Analysis

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 176

The Glass Palace is a portrait of modernity, and of how different nations—Malaya, Bengal, Burma, and India—change differently in its wake. It is also about the erasure of identity, both personal and national, as new technologies and norms accelerate the rate of exchange of goods, ideas, and people across state borders. Compounded by instability and often outright war, individuals' knowledge of their own legacies are threatened, confusing their sense of the future. Many characters, including Arjun, ruminate in a state of melancholy while struggling to recover a quickly fading past.

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Most importantly, the book is about how human identities adapt to the tides of modernity. Rather than draw a pessimistic outlook from the obvious erasures occurring in Asia, the book suggests that the definition of nationality can adjust to accommodate and validate a new kind of emergent subject. The modern subject finds community with others in the form of a complex system of affinities rather than a handful of categories of belonging, such as one's surname, skin color, or the name of one's religion.

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