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Lexical Choice and Social Context in Shashi Deshpande's
J. Sundarsingh, Ph.D.
That Long Silence
Taking into consideration the sociological implications of spoken or written words, the paper attempts to critically evaluate the lexical choices the characters were allowed to use in Shashi Deshpande's That Long Silence to picture the Indian social context.
Shashi Deshpande has presented the abstract feelings and complex experiences through appropriate English lexical items in her novel. Mind goes through complicated thinking process as it is affected by varied conflicts a human being faces in his/her life. All the characters of Deshpande go through this kind of struggle either in marriage or in other relationships.
This study brings out the stark realities of social contexts by assessing the words used in the fiction. A few relationships and conversational situations are taken up from the novel to evaluate the expressions of the social context in the light of characters' lexical choices.
It is said that language and mind style, and language and society are related and impact each other. Human existence and interaction in social situation chiefly depends on language. The survival and success of the relationship among human beings depend on the effective use of language.
The interaction in society has both formal and informal situations and has both spoken and written mode of expressions.
Every language has a specific structure and it gets modified in accordance with situation or people. Since men and women are emotional beings, they tend to add something to the language to show their 'distinctiveness' in their expression, to be understood in a better way. By applying the Mind Style technique a language analysis is made to project the social context portrayed in the novel.
Mind and Communication Process
Mind is everything - it makes or mars a communication. Man's expression often proclaims his mind, especially creative mind. According to Roger Fowler, it is the stylistic choice of a language that reflects the mental attitude of a speaker and the world created by him (Linguistics and the Novel, p.103). Hence the application of mind style is possible in relation with the language use of the fictional characters to identify the complications of social context. The author of a novel always projects a particular mind style since "there is no kind of writing that can be regarded as perfectly neutral and objective" (Leech and Short,1984: 188).
The writer's portrayal may appear to be distinct and deviant from the mundane reality. However a deeper study of the subject matter of the fiction betrays the reality that revolves around the social contexts only. According to Mark Turner, mind follows the basic cognitive principle of projecting the stories of a person's ideas, experiences and thinking as parables. In this way mind is always at work expressing stories, projecting one onto another. He also feels that "Narrative Imagining" is inseparable from our past and our future experiences. "It also appears to be a fundamental target value for the developing human mind". (1996:25).
The story line is very simple as the novel describes how Mohan, whose job has been in danger, comes out of the crisis and in the process how his wife Jaya traces the status of her own life. The novel is presented in first person narration. The characters in the novel, as they make their own stylistic choices, struggle for words, speak short sentences frequently, repeat specific words and use too many abstract words and when complex situations come, they hardly respond. Thus language betrays the mind patterns of human relationship and the understanding of the world around.
Lexical Choice among Friends
There is one conversation situation between Jaya and Mukta towards the end of the novel, found in the pages from 184 to 187, wherein they share the pain of missing their common friend Kamat and their husbands. The conversation has two aspects, but one leading on to the other. As far as Mukta is concerned both her husband Arun and friend Kamat are dead, but for Jaya, it is a desperate waiting for Mohan to come back. Moreover the story of Kamat is not going to affect Mukta's present in any way, but it is different for Jaya, as her 'marriage is still alive'. There are 28 paragraphs in total with 111 sentences and 934 words. In this Mukta uses more number of words and sentences and also she uses more of complex sentences.
Mukta, in her pursuit to know the reason for Mohan's long absence, tries to link Jaya's past relationship with Kamat for her present strife with Mohan. But, Jaya, in her anxiety to avoid further embarrassment of revealing the secret, tries to justify her action concerning Kamat. During the conversation, when Jaya becomes philosophical only to hide her confused state of mind, Mukta tries to be practical. It is also interesting to find that both of them use "I don't know" and "I don't understand", when they talk about the problem between Jaya and Mohan. Jaya says, referring to the reason for Mohan's leaving home, in various occasion during the conversation.
But their mental attitude to the second aspect of the conversation sharply varies due to their varied comprehension of reality. Jaya's word selection reveals her inconsistent mind. While referring to the story of Kamat, Jaya uses frequently the words of modality and other phrases like, 'quite different', matter so much', 'already dead (twice)' 'couldn't', 'Mohan didn't know, 'he knew nothing', 'never told'. On the contrary, Mukta uses words/expressions like, 'alone', 'died (thrice)', 'die' (thrice), 'dead', 'courage', 'desperate', 'helped', 'untidy', 'chaotic', 'heart attack', 'lived alone', 'dying alone' 'frightened (thrice)', 'outlive', 'eventualities', 'death', 'dying', 'afraid', 'being alone', 'you didn't', 'rotted', 'lonely man' and 'terribly lonely'.
Mukta's husband Arun died and after his death "it was Kamat who helped her" and he also died. Now she is left with no one except her daughter and Mai. So she still vividly remembers the dead people and still weeps for them. Jaya is also equally attached to Kamat, but she forces herself to get detached from him, as she is 'still Mohan's wife'.
Finally exasperated Mukta said: " "What does it matter now, Jaya? Let it go", in response to Jaya's "Mukta, why does it matter so much to you?".
The above instance shows more collocations and repetitions used by both of them with regard to their emotions which have abstract overtones.
This situation reveals the restricted life of Mukta than Jaya's life, as there is still hope for Jaya. It also exposes the irony that Mukta appears composed even after all the loss and Jaya appears desperate even with no serious personal loss. This reveals her confused state of mind and the constrained situation of her marriage.
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Attitude towards Mother Tongue - A Study of the Tribal Students of Orissa | Computer-mediated Communication in a Bilingual Chatroom | Compensation Strategies for Speaking English Adopted by Engineering Students of Tamil Nadu - A Study | Acquisition of English Intransitive Verbs by Urdu Speakers | Community, Culture and Curriculum in the Context of Tribal Education in Orissa, India | Auxiliary Verbs in Modern Tamil | Getting Around 'Offensive' Language | Noun Morphology in Kuki-Chin Languages | A Plea for the Use of Language Portals in Imparting Communication Skills | Advances in Machine Translation Systems | A Comparative Study of the Effect of Explicit-inductive and Explicit-deductive Grammar Instruction in EFL Contexts | Lexical Choice and Social Context in Shashi Deshpande's That Long Silence | The Voice of Servility and Dominance Expressed through Animal Imagery in Adiga's The White Tiger | Phonological Analysis of English Phonotactics of Syllable Initial and Final Consonant Clusters by Yemeni Speakers of English | Effective Use of Language in Communicating News through Political Emergency | Helping the Limited English Proficient Learner Learn the Second Language Effectively through Strategy Instruction | P.S. Sri's The Temple Elephant: A Bestiary with Socio-Political and Spiritual Message | Papers Presented in the All-India Conference on Multimedia Enhanced Language Teaching - MELT 2009 | A Phonological Study of the Variety of English Spoken by Oriya Speakers in Western Orissa - A Doctoral Dissertation | HOME PAGE of November 2009 Issue | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR
J. Sundar Singh, Ph.D.
Department of English
Coimbatore - 641 114
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