stoic lyricism in the description of the tree that might be part of the English tradition.  In terms of her own Indian disposition, she is writing in Bengali, and this, itself, is a different culture than the rest of India.  The Bengali writers see and perceive reality differently than other parts of India, and this comes out in her work, one that seeks to merge together different experiences of past and present in the form of something new, an unsolvable longing for that which has past in the face of that which is.  In being Bengali and absorbing this mode of recognition, I think that another culture is revealed in the poem.  There is definitely the presence of multiple cultures converging in the poem, and I would tend to think that is more than two, making it more than "bi- cultural."