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JessicaIngram

Dr.Marsh

EN4933

20October2015

ClothinginMeeraSyalsAnitaandMe

MeeraSyalsnovelAnitaandMefocusesheavilyonhybridityandtheclashingof

EnglishandIndiancultures.Whetheritislanguage,food,relationships,beliefs,ortheideaof

home,thisnoveloffersnoshortageofexamplesthatexemplifytheculturegapbetweenthetwo

countries.Thisclashofculturesoftenresultsinthedevelopmentofstereotypes.Often

immigrantsinaforeigncountry,andevennativesintheirhomecountry,canexperience

prejudiceandstereotypingwithinthecommunity.Thesepreconceivedideascanrevolvearound

culture,beliefs,occupation,race,socialstatusandmuchmore.Thesestereotypesareexpressed

indifferentwaysthroughoutthisnovel;thenarratorherselfoccasionallyusestheminamocking

orsarcastictone,andwealsoseethemcomethroughinthecharactersactionsanddialogue.The

noveldisplaysstereotypessurroundingthreegroupsofpeoplethatcanbefoundinEngland:

immigrants,foreignvisitors,andEnglishcitizens.Thesepreconceivedideasareshowninaway

thatissubtlerthantheothers.Theuseofclothinginthisnovelisusedasatooltoillustratethese

stereotypesformedinreactiontothegrowingmulticulturalismofEngland.However,itgoes

furtherthanthat.Clothingisalsousedtosupportandcontradictthesestereotypes.Thecentral

prejudicesinthisnovelcenteroncultureandstatus,andtheseideasoftengohandinhand.In

MeeraSyalsAnitaandMe,clothingisusedtoillustratethepreconceivednotionsaboutthe

charactersaswellasofferevidencethatcanbothreinforceandopposethoseideas.
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WhileIamexaminingtherelationshipbetweenstereotypesandclothinginAnitaandMe,

manyscholarsfocusonthehybridityandmulticulturalismthroughoutthenovel.Inherarticle,

Travellinginbetween,AnnaBranachKallasaddressesthediasporathataffectsbothMeena

andherfamily.SheclaimsthatSyalcontraststheIndianbornimmigrantsattachmenttoroots

andthe(Indian)nationwithherEnglishbornteenageheroinesfeelingofdisplacementand

statelessness(139).BranachKallassupportsherargumentaboutMeenasparentsbyciting

examplesoftheracismanddiscriminationthattheyfaceeachday.WhenaddressingMeenaas

theSecondGeneration,sheoffersexamplesofMeenasstruggletofitintobothEnglishand

IndiancultureandherrealizationthatbecauseofherstatusasanEnglishbornforeigner,shewill

neverfullybelongtoeither.AlthoughMeenaandherhavetofacesimilarstrugglesandfeelings

ofdisconnection,BranachKallasshowshowMeenaandherparentsseetheiraffiliationtothe

twonationsindifferentways.BranachKallasargumentcentersonthewaysthatMeenaandher

familyfeeldisconnectedandmisplacedwithinEnglishsociety.

InLeilaNetisarticle,SitingSpeech,shediscussestherelationshipbetweenlanguage

andidentity,specificallyfocusedonraceandclass,inAnitaandMe.Shearguesthatitisonthe

terrainoflanguagethatsomeofthemostprofoundprocessesofalienationandidentification

aremappedout(98).SheexamineshowlanguageaffectsMeenasdisconnectionwithEnglish

society.Netialso,however,illustratesMeenasprogresstowardacceptingheruniqueduality.

Meenadiscoversthattheideaofbelongingissomethingthatshecancreateherself,asshewill

beforcedtoreconcileherculturaldualityfortherestofherlife.LikeBranachKallas,Neti

centersherargumentontheideathatMeenaandherfamilystruggletoadapttothedifferences
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betweenEnglishandIndiansociety,howeverNetigoesfurtherandshowshowMeenacomesto

termswithbeingsimultaneouslyEnglishandIndian.

Similarly,inthearticleRescueMe?No,Thanks,ChristineVogtWilliamisalso

lookingathybridity.HercommentsonAnitaandMeaddressMeenascomingtoacceptthe

entiretyofhermulticulturalheritage.VogtWilliamarguesthatMeenaisabletoreconcilethe

differencesbetweenhertwoculturesandtoformacompositeidentityforherself(391).Vogt

WilliamexaminesMeenasinteractionswithSamLowbridgetodemonstratehowMeenaisable

tofindherindividualidentityandstandupforherselfandherIndianancestry.VogtWilliam

addressesthisaspectofAnitaandMetorevealhowIndianBritishwritersusetheirworksabout

formingidentitytoredefinetheirowndualidentities.UnlikeBranachKallas,VogtWilliamis

showingthatitispossibleforIndianstofindtheirownplaceinEnglishsociety.Sherevealsthis

twofold,byfocusingonbothMeenaandMeeraSyal.

InthearticleBeyond(T)race,BertholdSchoeneHarwooddiscussesthe

Bildungsromanandproprioception.SchoeneHarwoodarguesthathybriditysignifiesa

multitudeofuncoordinated,chaoticdifferencesprecariouslyconstitutingamotleybeingwhich

onlyinrareinstancesmanagestoemergeasaheraldofsocietalchange(160).Schoene

HarwoodlooksatexamplesofMeenastrivingtofitinandbecomemoreEnglish,andexplains

howthesemomentsmarkherprocessoffindingthatheridentityismuchmorethanrace.Justas

Meenafindsheruniqueidentityinthemidstoftwoconflictingcultures,shemovesoutof

Tollingtonandherlifebecomesawiderglobalcontextinwhichnarrowboundariesopenupto

largerspheresanddissolve(166).LikeVogtWilliamandVeti,SchoeneHarwoodshowshowit
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ispossibleforforeignerstoovercomethelimitationsoflivinginacountrythatisnotcompletely

theirownandfindtheiridentity.

Finally,inhisarticleMythsofChildhood,RocoG.Davisanalyzestheuseofthe

childhoodnarrative.Davisclaims,thedynamicsofthechildcharactermakeitavividmetaphor

forthequestforadefinitionoftheculturalpluralismwhileadaptingtothepracticesofthe

cultureinwhichtheseworksarecreated(139140).Headdressestheimportanceofthestorys

pointofviewandtheoftenhumorousrecallingofthenarratorschildhoodevents.Davis

examineshowthereadersofAnitaandMefollowalongasthenarratorrecountsmomentsthat

shebecomesawareoftheculturaldifferencesthatshefaces.SimiliarlytoNetiandSchoene

Harwood,DavisaddressesMeenasprocesstodevelopinganethnicselfdefinitionand

belongingtoacommunity(146).Whilemanyscholarsstudyhybridityandtheprocessthrough

whichitaffectsthecharactersthroughoutthenovel,Iamgoingtobelookingatthreedistinct

typesofpeople,Indianimmigrants,anIndianvisitor,andanEnglishfamily,andtherelationship

tostereotypesthattheirclothingreveals.

ClothesareusedasatooltoshowhowMeenasparentscontradictthepreconceivedideas

ofIndianimmigrationtoEngland.Ontheveryfirstpageofthenovel,Meenasparentsare

portrayedasunderprivilegedIndiansonajourneytoabetterlifeinEngland.Theyaredescribed

aswearingdustyIndianvillagegarbastheymaketheirapproachtotheEnglandshoreline(9).

Thedustinessgivestheimageofpoverty,andvillagegarbseemstosuggestthattheyarefrom

arural,meagerbackgroundseekingrefugeinEngland.Thispassageisheavilyintertwinedwith

sarcasm.Theuseofsarcasmbythenarratorissimultaneouslyopposingthisassumedcultureof

Indianimmigration,whiledescribingthepreconceivedideasthatsurroundit.
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Thepresentationoftheirclothingsuggeststhat,unlikethestereotypicalimmigrantcouple

overwhelmedbyimmersionintoanewculture,Meenasparentsareadjustingwelltoblending

theirIndianheritageandEnglishculture.Meenasparentsknowthattheywillreceivestaresand

whisperswhentheyweartheirIndianclothing,butitispartoftheEnglishpeopleseducation

(25).MeenasparentsseetheiroutingsasopportunitiestoshowtheEnglishhowwelladjusted

theyaretoalifeinEngland.Theyaimtodisprovetheideathatpeopleplacedinanewcountry

andculturewillstruggletofindabalance.TheyeducatetheEnglishbydemonstratinghowthey

havesuccessfullyblendedtheirculturestogether.InsteadofdressingliketheIndianwomenthey

seeoutinEngland,whoaredressedinembroideredsalwarkameezsuitsscreamingwithgreens

andpinksandyellowswithbrightmakeupandshowygoldplatedjewellrywhichmadethem

looklikeambulatingChristmastrees,Meenasparentsareabletoshowcasetheirculturewhile

demonstratingtheirownEnglishness(26).OtherIndianwomeninEnglandseemtothrowtheir

IndianbackgroundattheEnglish.TheyshowofftheirmostvibrantIndianattire,buttothe

Englishtheyappearthattheyarestrugglingtoadapttothisdifferentculture.Thiscouldleadto

thestereotypethatimmigrantsdonotfitintoanewsocietyeasily.MeenasmomusesherIndian

heritagetodispeltheideathatimmigrantscannotcopewithanewsociety.Sheshowsthatshe

canweardiscreetgoldjewellry,dressintastefulsilksand[still]speakEnglishwithoutan

accent(25).TheblendofEnglishandIndianthatMeenasparentsportrayintheirclothing

opposesthenotionthatallimmigrantsstruggletofitintothestrange,newculture.

WhileclothesareusedtoshowhowMeenasparentsopposestereotypes,theyarealso

usedtoshowhowtheyreinforceEnglishpreconceptions.ThefortunetelleroftentellsMeenathat

shewillmarrysomeonecolouredlike[herself],inawhitecoat(183).Thepsychicusesthis
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predictionbecauseitiswhatshebelievesthatMeenawantstohear.Thisdemonstratesthe

commonbeliefthatIndiansaresmartandarelikelytoholdoccupationssuchasdoctors,or

scientists.Meenasparentsappeartoreinforcethisstereotypebecausewhenevertheywentout,

outmeaningwhereverEnglishpeopleweretheyalwaysworetheirsmartestclothes(25).

ThesesmartclothesweretheirbestIndiansarisandsuits.Meenasparentswantedtoappearto

theEnglishpublicthattheywereasintelligentandculturedascommonIndianstereotypesmade

themouttobe.Theydidnotwanttobeperceivedasconfused,overwhelmedimmigrants

strugglingtoadjusttolifeinacountrynottheirown.Inthiscase,Meenasparentswantedtofit

intothisIndianstereotype.TheyseethepreconceivedideaofIndianintellectandunderstanding

assomethingthattheywanttoemulate.Meenasparentsareawareofthestereotypesthat

surroundthemandtheirIndiancultureandtheypurposefullyopposeandsupportthemintheir

clothing.TheywanttoshowthattheycoulddisplaytheirIndianheritageandstillbeapartof

Englishculture.

ClothesarealsousedtoshowhowMeenasgrandmother,Nanima,opposesthe

stereotypeofIndianunderdevelopmentandpoverty.TheEnglishcommonlybelievethatIndians

wouldcometoEnglandlookingforanescapefromacruelandimpoverishedlife.Thenarrator

herselfopposesthisstereotypicalimageofIndianimmigrantsintheirdustyIndianvillagegarb

byaddressingthetopicwithsarcasm(9).Likewise,NanimacontradictsthisimageofIndian

povertythroughherclothingandaccessories.WhenNanimagoeswithMeenatothestore,she

hasseveralencounterswithEnglishpeople.WhentheBallbearingswomenseeNanimathey

approachherandbegintoaskherquestions.KnowingthatshedoesnotspeakmuchEnglish,

Meenarushestoherdefense.MeenarevealsNanimastwoornategoldbangleswhichmany
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marriedwomenweartodenotetheirwealthandstatus(220).ThisintereststheBallbearings

womenbecausetheydonotexpecttoencounterawealthyIndianwoman.Theyenvisionall

IndiansaswearingdustyIndianvillagegarbandaresurprisedthatNanimacontradictsthis

stereotype.InthissituationNanimasaccessoriesareusedtodenythepreconceivedideaof

Indianpoverty.NanimashowsthatalthoughsheisfromIndia,shecomesfromaplacewhereshe

holdswealthandstatus,somethingthatmanypeopledonotassociatewithIndia.UnlikeMeenas

parentswhousetheirclothingtointentionallyresistcommonstereotypes,Nanimaisunawareof

theprevalentIndianstereotypesinEngland,andtheoppositionthatshepresentsisunintentional.

Nanimasclothesarealsousedtoshowhowshereinforcesthestereotypeofwhata

commonIndianwomanlookslike.WhileoutshoppingwithMeena,Nanimacomesfacetoface

withanIndianstereotype.ThemeanfacedmaninMr.OremerodsshoplooksatNanimawith

amusementandMeenacommentsthattotheEnglisheye,Nanimasoutfitlookedlikepyjamas,

andthemensbedsocks,crammedintoherwornleatherthongsandals(223).TheEnglishhave

apreconceivedideaofwhatatypicalIndianwomanislike,andwhenNanimacomestovisit

England,sheillustratesthatalmostperfectly.TotheEnglish,Indiandressisbizarreandthe

mansreaction,toNanimasclothesdemonstratesthatopinion.Thebarelydisguised

amusementinthemeanfacedmanseyesshowsthattheappearanceofNanimadoesnot

surprisehim,butconfirmsthepicturethathehadofIndians(223).UnlikeMeenasparents,

NanimahasnotbeensubmergedintotheEnglishculturelongenoughtorecognizethatsheis

reinforcingacommonbeliefaboutIndians.

ClothingisusedtoshowhowAnitaRutterseemstocontradicttheEnglishstereotypesof

closemindedness.AnitaopposestheideaofEnglishracismandclosemindednesswhenshe
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admiresMeenasIndianclothes.ThoughnotallEnglishpeopleareportrayedasracist,Anitas

relationshipwithSamLowbridgesuggeststhatshemayholdsomeracistviews.AttheSpring

Fete,SamLowbridgeandhisgangaredescribedaswearingauniformofshortdenimjackets,

tightjeanshelpupwithbraces,andhugeclumpyboots(174).Thisuniformisoftenassociated

withskinheads,agroupthatislargelyknownfortheirblatantracismanddiscrimination.Inthis

instance,clothingisusedtorevealSamspoliticalandsocialbeliefs.Thestereotypecreatedby

hisclothingisconfirmedwhenverballyannouncesthemattheSpringFetewhenhespeaksout

againstimmigrants.AnitaislaterrevealedtobeinadatingrelationshipwithSam,which

suggeststhatshedoesnotdisagreewithhisopinions.Anitais,inasense,guiltybyassociation.

However,thisideaisopposedwhenAnitacomestodinneratMeenashouse.Meena

reluctantlyshowsAnitaherroomandMeenasIndianclothingfascinatesAnita.Anitapullsthe

suitsandscarvesofftheirhangersandunfurledaworldofpossibilitiesbeforeher(256).The

newworldofpossibilitiesthatappearedbeforeAnitashowsthatsheneverimaginedthatshe

wouldbeenticedbyIndianclothing.AnitaevencomplimentsMeenasclothingbycallingthem

bosting(256).ComplimentingisnotsomethingthatweareleadtobelievethatAnitadoes

often,soAnitasayingthatMeenasclothesarebostingtriggersthatthisisanimportant

momentinbothgirlslives.ThisscenebetweenAnita,Meena,andtheIndianclothesthatMeena

isashamedofshowsthatAnitaisnotsomuchclosemindedandracist,butsimplynaveand

suggestible.HereAnitasinteractionwithclothingisshowntoopposethecommonbeliefthatall

EnglishpeopleareracistagainsttheIndiansandtheirculture.

ClothingisalsousedtodemonstratehowAnitaandherfamilyreinforcethestereotypes

surroundingthepoor.Manydifferentnotionsareraisedwhensomeoneisreferredtoaspoor.
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Oftentimespovertyisassociatedwithhavingfewitemsandthosefewitemsthattheydohave

beinginbadshape.ThisisthestereotypethatAnitaandTraceyillustratewiththeirclothing.At

onepoint,MeenanotedthatAnitawaswearingoneofheroldsummerdressesandacardiganI

guessedmusthavebeenhermumsasithungoffherinwoollyfolds(99).Anitaoftenworeher

mothersclothing.Thissupportsthepreconceivedideathatwithmoneystrugglesoftencomes

lackofclothingandreusingitems.InthesamewaythatAnitawearshermomsclothing,

Tracey,Anitassister,isgivenAnitasclothestowear.Sheisseenwearingadressthathungoff

her,obviouslyoneofAnitashandmedown(46).Itisimportanttonotethisstereotype

presentedbytheRuttersclothingbecauseitrevealsmorethanjusttheirsocialstatus.Many

peopleareabletofacefinancialdifficultyinsidetheirfamilyandstillappeartotheoutsideworld

totakeprideinthemselves.Anitaandherfamilysblatantreinforcementofthepoorstereotype

alsoshowstheirlackofconcernforhowtheyareviewed.Atanothermoment,MeenaseesAnita

wearingaskirtthatbarelycoveredherthighsandoneofhermumsoldcardiganswhichhad

twosaggypoucheswhereDeirdresboobsshouldhavebeen(151).Thisexampleonceagain

reinforcesthestereotypeofthepoorbeinglimitedintheirdress,butitalsobringstolightanother

stereotypethatoftencomeswithbeingassociatedwithpoverty.

Anothercommonpreconceptionthatcomeswithbeingunderprivileged,thoughoften

misplaced,istheideathatthosewithlessmoneyarelessmodest.Theuseofclothesinthisnovel

supportsthisassumptionconcerningAnitaandDeirdre.Anitasskirtbarelycoveredherthighs

andDeirdreisseenwalkinginherwhitestilettoswithherpointyboobsdoingajiveundera

verytightwhitepolonecksweater(54).Allthroughoutthestory,AnitaandDeirdreare

describedaswearinganddoingthingsthatcouldbeclassifiedaspromiscuous.Anitaand
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Deirdresclothingisusedtorepresent,notonlytheirsocialstatus,butalsowhatcouldbecalled

theirmoralstatus.Thisstereotypedepictedbytheirclothesisbackedupbytheiractions.Meena

witnessesDeirdresneakingoffwithAnitasdateandshealsocatchesAnitaandSamhavingsex.

Onceagain,DeirdreandAnitaseemtointentionallysupportthestereotypethatsurroundsthem.

Itcouldbearguedthattheydonotpurposefullysupportthestereotypes,howeveritisclearthat

theymakenoefforttorefuteoropposethem.Forthesescharactersclothingisusedtoillustrate

thestereotypesthatsurroundboththeEnglishandthepoor.

InAnitaandMe,clothingisusedasatooltodepictthestereotypesthataredeveloped

fromtheclashingoftheIndianandBritishculturesinEngland.Thesestereotypesareconfinedto

threeseparategroups,andallofthesegroupshaveadifferentrelationshiptoEngland.Clothing

showshowMeenasparents,IndianimmigrantsinEngland,respondtothestereotypesthatthey

face.ItalsodisplaysthestereotypesthatNanima,atemporaryIndianvisitorinEngland,

experiences.Finally,clothingillustratesthetypeofprejudicesthatAnita,Tracey,andDeirdre,

whoareEnglishcitizens,faceintheirowncommunity.Eachofthesegroupsrespondstothe

preconceptionsdifferently;Meenasparentsrecognizethestereotypesanddeliberatelyaddress

them,NanimaisnotasfamiliarwiththeIndianstereotypesinEnglandhowevershetoo

addressesthem,thoughhersisunintentional,theRutters,ontheotherhand,recognizethe

stereotypesthatfacethem,yetitappearsthattheyintentionallydonothingtoaddressthem.

Meenadoesnotfitintoanyofthesegroupscompletely.Instead,shefindsherselfasa

hybridofallthree.Meenawastoomouthy,clumsyandscabbytobearealIndiangirl,too

IndiantobearealTollingtonwench(150).Throughoutthenovel,Meenastrugglestofindalife

thatbalancestherolesofbothIndianandEnglishcultureinherlife.Sheneverfeltlikeshetruly
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belongedtoeitherculture.ByexaminingtheuseofclothinginAnitaandMe,theemphasison

stereotypesthatislacedthroughoutthenovelbecomesclear.Theanalysisofthesestereotypes

andhowthecharacteritaffectsrespondstothemrevealsthetruecomplexityofMeenas

situation.MeenaisanEnglishbornIndian,whosometimesfeelsthatEnglandisonlya

temporarylodging(263).Insteadofonlyhavingtoovercometheobstaclesofsimplyfitting

oneofthesecategories,shehastoovercomethejudgmentsandpressuresofeachofthese

groups.ThestereotypesillustratedbytheclothinginthenovelfurtheremphasizeMeenas

enormousstruggleforidentity.Closeexaminationoftheuseofstereotypesinthisnovelshows

thatMeenassuccessinfindingherdualidentitybytheendofthenovelismuchmoreincredible

thanshegetscreditfor.Whilethepressuresandpreconceptionsassociatedwithbeingapartof

onlyonegroupweighsheavilyuponthecharactersstudiedthroughthesestereotypes,Meena

findsawaytoovercomethestereotypesandlimitationsofallthree.Sheisabletocopewith

beingapartofeachgroupandlearnstodealwiththepreconceivedideasassociatedwitheach.

ThisvictoryleavesMeenawithaunique,dualidentitythatisequalpartsIndianandEnglish.


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