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2021 Abstracts

"The Laboratory of Indian Colonialism": Cultural Hybridity in Mukherjee's The Tree Bride

Presenter: Kealy Whidden, College of Humanities & Social Sciences, English
Authors: Bharati Mukherjee
Faculty Advisor: Theda Wrede, College of Humanities & Social Sciences, English
Institution: Dixie State University

The purpose of this paper is to examine the ways in which cultural hybridity comes about as a result of colonization and permanently alters both cultures involved: the culture of the colonizing force as well as the culture subjected to colonization. Bharati Mukherjee explores both sides of this cultural hybridity in her novel The Tree Bride, which features many significant characters that represent not only the permanently altered postcolonial Indian culture, but examine as well the long-lasting impact that Indian culture had on the British forces that occupied India until Indian Independence was achieved through the Partition of 1947. This paper analyzes certain key characters within the novel through the postcolonial lens, examining the Western-influenced Indian culture of the modern postcolonial world through the characters of Tara Chatterjee and her family, while also exploring the other side of this cultural hybridization through two English characters who lived in India in the age of the British Empire: John Mist and Vertie Treadwell. Furthermore, this paper provides additional analysis using historical research regarding the timeline and historical impact of the British Empire's occupation of India when examining these significant characters, identifying the time periods in which they live as key components to their views on India, Britain, and Indian colonization at the hands of the British Empire. By creating characters on both sides of the cultural divide, Mukherjee shows that colonization is a doubly pronged weapon that harms both cultures involved even as it changes them. This paper illuminates the permanent and widespread effect of colonization that is cultural hybridity, examining not only the double-sided nature of such hybridity but the ways in which this cultural hybridity has transformed throughout the various stages of British colonization.