Anita Desai

Topics: Urdu, Time, Semiotics Pages: 18 (6807 words) Published: June 8, 2013
Journal of English and literature Vol. 2(7), pp. 166-173, September 2011 Available online ISSN 2141-2626 ©2011 Academic Journals


Anita Desai’s ‘in custody’: Unlocking the web of time and space Bhasha Shukla Sharma
Department of Humanities, University Institute of Technology, Rajiv Gandhi Proudyogiki Vishwavidyalaya, Bhopal. (M.P), India. E-mail: Tel: 9826090200. Accepted 6 August, 2011

This paper attempts to semiotically interpret the use of time and place as narrative device in Anita Desai’s ‘In Custody’. Space and time have aroused the curiosity of people for many centuries. It has been central to philosophy from its inception. In literature, there is no other device which captures imagination of the narrative in both temporal and spatial implications. Time and space are regarded as substrata of culture. Here is an attempt to outline a contemporary view on the hierarchy of spatial and temporal structures. The ‘conceptual primitiveness’ has been revisited through the study of In Custody. Marred by time and place, the protagonist moves in search of his identity. The presentation of the characters is very near to the life in twentieth century India, ‘True to the temper of our times, there are no heroes, no big chested ideologies, and no utopias that will provide complete solutions to our problems’ (Das, 2002). Key words: Time-space, semiotics, culture, post-colonial literature, twentieth century India. INTRODUCTION Concept of time and space Semiotics is the science of signs. ‘We are always surrounded by signs. Everything is a sign’ (Guivand, 1975: 90). ‘A major thrust of semiotic research is the examination of codes (sign system) and the underlying rules that facilitate interpretability in the use of signs’ (Sharma, 2007). Semiotic analysis of any text has two meanings, denotative and connotative in nature. We are aware of the denotative meaning which refers to the sign it stands for. ‘Connotation’ is used to “refer to the sociocultural and ‘personal’ associations (ideological, emotional, etc.) of the sign. These are typically related to the interpreter’s class, age, gender, ethnicity, and so on” (Chandler, 1994a: 1). Although it is presumed that there is a code-sharing between the producer and the reader of a text that could maximize efficient and effective communication, connotation opens up the possibilities of meaning such that the reader could come up with diverse interpretations which depart from what the sender of the message originally intends. It must be noted, however, that connotations are not purely ‘personal’ meanings, for they are determined by the code to which the interpreter has access. In this sense, Chandler (1994b: 5) cites Voloshinov (1973: 23) who referred to the ‘multiaccentuality’ of the sign, that is, the potential for diverse interpretations of the sign according to particular social and historical contexts. This chance to uncover the playfulness of language brings to the fore the notion of ‘oppositional reading’ which gives room for multiplicities of meaning that audiences can choose to attach to a text while “searching for what is ‘hidden’ beneath the ‘obvious’” (Chandler, 1994b: 2). This derives from the fact that the audience may have a very different cultural or social experience from the producer’s and thus may connect signifiers to completely different signifieds. This approach to text reading is opposed to the notion of ‘preferred reading’ where the producer of a text designs it with certain meanings in mind and hopes that the audience will decode them in a way which ties in to hegemonic beliefs. Although the meanings generated at this level may be ‘small’, using McCracken’s (1987: 121) term, Mick and Politi (1989: 9) posit that such ‘small’ meanings are in no sense immaterial, for they ‘provide a looking glass on the role of personal history, self-esteem, fantasies, aspirations, doubts, fears, and other...

References: Augé M (1995). Non-places. Introduction to anthropology of super modernity. London / New York: S Verso, pp. 75-115. Bakhtin M (1981). The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays by M.M. Bakhtin. Ed. Michael Holquist, trans. Caryl Emerson & M. Holquist. Austin: University of Texas Press. Das G (2002). “The Elephant Paradigm-India wrestles with change” Penguin books, New Delhi, p. 1, 28, 85. Desai A (2008). In Custody (New Delhi: Random House). (Hereafter the work would be cited as IC). Lotman YM (2000). Universe of the Mind. A Semiotic Theory of Culture. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Sharma BS (2007). Shakespearean Dramas- a semiotic approach. B.R.Publishing: Delhi, 110p. Shukla HL (1994.) Semiotica Indica: Aryan books International, New Delhi
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