Tuesday, 1 September 2015

The Enemy - V.S Naipaul. Self Discovery

Question: Explore the ways in which Naipaul presents Self Discovery in 'the Enemy'.

In 'The Enemy', Naipaul's presentation of a young boy who considers his "mother as the enemy", and his relationship with his father, and moving to live with his mother after his father's death as a journey of self-discovery.

Naipaul makes use of the conflict between a mother and her son to highlight the issues the boy has. The fits where he "couldn't take an order" form anyone and the fits when his "mother was anxious to be nice", are indicative of the issues the boy has with his mother moving away from his father. This element underpins the type of self discovery - that of belonging and family - that the boy experiences later.

Naipaul makes use of water as a symbol to indicate discovery or a keener sense of clarity. The water, coupled with a near-death experience serve to allow the boy to see more clearly. And while the "near-drowning" produces a well-written essay, the eventual outcome is further conflict with his mother after a brief moment of compassion. Therefore Naipaul uses the juxtaposition of the son "facing death calmly" with his father's "dying of fright" to highlight how both his father and the boy have issues with the mother and how the son's actions and reactions to his mother stem from the confrontational issue between his parents.

Eventually, when the second near-death experience reveals another revelation to the boy, after "water rushed over" his face, the boy find his mother crying and caring for him. And he realises that he cares for his mother too. Naipaul thus shows that the boy and his father are not alike, and the relationship with his mother does not have to be like the one between his parents. The boy realises this too, and the moment of clarity and self-discovery allow the boy to relinquish a sort of allegiance or childhood loyalty to his no dead father, to focus on his mother who cares for him.

Thus, Naipaul uses near-death experiences strengthened through the symbolic use of water as a catalyst, thus purveying clarity and rebirth to produce moments of the boy learning more about himself and his motives and feelings. Thus perhaps not in the traditional sense of self-discovery does Naipaul present the boy, but rather as an intricate relationship between aspects of family life, that are revealed gradually and thus awaken a keener sense of self from the boy.

Rough Mark: C+ (lacks clarity, could be more direct, yet good original attempt with some strong points raised)