Lost Identity Found

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Lost Identity Found

Stuart Hall writes that “Identity is not as transparent or unproblematic as we think” (Hall 392). Hanif Kareishi, a visual minority growing up in racially charged England, experiences uncertainty and frustration relating to his sense of identity. Salman Rushdie, author of short stories “The Courter” and “Good Advice Is Rarer Than Rubies,” develops characters who experience similar identity crises. In his piece, “The Rainbow Sign,” Kareishi explores three responses to encounters with a foreign and hostile culture: outright rejection of the foreign culture, complete assimilation into foreign culture, or adoption of a synthesis of the two cultures. Kareishi himself embraces each of these different approaches at different times in his life, while characters in Rushdie’s short stories embody specific approaches. Kareishi’s discussion of the interaction between race, class, nationhood, and citizenship points to the need for a loosening of racial and class distinctions in favor of a multicultural, liberal approach for achieving a successful synthesis of cultures.

The protagonist of “Good Advice Is Rarer Than Rubies” adopts the rejectionist course when confronted with the possibility of being introduced into a foreign British culture. Miss Rehana, the Indian protagonist of the short story, travels to a British Consulate in India to acquire a British passport. An arranged engagement at the age of nine forged a connection between Miss Rehana and an older man with British citizenship, Mustafa Dar. Though Miss Rehana had not seen Mustafa Dar for many years, the engagement provides the opportunity for her to join him in England. Miss Rehana is poor; her parents are dead. A life in Britain promises better material c...

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... calls for white British to adapt and compromise with immigrant culture. In light of Hall’s commentary, one can only hope that transforming Pakistani and British cultures converge. The other option, of course, is a divergence of culture. Sadly, given the vigilante groups and racial violence present when Kareishi published “The Rainbow Sign,” it is still not clear that England has embraced multiculturalism.

Works Cited

Kareishi, Hanif. “The Rainbow Sign.” London kills me. London: Penguin Books, 1992. 3-37.

Hall, Stuart. " Cultural Identity and Diaspora." Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory. Ed. Patrick Williams and Laura Chrisman. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994.

Rushdie, Salman. “Good Advice is Rarer than Rubies.” East, West. NY: vintage Books, 1994. 5-16.

Rushdie, Salman. “The Courter.” East, West. NY: vintage Books, 1994. 175-211.

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