At the banquet : images of the carnivalesque in Salman Rushdie's The Moor's Last Sigh
Tumber, Diane Elizabeth
Master of Arts
SubjectCarnival in literature
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This thesis examines the carnivalesque nature of The Moor's Last Sigh bv Salman Rushdie in relation to Gargantua and Pantagruel by Francois Rabelais. In particular, I focus on the abundant banquet imagery of this novel by borrowing terminology coined by Mikhail Bakhtin in his dissertation Rabelais and His World. Bakhtin believes that the carnivalesque nature of the folk promotes a world that encourages the celebration of material life. Eating and drinking promote laughter, which banishes fear. Rushdie enjoys the portrait ofthe unregenerate, laughing human, who is unafraid to challenge any orthodoxies, including religious orthodoxies. Rushdie creates a carnivalesque narrator who is morally ambivalent and physically grotesque to tell the tales in The Moor’s Last Sigh. In this thesis I explore the carnivalesque portrayal of food, and its effect on love, language and nationality. Rushdie uses pepper to define the love stories of this novel. Spices serve as a metaphor for the relationship of these characters, who defy social and religious convention to unite. “Pepper love” is passionate, fearless, and volatile. Banquet images champion the organic world. Eating, drinking, copulating, birthing and dying are common human experiences that reveal the bond between individuals. I examine food’s role in romantic love, sexual love and the love of family. Food’s effect on language is paramount. Over meals people converse, debate, and share ideas. I examine the links between speech and food, specifically focusing on Moor’s storytelling abilities and his role as a chef Moor uses the techniques of the carnivalesque barker, who uses language to both praise and abuse the audience. Food influences his abilities to tell tales about his experiences as the descendant of Vasco da Gama. The tale of India’s history as a colony due to the West’s search for spices serves at the historical vehicle for this novel. Spices define the volatile relationship of the East and West, although Rushdie represents this relationship as more complex than an Us versus Them dichotomy. Food’s role in defining nationalism can be both positive and negative, but Rushdie believes that the banquet serves as a paradigm for improving relations amongst humans - the more varied and numerous the “guests’ at he feast the more interesting and successful the party. The carnival banquet reflects future promise for a utopian world.