THE MIMIC MEN: A WORLD WITHOUT A CENTER
The novel The Mimic Men is the fictional memoir of Protaganist Ralph Singh. It is written in first person point of view and ranges over Ralph Singh's childhood in the fictional West Indian island of Isabella, his university days in London where he meets and marries his wife, and his somewhat successful business and political careers back in Isabella. Yet with all the particular details, Ralph Singh is also a prototypical colonial character, an intelligent and sensitive person confused by the plural but unequal society he's raised in and for whom identity is a primary issue. The story is related through flashbacks and memories.
Ralph has the opportunity to weave in reflection with narrative and self-analysis with exposition. In the process of reading, the reader finds certain words and phrases occurring again and again, the repetition establishing the threads of themes that slowly emerge from the novel like a raised embossed pattern. Ralph admits himself that his feelings, his actions, his life fit in with `patterns.' It shows Ralph's sense of alienation, his experiences as a colonial politician, his struggle with a sense of personal identity, and his inability to connect with others.
Though he is speaking of his traumatic university days in London, Ralph indicates elsewhere that many of his struggles with a sense of identity began during his childhood. His reactions to many of the events in his childhood are similarly characterized by disassociation and emotional withdrawal. He refuses to identify with his family's history in the island, it is simply a place where they have been `shipwrecked,' . Instead, in his imagination, he is often a `chieftain' on a beautiful but sparsely populated tropical isle, and admits "I had been able at certain times to think of Isabella as deserted and awaiting discovery". Ralph is "putting himself in the place of the settler" which Fanon claims a colonized person never ceases to dream of doing. This view is only one of many of Ralph's `secret' childhood attitudes that seem to be influenced by his reading, both at school and at home, in which he adopts a `European' or Western view as when he disdains his given `Indian' name and adopts a Western one. Since Isabella's status as a British colony obliged it to model its educational system on English educational patterns in order to provide increased career opportunities for its students, and as James H. Kavanaugh points out, schools are one of the "social apparatuses which have a heavily idealogical function", Ralph is simply responding as a good student when he "freely internalizes an appropriate picture of [his] social world" ; Ralph accepts the Western European view of the world as the only correct one rather than one possibility among many. Yet this only serves to disorient Ralph, dislocating his sense of place and history from Isabella to London, creating what Albert Memmi calls "a permanent duality" within him.
The Mimic Men is brilliant in its analysis of the historical legacy of colonialism and some of its political and psychological effects, the issue, even the possibility, of political and personal transformation is hardly raised. Can anything be salvaged from the corruption of the past? Can anything be created that is not suspect? Will every effort and expression of identity by formerly colonized peoples be forever viewed as hopelsslessly entangled mimicry? Is there any dimension of human life or experience that can exist untainted, a source from which one can draw to construct positive meaning as a springboard for transformation? These seem to me very important questions and Naipaul's answers, explicit or implicit, all appear to be No, No, Yes, and No. Ralph Singh gives the reader a comprehensive view of his problems but I don't think his conclusions are the only possible outcome or indeed a real solution.
The Mimic Men: A Post Colonial Novel Dealing With Identity Crisis &Displacement:-
"This novel makes a deep analysis of newly independent country in the Caribbean, the island of Isabella, with a pessimistic view: the previous colony has now become independent but the formerly colonized people of the island are unable to establish order and govern their country. The colonial experience has caused the colonized to perceive themselves as inferior to the colonizer. Colonial education and culturalcolonization have presented the English world, with its rich culture, as a world of order, discipline, success, and achievement. As a result, the natives consider their own culture, customs and traditions, religion, and race to be inferior to those of their master and try to identify themselves with the empire. Since they are far away from their original homeland, their own original traditions and religions have become meaningless to them, and thus, they cannot identify themselves with those remote rules and codes. However, as they are different from the master in cultural, traditional, racial, and religious backgrounds, they can never successfully associate themselves with the colonizer either. They suffer from dislocation, placelessness, fragmentation, and loss of identity. They become mimic men who imitate and reflect the colonizer's life style, values, and views. As these psychological problems cannot be solved after independence is achieved, independence itself becomes a word but not a real experience. Without the colonizer, the colonized see themselves as lost in their postcolonial society .
Ralph Singh is a forty-year-old colonial minister who lives in exile in London. By writing his memoirs, Singh tries to impose order on his life, reconstruct his identity, and get rid of the crippling sense of dislocation and displacement. In other words, Singh is the representative of displaced and disillusioned colonial individuals, and colonization is depicted as a process that takes away their identity, culture, history, and sense of place. Thus, the novel considers the relationship between the socio-political and the psychological consequences of imperialism. This means that to read the novel just for its politics is to destroy its emphasis on the psychological problems of colonial people. In his room in a hotel in a London suburb Singh reevaluates his life in the hope of achieving order, as the place in which he is born is associated with chaos. Singh does not follow any chronological order in his writing but he constantlymoves backwards and forwards, writes about his childhood and adulthood, his life in Isabella and in England, his political career and marriage, and his education to give shape to the past and his experiences, and to understand himself. Therefore, according to Richard Kelly, Singh is the centre of his small world, and his childhood, political carrier, and educational background. He considers the notions of colonisation, decolonisation, history, culture, race, and politics, to write his own story and to give meaning to his existence. The constant shifts between the past, the present, and the future may also reflect Singh's internal chaos. However, the irony is that in his search for order, Singh is unable to follow a chronological pattern to impose order on his writing. As he is born to disorder, Singh longs for a sense of control over his life and, therefore, he turns to writing which becomes a means of release . As a child, Singh responds to his sense of abandonment by dreaming of India, the homeland, and of his origin. He creates an ideal and heroic past which is in conflict with the real-life condition in Isabella. For example, he goes to the beach house owned by his grandfather and one day he sees the death of three children who are drowned in the sea while the fishermen do nothing to save them. At that point he realizes that Isabella cannot be the ideal landscape he is searching for. As a result of his psychological need for identity and fulfilment, Singh becomes a politician. He tries to achieve order, meaning, and success as a political figure. In other words, Singh needs a real view of himself and of the world around him so he participates in politics. By changing his name, Ranjit Kirpalsingh in fact has changed the very identity for which he is searching so desperately. In his attempt to define himself through his political activities, Singh realizes that he has become separated from his people and has to play a role to preserve his position. He feels incomplete because he is aware of the meaninglessness of his role as a colonial politician. To him, politicians in Isabella seek power and order without knowing the real meaning of those concepts: Colonial education has taught him that the mother country, England, is the symbol of order. When he studies English culture and history, he feels that his own culture, if there is any, is inferior to that of the colonizer. Hence, Singh's colonial education has caused him to become a homeless man with no self-image. Singh keeps asking himself whether he is the product of his colonial education. He both recognizes and criticizes colonial mimicry, but he also knows that he cannot help being a mimic man as he is ?a specific product of a particular socioeconomic formation called colonialism? . In his attempt to find his identity and the ideal landscape, Singh goes to London only to realize that the city does not promise anything to an East Indian colonial subject as he can never identify himself with it. In London, Singh realizes that he can never be an Englishman in spite of his public school education, and that one can be English only if he is born in England. In conclusion, Singh examines and analyses the colonial and postcolonial periods, historical, cultural, and political backgrounds, economic problems and psychological conflicts and finally concludes that writing can be decolonisation itself. He realizes that colonial societies like Isabella suffer from lack of cultural, historical, and racial homogeneity. Although he fails to reconnect himself to India, the homeland, or to connect himself to London, the metropolis, by writing his memoirs, Singh finally takes control of his sense of dislocation as he realizes that there is no ideal place with which he can identify himself.