Sei sulla pagina 1di 6


arl Muller`s The Jam Fruit Tree is nicely fabricated in and around the Burgher community in Sri Lanka for nearly three generations beginning from 1920s.Though the novel ,more precisely, concentrates on railway Burghers, it also

goes hand in hand with Ondaatje`s Running in the Family. Both the novels, indeed, are semi- auto biographical, yet The Jam Fruit Tree produces more sensation among the Sri Lankan literati. Some ,in fact, believes this as not a novel, but as carefully drafted episodes of a community, a community more westernized and elated with the philosophy of eat, drink and be merry. The story opens up with Sonnaboy, a far fetched parody to Muller`s father, the youngest of Von Bloss family, and spreads far and wide addressing the issues of sexuality in terms of feminism, secular perspective of religion and language as a class marker under the light of the perpetual identity of Sri Lankan Burghers. The novel then curls back and ends with Sonnaboy, just before the chroniclers post script. In the foregoing passages we discuss some of the main issues of the novel seen along the line of Burgher identity. In the first place, the novel explores the issue of sexuality in wider manifestations. Muller candid to the extreme of the carnal behavior creating an image that is evidently paradoxical with the long held notions of Burghers. Muller indeed brings forth the bed room privacy into the living room. By doing so Muller does not hesitate to be frank in depicting inborn human desire. In classics like Women in Love we come across the same yet milder sensation, but here inside the pages of the novel it is too much. The novel, in fact, is more like a Brazilian novel in content of sexual instances. It seems that Muller is exaggerating yet he knows the community well enough so that he is the one to write about it; we are not to judge its limitations. Holding an antifeminist idea, Muller believes that women are out of mischief when they are carrying. Typically women are considered introvert in sexuality, but in Muller`s eye the concept changes. What Muller denotes is quite contradictory to the general feminist discourse. According to him, women are all big buttocked and round thighed. They are sexually hyper active: only want to go to the beach and hold hands(Elva rigidly refusing her mother`s proposal) She ,Elva ,unlike a normal girl, fights till the end even by writing as Beryl to get Sonnaboy. Not only the characters in the novel engage in heterosexuality the novel also traces evidence of homosexuality, incestuous sex, exhibitionism, and Paedophilism.

Heterosexuality is one of the key themes addressed in the novel where Muller pictures Beryl`s honeymoon with every single detail denoting the secrecy of newly married: About twelve time I think we did last night To women, in Dutch society, sexuality is not something that is discussed behind curtains or an untold taboo. We find mothers giving advice on daughter`s honeymoon : just lie down and listen to what he says The same applies on how the Burgher girls differentiate more intimate, confidential aspects of sexual life: Sinhalese fellows have black We also come across where George squeezing Leah`s breastsand Eric being enthralled as Elsie keeping his hands between her legs whom he felt at last a man. In Burgher community ,as Muller writes, it is apparent that these incidents are common, though it seems that sexuality has been inserted forcefully into the lines of the novel. Evidently, most of Muller`s characters enjoy having sex all the time in the course of the novel. In addition, we are told that Sonnaboy liked boys denoting the homosexual behaviors of the muscle oriented guy. Probably that is why he is more concerned with Elaine, the girl at next-door, as she is boyishly developed. Going even further in the same family tree we witness Elaine`s brother`s experience in school where they being sexually exploited: in school Father Theo did the same to me In the terminology of sex, the novel probes into the facets like incestuous sexual behaviors where Elsie is provoked by her own brother and she goes inside: she would go.and rub and rub. Though it is uncommon to state something that much disgusting; Muller writes directly about the communities of his own exhibiting even the doubtful events of Dutch life styles. We are also told that Dunnyboy had had his moments with Anna, his own sister, a sign of incest within the family manifesting another angle of human sexuality. The notion of exhibitionism is displayed when it comes to Sonnaboy who is proud of his penis and Dunnyboy ,when he sleeps, not that knowing that, his trouser button open depicting the desire to show off the sexual mania at one level of the novel.

There is also a note of Paedophlism as Beryl gets money from an old man by allowing him to feel her legs plus a given hint on Bestial sex though it is not quite materialized in the text under the account of Beryl: yesterday she catch the dog Finally, breaking away the feminist notions, the lines of the novel is colored with treachery and infidelity as we read how Opel is impregnated by a booking clerk, and Beryl at the end, in spite of a mother of many children develops an affair. At the same time the men in Muller`s story condemn female agency suppressing all the issues related to female ego: If ask me I can bring twenty fellows from railway for her to choose Meaning that the notion of marriage is a sort of bargain. Feminine issues are more down trodden when it comes to premarital sex by Sonnaboy with Elaine : you think I have fun? Who told you that? Can have better fun with the hopper woman..You want money from me to not having fun? It is a perfect example to depict that some of the male characters in the novel deliberately down grade their female counterpart and produce petty justifications in order to cover up their sexual indulgences. More critically however they manifest the material value to most intimate relationships of all. That is marriage: You keep the ring, never mind. You can get any other fellow The theme of sexuality is obviously intermingled with many of feminist plights and social concerns that can be traced back to the main theme one way or other. Much can be added on this theme, but enough we think to assert the point we established. Therefore, in Muller`s The jam Fruit Tree the voice of sexuality can be heard in different sexually pervasive veins though it is discarded by some of the Burghers due to its unnecessary fingering on sexuality in greater extent. Muller also admits that not every Burgher follows the same sexual instinct: This does not mean that all the Burghers were remarkably heterosexual, singularly unambitious, unashamedly incestuous. However the women, in the text, go beyond the boundaries of feminism exploring an independent perspectives of sexuality. It is to be added finally that they are not afraid of the social stigma being manifested in the social web.

In the second place, Muller satirizes the religion in Dutch community in a harsh tone foregrounding a secular perspective of Christianity. One could almost argue that he mocks at his own religion, at the same time this is not the first time he has done so. For instance in his historical fiction, Colombo he even satirizes the way people take ashamed advantages during Vesak season. Muller brings forth the malpractices by the priest in Christian churches in the same way: She is not marrying in the presence of the Lord Signifying that the God is in the church itself, and posing a simple logical question on Christian Philosophy _God is Everywhere_ Even father Romel argues about the place of the God: Don`t tell me where the God is and isn`t, that is for me to say.. Symbolizing the sole authority of Church. The way the Burghers practice Christianity is mocked and looked down upon: A small drink would help. Imps! Huh!-Cecilprins How to sit and listen without a drink-Totoboy only sitting there ,and don`t care What`s happening outside_ Sonnaboy It is apparent that Muller mocks even at the Holy blessings with Holy water in Anna`s wedding at the mission house: Foo! like as if he poured with a bucket.. A careful reader may identify that there is a connotation on the malpractices of Christian clergy, though none remain in our reality, in the last moment of Maudiegirl where Father Romiel anoints other openings in her body, probably hinting the notion of fishing in troubled waters. It is to be thoroughly note that this is only a theory that any criticism can be leveled against it. We also find an instance where Totoboy states, seeing the RIP on gravestones ,all taking rest- nobody dead here-This is obviously a satirical comment on the part of Christian doctrines in Christian discourse. Third in line we pin down the notion of language as a class marker where Muller uses the language used by ordinary Burghers with lots of code mixings, direct translations and

omission of articles. It is to be noted that almost all the characters in the novel, especially Burghers, use English with their own blends and syntactic patterns: So why, Mama, you call it tara padre? Why she (is)running unless she(is) guilty and playing me out? By doing so Muller may be pushing the English language into an alternative venue of communication method unique to Burghers, an alternate idiom to standard English. In a way Muller connotes that railway Burghers use local variety of English that has it`s own idiosyncrasy. It seems that Muller`s writing, for some Burghers, is a loophole of downgrading their own linguistic dignity. However there is also a mocking on the 1956 act that made Sinhala as the National Language where Sonnaboy was asked to take a qualifying examination in Sinhala just to drive an engine, a sensible criticism that can be leveled against. It is evident that Muller projects a deeper penetration how English language uplifted Burghers before independence, marking them as the preferred lot by the British. Finally, Muller believes that it is hard to find a true Burgher today, for already they have mixed with other nationalities at length. According to him Burghers of Lankan reality are a co mixture of European and Eastern nations, so it is true that one couldn`t be specific on their Burgher identity. Manifestly, the Von Bloss family exemplifies the inter marriages where the original, genuine identity could not be further traced. Muller denotes that his readers will still meet the Burghers in Sri Lanka meaning that probably there will be more interracial marriages in our recent reality too. The notion projects Muller`s inclination in bringing out ethnic harmony. He strongly criticizes LTTE with a strong slap: .what`s wrong with these other guys who are going around throwing bombs and demanding separate state? They ,as Muller writes, could adapt perfectly into the social web wherever the Burghers live in Sri Lanka foregrounding the true essence of Burghers in Sri Lanka. Subsequently Muller foregrounds manifestly that Burghers are proud of their country though they are Dutch descents in origin and seeing themselves as Sri Lankans. What is more important is that Muller has taken his readers through a Burgher wedding and a Burgher funeral.depicting the realistic picture of Burgher community.

Therefore, Carl Muller`s The Jam Fruit Tree proudly presents the life of Sri Lankan Burghers with utmost authenticity highlighting the issues of sexuality, religion, and language under the spot light of Burgher identity where colourful vestiges of Burgher life still remain to be written .Consequently, that is probably why he wrote the remaining chapters of the unfinished story about Carloboy and so forth along the lines of Yakada Yaka and Once Upon a Tender Time inviting the readers to probe into his own community, a community worth while to be documented, admired and elevated before it slips through the fingers of Sri Lankan readers.

by Chinthaka S. Wickramasinghe B.A (English) USJP

Monday, June 24, 2013