Publication Details

Sharrad, P. (2013). Desirable or dysfunctional? Family in recent Indian english-language fiction. South Asia, 36 (1), 123-133.


Meenakshi Mukherjee, in the period when Commonwealth Literature was attempting to establish the difference of national cultures from a British canon, pointed to the perception of early Indian novelists that South Asian family structures mitigated against working in a form based around individual characters (7-9). Where arranged marriage, the greater importance of the extended family unit, and caste affiliations had more social force, stories and their resolutions would have to look different from those of Hardy, Eliot or Henry James. If we think of the world of Austen, this is evidently a difference of degree rather than an absolute distinction, but Sudhir Kakar has also elaborated on the strength of ties in India between child and parent that moderate teenage rebellion and the radical break of adult individuation that the West has come to see as normal. The stress of Commonwealth Literature and its variants, on cultural specificity and local aesthetics, matched at the local end of the critical scale by nationalistic insistence on authenticity and tradition, kept literary treatments of the Indian family more or less centre stage but also perhaps under-examined in that they took for granted the general social grounding of particular fictions.