English and Literature
Submitted By Beckyloveslouie
This section is written in the style of a log or journal with specific references to dates and times.
Ondaatje starts out with the date April 8th.
While on one hand insinuating that memories of soap should have unfavourable characteristics about them, Ondaatje goes on to describe in the next chapter how distressed he is over losing his bar of soap to a val oora, or a wild boar. He writes, “This thing has walked off with my bar of Pears Transparent Soap? Why not my copy of Rumi poetry? Or Merwin translations? That soap was aristocratic and kept me feeling good all through the filthy hotels of Africa” (143), showing that the bar of soap was highly valued. There are a number of different interpretations of this contrast – one of them is that Ondaatje had brought this soap all around the world with him, showing it to be almost an extension of his self, only to lose it in the Ceylon jungle shows how there will always be a part of Ondaatje left in or stolen by Ceylon. This ties in with the theme of the quest for personal identity, as it illustrates the impact Ceylon still has on even a westernized Ondaatje, and questions how much the author belongs to both the East and the West. Alternatively, Ondaatje’s longing for this aristocratic soap which in some respects suggests a taste for home may imply that there is a part of him now that is irremediably Westernised suggesting that he will never be fully Ceylonese.
One of the key symbols in this section is the wild boar that Ondaatje sees while showering in the rain. Ondaatje clearly feels a close connection with the animal, describing it at points as “My wild pig. The repulsively exotic creature in his thick black body and the ridge of non-symmetrical hair running down his back” (143). The boar is an exotic creature that has “non-symmetrical hair running down his back” and we may tentatively argue that Ondattje feels similarly unsymmetrical as he is torn between the two worlds of the East and the West. More straight-forwardly the boar seems to be the perfect symbol of Ceylon for Ondaatje, it is exotic, wild outlandishly striking and unique and there is clear a sense of connection between the two.
This sense that he is beginning to understand more of his Eastern roots is accentuated in the chapter Wilpattu where Ondaatje clearly revels in the delightfully exotic shower in the rain and the threatening wildness of the val-oora. Furthermore, when he leaves the jungle without his precious bar of soap and remarks, “My eyes are peeled for a last sight of the oora, my soap caught in his tusk and mouth foaming” (143). The idea that Ceylon and her jungle and animals have stolen Ondaatje’s soap signifies that although the soap, itself an icon of western culture, was so important to him, it has been taken from him by his ties to the East. This may suggest how even though Ondaatje leads a westernized lifestyle in his home in Canada, there will always be part of the East inside of him that prevents him from being fully Westernised.…...