Gender, Identity and Postcolonialism in Rushdie's Shame

Gender, Identity, and Postcolonialism in Salman Rushdie’s Shame
Tim Haywood, English 398
Gender is a topic that is often viewed through a one-dimensional lens. The distinction between members of the opposite sex and the physical attributes that each should possess appear to be quite obvious. However, the typical assumption of male versus female being the only defining aspect of gender is not so simplistic. When viewed in terms of masculinity and femininity, the idea of gender can be explored on a much more broad and complex level. In the context of postcolonial literature, this is frequently the case. Postcolonialism focuses on cultural and national identity in literature produced by the people of current or former colonies in places like the Middle East, South Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean. Many postcolonial authors delve into to the issue of gender when expressing their ideas about postcolonialism. How does an individual that lives in, comes from, or has history with a certain country or region which has been colonized, shape his or her identity? In the work of many Middle Eastern and South Asian authors, gender is one of the best tools to use when exploring identity. In Salman Rushdie’s novel Shame, masculinity and femininity are important factors in how certain characters function. This growing desire to define identity as it relates to the characters in Shame is not only confined to the individuals in the story, but it is also an issue relevant to the nation of Pakistan as well. Most of the characters in the story are symbolic references to actual political figures in Pakistan. In addition, they also represent different periods in the country’s history, both political and social. To begin with, the relationship between Omar and his three mothers (Chunni, Munnee, and Bunny) is the center of the story. The title of the novel, and the fact that the mothers decided to raise Omar to feel no shame are a primary aspect of the novel. It is a theme that reoccurs...