It’s the Lack of a Moral Compass for Me

While reading The Stranger I thought that Meursault was a very problematic character. I did not like how he did not care about too much of anything. I also thought it was quite distasteful how he was able to be friends with Raymond and Salamano who are abusers. Meursault was very aware of how bad of a character that Salamano was, he describes some of Salamano’s action to the reader he states, ¨When the dog wants to urinate, the old man won´t give him enough time and yanks at him…If the dog has an accident in the room, it gets beaten again¨(27). Even after Meursault knew how bad Salamano he made another friend who was is an abuser who name is Raymond. In fact he even went into Raymond’s apartment to eat food. While in the apartment Raymond also admitted to beating his girlfriend(29-32). I am overall sick of Meursault and his lack of being aware of red flags and frankly bad people. He also just kind of goes along with everything Raymond says without correcting him and telling him what he is doing is unacceptable.

damned if you do, damned if you don’t

In the short story “Escape From Spiderhead” by George Sanders, Jeff has to decide whether Heather or Rachel will be injected with Darkenfloxx, a deadly potion. When talking to Abnesti, he makes the remark that the choice will be random.

“I can’t decide,” I said. “It’s random.”

“Truly random?” he said, “Okay. im giving the Darkenfloxx to Heather.”

I just sat there.

“No actually,” he said, “I’m giving it to Rachel.”

Just sat there(57).

Abnesti believes that Jeff truly has no preference. With this, Jeff believes he has saved them from Darkenfloxx but in turn, Heather ends up dying. When reflecting upon this, it shows that sometimes the end result you try so hard to stay away from, still happens. Jeff would have most likely killed one of the women if he had chosen a name. But that was no difference because Abnesti killed at least one of them anyways.

Adaptating Stories

Although The God of Small Things primarily details the tragedy and resolution of Estha and Rahel’s family, it is also about Ayemenem as a whole and how it changes alongside the focal characters. As Roy recounts the daily life in Ayemenem both in the past and present, she includes kathakali performances prominently in two sections.

In the first, she tells of how a five-star hotel chain had bought the Heart of Darkness. As a five-star hotel chain would do, they renovate everything about the area (except the smell) and even incorporate elements of the local history. Of course, these snippets of history are primarily used to sell the hotel to the guests, with “Traditional Kerala Umbrella,” “Traditional Bridal Dowry-box,” and the hotel’s name itself, “Heritage,” serving as the primary examples of the commodification of history and culture (120). Of course, the selling off of culture doesn’t end there, as the hotel even incorporates kathakali performances; however, the hotel itself takes liberates to slash “six-hour classics” to “twenty-minute cameos” (121). To add insult to injury, the performances are staged by the swimming pool, wherein the guests seem to give little attention to the already lobotomized performances; Kunti revealing her secret to Karna is truncated to less than a sentence. Roy’s depiction of “Heritage” seems to demonstrate the commodification of stories and culture that ultimately trades any substance or meaning for shallow excitement.

In contrast, Roy later presents us with performers from the Heart of Darkness. They recognize “their turning to tourism to stave of starvation” and as a result, “they stopped at the temple to ask the pardon of their gods” (218). As their performance’s purpose changes from mere survival to self-actualization. As just one example, Roy sums up the Kathakali Man as “the most beautiful of men. Because his body is his soul. His only instrument” (219). Although Roy then recounts the increasing unwantedness of the Kathakali Man as “He becomes a Regional Flavor” just to survive, she then expands what was once a fragment of a sentence into nearly three pages of story. Karna’s despair, comfort, shock, and resolution and Kunti’s identity and purpose is brought to life while the Love Laws once again play a major role. The performance, now done justice, lends insight both into culture and into our principle character’s past.

Karna and Kunti

Over time, all stories are adaptable. Whether that be through simple translation or through massive shifts like a different media, all stories change. The Bible has been adapted into movies, television, vegetable cartoons, etc. (not even mentioning the thousands of translations), the story of Buddha has been made into movies, and even modern stories like “Forrest Gump” and “The Office” receive adaptations. For all these adaptations, something about the story must change. Whether that be a phrase that now becomes lost in translation or a theme that no longer resonates, adaptations often lose substance.

Such is the case with the kathakali performances. Their adaptation into mere hotel entertainment achieves a purpose, it certainly adds value to the hotel and garners the performers their livelihood, but it loses the emotional weight and magic that made the original performances matter. As such, the hotel acts are horrible adaptations because in their hollow pursuit of the appearance of seeming cultured, they’ve lost cultre.

Better than the original?

However, not all adaptations are bad adaptations. Adaptations are created for a reason, that being a new purpose: for foreigners who can’t read in another language, for younger audiences, for more bombastic special effects and acting, etc. Adaptations are necessary because originals are often too rigid to allow for what the author or audience wants.

This sentiment leads me to Roy’s adaptation of Kunti and Karna by the riverside. While Rahel and Estha watch the original performance, we read Roy’s adapted version. In this case, Roy adapts the performance because it’s a simple necessity of an author to condense things down until nothing but what’s necessary is told. Of course, Roy’s telling of the story doesn’t explain the lore, voices, etc. of the performance, but it brings what Roy needs. Parallel to Rahel and Estha’s story, Roy’s version of Kunti and Karna tells of despair, familial connection and conflict, and the Love Laws that both conveys the emotion of the original story and ties it together with the overall story. Roy’s adaptation is a good (or at least better) adaptation because it cuts down the story while still keeping the original themes intact and connecting those themes back to her story.

The two adaptations, at the hotel and at the temple, demonstrate how we ought to tell and retell stories. Often, we must retell stories — in Roy’s case she can’t literally show us the six-hour performance — however, we must take care so that whatever adaptation we create, watch, and/or read is something that’s both faithful enough to the original and different enough to serve a distinct purpose lest we, like tourists, merely produce and consume rather than tinker, re-imagine, and learn.