From Tramp to Traveller: V.S. Naipaul Mirrors Immigrant Experiences in In a Free State

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Misra, Nivedita
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There is a scene in ‘One out of Many’ in In A Free State where Santosh, a character from the foothills of Himalaya, looks at himself in the mirror and realises that he is an individual. He takes the step of breaking away from his employer and seeks his own identity in the big city of Washington DC. What does the mirror stand for in the the scene? Is the mirror symptomatic of colonial subservience, or economic servility, or caste demarcations that he must transcend to achieve individuality? Or is the mirror the medium to bridge the gaps between tradition and modernity, community and individuality, faith and rationality? Ironically, Lewis Carroll uses the mirror in Through the Looking Glass to invert the everyday world and reflect on reality. The article compares the text to Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass in a bid to read Naipaul’s mirroring of immigrant experiences by presenting various personas from and in different parts of the world. Their immigrant experiences differ in specifics but all of them sense alienation from their environment and their communities. The same is reflected in the narrator’s experiences in the Prologue and the Epilogue with the tramp and the traveller being eternally alienated from their fellow travellers.
In a Free State, Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass, V.S. Naipaul, mirror trope, narrator