The Ground Beneath Her Feet

by Salman Rushdie

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Discuss The Ground Beneath Her Feet as a postcolonial novel about identity and multiculturalism.

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Salman Rushdie's novel The Ground Beneath Her Feet provides much in the way of bold, clashing, diasporic, surreal storytelling. Rushdie's use of Indian and European mythology, alternate realities, and complex, diasporic characters certainly sets the stage for reflection on identity, multiculturalism, and hybridity.

In thinking about these themes, consider the use of Eastern-versus-Western tensions throughout the novel as the story winds through Bombay, London, and New York City and through interactions/events that take place between characters. For instance, consider how Virus becomes unable to speak (and later on a silent mystic) after his very Anglophilic father, Sir Darius Xerxes Cama, accidentally hits him in the head with a cricket ball. Consider also the tensions present in the marriage between Rai's parents, who are at stark cultural odds with one another in post-colonial Bombay.

Finally, consider if and how Ormus's relationship with Vina and his visions of Maria and her alternate reality speak to diasporic identity and hybridization. Is it significant that Ormus's experience with the alternate reality becomes stronger as he starts his life in London? These are but a few aspects of Rushdie's The Ground Beneath Her Feet that can be used to explore identity, multiculturalism, and hybridization.

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Discuss Rushdie's The Ground Beneath Her Feet as a diasporic novel.

A diasporic novel, like Salman Rushdie's The Ground Beneath Her Feet, is one that focuses on the experiences of people who are far from their homes and who are trying to adjust to the life and culture of a new place, all the while experiencing alienation, loneliness, and a desire to discover their true identities. Let's see how these ideas play out in Rushdie's novel.

On one level, Ormus and Vina must both find their way through the alienation of adjusting themselves to new places and new cultures. Vina's father sends her to India after her mother's death, and she must learn to adjust to the ways of life there. She struggles, for her relatives' home is completely unsuitable for her, and she ends up with the Merchant family. Ormus, too, deals with a new culture when he moves to London and then the US. Both of these young people are trying to discover who they are in the midst of cultures that are not their homes. This is very much at the heart of a diasporic novel.

However, Rushdie's novel gives the diasporic motif a fantastic twist, for his characters live not in the real world of the readers but in some kind of alternate dimension or parallel universe. Readers are the ones who become disoriented and alienated as they try to sort out the similarities and differences between their world and the world of the novel. What's more, Ormus catches glimpses of the readers' dimension of reality and even meets Maria, who is part of that universe. Indeed, worlds collide in this book in more ways then one.

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