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The trope of inner journey in salvaging the dichotomized entities

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Introduction

Inner Journey is a theme that examines the “psychological, spiritual and philosophical” (Harbecke, 2022) growth of an entity through avant-garde experiences. It is modestly a result of embarking on a journey of personal growth and reaping the benefits of establishing mindfulness, inner redirection, and self-discovery within oneself. Introspection, extrospection, and retrospection are the three distinct aspects that make up the overarching notion of the "inner journey”.

 

Samskara: A Rite for a Dead Man, an originally Kannada-based text translated coherently to English by A.K Ramanujan published in the year 1965 (Vaidyanathan) is a tale of the ‘decaying brahmin’ (Savitha Vaidyanathan, 2020), which demolishes the stereotypical norms and values of the orthodox brahmin community resulting from the death of an apostate brahmin Naranappa, who constantly revolted against the brahmin virtue and embarked on his internal quest of destroying Brahminism and its paradoxical nature. The clashing mindsets of the protagonist and antagonist are a part of the construct of society and are relevant in the context and era of the novel when religious Protestantism; a rebellion against faith and religion began to emerge.

 

Heart of Darkness is an invigorating enigmatic recounting of Joseph Conrad’s experience during his voyage to the former Belgian Congo colony in Africa, through a metafictional approach of the ‘Scramble for Africa’ (Conrad xvi), a European forged idea of subjugating the land of the ‘uncivilized savages’. A horrific experience that Conrad describes as ‘The vilest scramble for loot that ever disfigured the history of human conscience and geographical exploration’ (Conrad xiv), a journey which principally scarred the protagonist Marlow’s psychological well-being along with displaying a detrimental effect on his physical well-being. The novel denotes the empirical tragedies that transpired in Belgian Congo.

 

Dichotomisation is a term that signifies ‘the act of dividing into two sharply different categories’ (Vocabulary.com). This concept is elevated in the two novels as both protagonists are the sole epitome of virtue in their respective novels, while one is salvaged by his morality the other is doomed by his vulnerability, the two novels meet a common ground of exemplifying and glorifying the protagonists resulting in the trope of dichotomisation intensively embedded in the two texts. This is evident in Heart of Darkness through the moral imperatives that bestow on Marlow’s character, validating him as the sole entity amongst the colonizers with a sense of empathy towards the natives against the malicious atrocities in the darkness abundant country unlike the antagonist; Kurtz who reflects racist, discriminatory and egocentric traits towards at the natives. Similarly, Praneshacharya the protagonist of Samskara is a revered sacrosanct entity whose grandeur is discussed across towns due to his expertise in Brahmin theology acquiring him the title of the “Crest-Jewel of Vedic Learning” (Anantha Samskara), and the only Brahmin barricading the negative emotions of narrow-minded thoughts such as superiority, and Brahmic hegemony as opposingly evident in the nature of the other Agrahara brahmins, through the discrimination of the Brahmin communities. The statement “As soon as the word uppittu was uttered, the bowels in Dasachayra's belly turned and made loud gurgling noises. Still, he was afraid to eat cooked stuff in a Smarta1 house”(Anantha, Samskara), highlights caste discrimination and hierarchy.

 

The following essay deconstructs the trope of the inner journey embarked on by the two dichotomized entities which are the protagonists of their respective works and explores how their distinctive natures salvaged them through means of redemption, realization, and reformation under the broader themes of subjugation, existential anxiety and self-discovery explored in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and U.N Ananthamurthy’s Samskara.

Three Paradigms of Inner Journey

Introspection

The term introspection is defined as the “act of looking within oneself” (International Coach Academy, 2013). The introspective approach to the inner journey is an underlying concept in the plot of Anathamurthy’s ascetic literary work Samskara, that explores the protagonist Praneshacharya’s redemptive reflection and self- examination of his deeds questioning his title in the respected Madhav Brahmin community, this introduces the collision of the two paradoxical concepts (deeds v. role in society) which is laboriously significant in Samskara, this is evident through the apprehensive diffidence exhibited by his character as a ‘paragon’ within the community of the ‘virtuous’ brahmins of the Agrahara. The act of self-reflection betides in Samskara post Praneshacharya’s - a revered priest - sexual involvement with the reprobate Naranappa’s concubine Chandri. This act of immorality resulted in his introspective inner journey on a quest for redemption from his sins and freedom from his responsibilities, along with his increasingly ardent desperation to be salvaged. This results in the subconscious act of ‘looking within himself’ and examining his actions critically.

 

On the contrary in Heart of Darkness, Marlow embarks on his inner journey post witnessing the horrors of the ill-treatment endured by the marginalized native Congolese tribes which were exercised by his European kinsmen, ultimately establishing the fear of resembling his fellow Caucasian acquaintances and following the trail of the immoral Europeans he encountered in Belgian Congo. The density of the devilry and circumstances that he observed resulted in his introspective inner journey of coveting salvation from the immorality of the cultural, territorial and resource corruption that encompassed him, Marlow found himself startled moreover sickened by the reality of the Belgian rule in the “blank space of delightful mystery - that had become a place of darkness” (Conrad 9).

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  • Extrospection

    Writing with respect to the same line of thinking extrospection is classified as “a method of observation of things external to one's own mind” (Testbook, 2022), this idea is extensively explored in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness as the protagonist Marlow is impacted greatly by ‘things external to his mind’ such as the atrocious events that took place in the country at the ‘heart’ of the ‘dark’ African continent, opulent in ivory; the erstwhile Belgian Congo. The extrospective notion of the inner journey is the genesis of the development of Marlow’s character and his perception of Africa, which is often in the novel referred to as a country rather than a continent by the vainglorious light-skinned entities. Marlow’s observation of the dominant sentiment of greed and the rapacious desire for power contrasts with his dichotomised beliefs on the situation in Congo induced the extrospective inner journey ventured by Marlow.

     

    Similarly, the trope of the inner journey being extrospective begins as early as the contemplation of the cremation of the reprobate and foil Naranappa, who died Brahmin although was not excommunicated on account of his threat to the Durvasapura Madhva Brahmin agrahara coterie of converting into a Muslim. Hence his final rites - according to the Vedic scriptures declared by the ecclesiastic Praneshacharya - were to be performed by a member of his Brahmin community. The antagonist shared kinship with a cardinal number of agrahara members such as being the husband to Lakshamanacharya’s sister-in-law and a generational tie with Garudacharya, each of whom obliquely refused to be associated with his cremation to prevent from becoming impure. The enigma of the issue engulfed Praneshacharya resulting in the extrospective inner journey, in which the events ‘external to his mind’ elicited to have an impact on the dichotomized entity’s thoughts. Furthermore, Chandri’s proposal of relinquishing her gold jewellery to the cremator of Naranappa’s corpse stirred a sudden nonchalant although anticipated quarrel over incinerating Naranappa’s body arising from greed, thrusting Praneshacharya further into his aggravating reveries. This situation acted as an obstacle to his duty as a Brahmin, the occurrences of the events external to his mind perplexed him as his knowledge of the Vedanta seemed to disappoint him by proposing no solution. Additionally, extrospection as a trope of the inner journey is also evident through the impact of Naranappa's tainted actions such as consuming meat, interacting with Muslims, fishing in the forbidden pond of the holy Ganesh temple and denigrating the brahmin laws and conventions. The antagonist Naranappa’s heretic sins and tenable arguments against Brahmanism ventured Praneshacharya further into his extrospective journey as he began to indulge this new perspective impacting on Praneshacarya’s own perception of Brahmanism, which contributes as the external factors that impact his mind and result in self - subjugation which means to demean one’s own beliefs over another’s, along with birthing intrusive thoughts.

    Retrospection

    Finally, retrospection is the act of reminiscing and recalling past experiences, this concept as a lens of the inner journey is interwoven with the two dichotomized characters of the two novels. In Samskara, Praneshacharya’s innumerable flashbacks of his reminiscence of the night he employed sexually with Chandri act as a representation of retrospection, resulting in his embarkment into an inner journey of examining past experiences which affect his current state. This trope of retrospective inner journey consistent in the plot is a key component in the protagonist's desire for redemption and quest for salvation, it reminds him of his failure as a Brahmin, correlating to an introspective inner journey of salvaging himself from Naraka (hell) otherwise called Yamalokal, ‘where sinners are tormented after death.’ (Choudhary). Contrarily in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness Marlow, retrospection is inherently present throughout, the narration of the plot is in retrospect entirely as it is the recounting of Marlow’s experience in Congo to his sea mates, through this act of recounting and narrating the protagonist appears to be entailed in a state of reflection and self- inspection, as he makes realizations while recollecting, this form of inner journey is quite predominant in Heart of Darkness as it is the basis of the plot which is narrated as a retrospective anecdote.

    Context and Influence

    In Heart of Darkness, the main character Marlow is a surrogate of Joseph Conrad (the author) himself, the text is a representation of the oblique psychological endeavor and quest of inner journey resulting in self-discovery and redemption that the author ventured on with scrupulous details of the setting, containing vivid imagery, intensified metaphorical description of characters such as the metaphorical identification of Africans as “nothing but black shadows of disease and starvation” (Conrad ) through Marlow’s character. Emerging from a callow embryonic stage of his life, the young Conrad demonstrated fervid enthusiasm and interest in the exploration of the “terra incognita” (Conrad xvi) - incognito land - his fascination with the great European adventures arose from the perils of Dr Livingston (Conrad xvi) and sparked his passion for travelling, resulting in a journey antithetical to the one he anticipated. During the initial stages of the plot, Marlow states "Now when I was a little chap I had a passion for maps. I would look for hours at South America, Africa, or Australia, and lose myself in all the glories of exploration. At that time there were many blank spaces on the earth, and when I saw one that looked particularly inviting on a map (but they all look that) I would put my finger on it and say, 'When I grow up, I will go there.” (Conrad 8), this statement reflects Conrad’s interest in expeditions which he is communicating via Marlow’s character and suggests how at a latter stage of his life he fulfilled his childhood dream.

     

    Ananthamurthy’s childhood plays a critical role in the themes developed throughout his novel, his orthodox upbringing in a local village was regulated by priests and religious myth “had an unbroken continuity with reality” (Asokan). The detachment of reality under the Brahmin codes and conventions was laboriously entrenched in Samskara, the author claimed “Within a single day I traversed several centuries. The linear time of the West co-existed in India—the ancient, the primitive, the medieval, and the modern— often in a single consciousness” (Asokan), through his novel he attempts to communicate this unpopular shift from hermeticism via the criticized character of Naranappa. Contrarily to Heart of Darkness, the antagonist of the Samskara is a surrogate for the author’s heretic ideology, his awareness of the backlash regarding views on radical Brahminism inspired him to depict the flaws and loopholes in the religious doctrine through Praneshacharya’s violation of the norms.

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  • Inner journey

    Subjugation: The birthing of intrusive thoughts

    Subjugation is an action of supreme control. In Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, this is expressed through the assertion of power and control over the tribal Congolese communities within their own territory by the Caucasian interlopers. This claim is further supported by Marlow’s statement “I’ve seen the devil of violence, and the devil of greed and the devil of hot desire...” (Conrad 19), suggesting that their hunger and appetite for ivory is insatiable resulting in the exploitation of labours. Furthermore, the lines “I could see every rib, the joints of their limbs were like knots in a rope; each had an iron collar on his neck, and all were connected together with a chain...”, indicate the extremes of suppression and torture. The interlacing of iron chain indicates how the Europeans monitor their movement as if they were not human beings but rather undignified creatures. The idea of subjugation within the context of the novel emerges from racial and ‘intellectual’ factors that distinguish the natives from the western world, this is concluded in the critical analysis by renowned Nigerian author Chinua Achebe of Conrad’s novel and the excess amount of racism unobservantly incorporated in his writing. Achebe’s study denotes Conrad’s consistent depiction of the African race as ‘primitive individuals without even proper verbal communicative capacity (Heart of darkness and the African story: The (now questioned) criticism ...), demeaning the intellectual abilities of the natives, this is justified through Marlow’s statement “In place of speech they made a violent babble of uncouth sounds. They exchanged short grunting phrases even among themselves” (Conrad), suggesting that natives are unfamiliar with the mode of communication hence illiterate rather than acknowledging his lack of understanding of tribal African language. It is a standard ideology that one expresses dominance over the other in situations where there are distinctions in characteristics, developing a superiority complex. Superiority acts as a vital factor towards subjugation, in relevance to the novel this can be understood through the racial, linguistic, and physical dissimilarities between the two civilizations, leading to a state of narcissistic abuse.

     

    Alluding to Samskara, this idea is evident in the sense of superiority experienced through caste discrimination, the distinctive classification of subjugation between the two texts is racial and intellect discrimination predominant in Heart of Darkness. However, in the Indian context of Samskara, the overriding feature of dominance and superiority complex is derived from the caste system. In Samskara, one can patently identify the constant reference towards dehumanization and discrimination on the mere basis of caste, a supporting claim would refer to the treatment and portrayal of low- caste Chandri, through practicing the act of untouchability. At the beginning of the novel, Chandri is seen approaching Praneshacharya for the cremation of Naranappa’s corpse, during this interaction his introspective intrusive thoughts remind him that “Chandri was Naranappa's concubine. If the Acharya talked to her, he would be polluted; he would have to bathe again before his meal.” (Anantha Samskara). Moreover, the distinctive depiction of women belonging to different castes contributes to the idea of discrimination as Chandri is portrayed to be a woman of low character, who is a prostitute for a living and is referred to as a “filthy whore” (Anantha Samskara) while the wives of the Brahmins are ‘reputed’ and dignified housewives. This explicitly highlights the theme of subjugation, adhering to the notion of the inner journey, as the extrospective aspects of their surroundings affect the way characters are treated.

     

    The dichotomisation of the two entities is a result of their approach towards the marginalized subjects of their novels, In Samskara, Praneshacharya is the sole Madhav Brahmin without a sense of superiority or narrow-minded thoughts, similarly, Marlow is often depicted as an empathetic character who criticizes the conduct of behaviour expressed by the westerners towards the natives.

    Existential anxiety

    Existential Anxiety is a state of being in which one questions their existence and develops adverse thoughts towards their being: "Thoughts of death, the meaningless of life, or the insignificance of self, can all trigger existential anxiety” (Medical News Today, 2022). As the course of the plot unfolds, Praneshacharya is discerned in experiencing existential uncertainty leading to a paradigm shift in his state of dichotomization, as the leader of brahmins, and possessor of great Vedic Gyan (knowledge) Praneshacharya is classified as a dichotomized entity at the beginning of the novel. However, the notion of this term significantly changed when Praneshacharya engaged sexually with the low caste, Chandri. Vulnerability is a significant theme contributing to the existential anxiety experienced by the protagonist, it is a state of emotional or physical weakness. Praneshacharya’s weak emotional state of being caused by the stress and pressure of Naranappa’s cremation made him vulnerable seeking solace, towards Chandri when her breasts accidentally touched his knees while seeking his blessings resulting in the committing of a sin by engaging in sexual intercourse with a low caste prostitute. It propelled the Acharya to question his role as the guru of the Madhav Brahmins, and resign from his devoured position, the introspective reveries of his experience with Chandri and his revulsion towards his ‘invalid’ and unattractive wife lead him to a notion of guilt and self-hatred. However, his interaction with Putta during his journey enabled him to experience a paradigm shift into the extrospective inner journey and reconsider the acts of Naranappa, against his own questioning the moral nature of Brahminism.

     

    In Heart of Darkness, Marlow is also depicted as a victim of vulnerability, as he is oblivious to the European means of ruling and governing, making him an easy target for manipulation (Joyce). Moreover, the narrative recounting was carried out by an anonymous entity threatening the credibility of the events that transpired during Conrad’s visit to Congo conveyed through Marlow’s character; the narration can also be affected by the listener's perception while retelling the original tale. Marlow’s vulnerability can also be identified as he experiences ontological uncertainty due to his dichotomised nature, this sense of disruptiveness in his individuality makes him a vulnerable subject in the European - ruled Congo (Joyce), the sense of not belonging in either group pushes him further into his state of existential anxiety. Marlow can combat his negative thoughts and does not become prey to the perilous allurement of ivory.

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  • Self - Discovery Realization

    Self-discovery, I propose is introspection + Extrospection = Self Awareness/Discovery. It is the notion of an entity thoroughly understanding oneself, which can either be negative or positive. In Samskara the notion of self-discovery of Praneshacharya was predominantly negative, it was a war he waged against himself because of the guilt that was engulfing his mind, intrusive thoughts. On the contrary, Marlow’s discovery of himself was less intense in terms of evaluating himself as he was in conscious recognition of the overpowering nature of his morals which salvaged him from contributing to the atrocities carried by his European kinsmen, classifying him as a dichotomised entity in the plot, one who’s character is distinctive and differentiating from those of others present. He feared that “the house would collapse...the heavens would fall upon my head”, if he carried out Kurtz's desire to ‘civilize the savages’(Conrad), he too would be an actor of the darkness of actions that were employed in Congo. The journey along the river that Marlow embarked on during the opening lines of the novel is symbolic of the inner journey of self-discovery, a journey that will tide, and obstacles along with the uncertainty of direction.

    Salvation

    Salvation is an act of redemption aimed at purifying the sense of sin in one’s striving for grace. Salvation in a religious context means spiritual liberation from the attachment to a materialistic mortal lifestyle, in a secondary sense it means to be free of one’s sins and attain utmost peace in the afterlife and pave one’s way to heaven. The claim that ‘Salvation can be termed as one of the most essential part of a belief system and religious rituals of a Hindu’ (Basharat), is supported by the title of the book and indirectly revolves around the idea of Salvation, the term ‘Samskara’ suggest the ‘a purificatory ceremony or rite, ultimately suggesting salvation from the one’s actions in the mortal realm through spiritual means of ceremony and purification largely due to the karmatic apprehension, suggesting to conduct religious ceremonies which will reduce or eliminate the sins committed. The orthodox Indian community of that epoch believed that by pleasing the lords through their actions one could gain salvation if one is unable to please the lord they will never be salvaged and eternally roam the earth.

     

    The restrictive perception that only Brahmins could attain salvation plays a significant role in the dichotomisation of the protagonist who is portrayed as only character acting morally due to his determination of being salvaged from his unintentional sins during his afterlife is swarga (heaven), Praneshacharya has consistently been portrayed as an altruistic figure, however, this claim can be questioned through criticizing his decision ‘by marrying an invalid’ (Anantha Samskara), indicating that his choice of wedding Bhagirathi holds room for selfish purposes such as attaining utmost salvation by pleasing the gods through the act of ‘selfless service. By marrying an invalid, Praneshacharya seeks validation and self-actualisation alongside gaining salvation in his afterlife, the lines 'By marrying an invalid, I get ripe and ready.” (Anantha Samskara) evidently indicates the concept of greed. The idea of salvation undergoes a paradigm shift as further into the novel emphasizes greatly on salvation from the inner enemy, in Hindu mythology, there are six key inner enemies (Antah Shatru); Kaama(desire), Krodha(anger), Lobha (greed), Moha(delusion of mind, by which one arrives at false understanding), Mada(arrogance) and Maatsarya(jealousy) (Who are our inner enemies?). The predominant inner enemies that overpower the thoughts of Praneshacharya are Kaama (desire) and Lobha (greed), the motif of the protagonist's inner journey becomes salvation from the two inner enemies that act as an obstacle on his path to salvation.

     

    In Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, the protagonist Marlow salvaged himself from the execution of the inhuman cruelty demonstrated by Kurtz (who contextually is symbolic of King Leopard II) on the Belgium colonized Congolese population. Marlow’s morality was seen to be inflicted with his duty as a ‘fellow European’ and responsibility in stimulating and contributing to the rapid expansion of Belgian rule on territories around the globe. Additionally, it can be interpreted that Marlow salvaged the notoriety of Kurtz towards the termination of the novel, this claim can be supported as Kurtz’s “intended” (fiancé), spoke of him in a glorified manner “Men looked up to him - his goodness shone in every act”(Conrad), to which Marlow agreed to salvage her sentiments and Kurtz’s reputation. This can also be seen when Marlow is dishonest about Kurtz’s final words prior to his death to his fiancé reassuring her that his final words were her name, while in actuality Kurtz only managed to say ‘The horror! The horror!’(Conrad) shortly before passing away. Marlow’s dichotomized entity consistently appeared to salvage him in numerous situations, ultimately preventing him from contributing to the execution of the European-led monstrosities.

    Conclusion

    The common genre of psychological realism was evident in both U.N Ananthamurthy’s Samskara and Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, the 19th - 20th century established literary fictional genre is predominantly character driven which revolves around the character’s internal thoughts, as identified in the two texts. The consistent trope of the inner journey and longing for achieving salvation by the two protagonists have been prevalent throughout the texts. The two dichotomized protagonists embarked on a journey for self-discovery from subjugation emerging from greed to the embarking on a quest of self-realization(introspective) and understanding of their environments (extrospective) which resulted in the reformation of his characters to achieve salvation. Redemption has been a developing theme for both entities to salvage themselves, however, their constraining reveries of the past bound them from progressing in their journey to terminate their existential crisis (retrospection).

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  • Conclusion

    The common genre of psychological realism was evident in both U.N Ananthamurthy’s Samskara and Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, the 19th - 20th century established literary fictional genre is predominantly character driven which revolves around the character’s internal thoughts, as identified in the two texts. The consistent trope of the inner journey and longing for achieving salvation by the two protagonists have been prevalent throughout the texts. The two dichotomized protagonists embarked on a journey for self-discovery from subjugation emerging from greed to the embarking on a quest of self - realization(introspective) and understanding of their environments (extrospective) which resulted in the reformation of his characters to achieve salvation. Redemption has been a developing theme for both entities to salvage themselves, however, their constraining reveries of the past bound them from progressing in their journey to terminate their existential crisis (retrospection).

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