In order to adapt in an ever-changing society, teeming with benevolence and intrigue, an individual must be able to adapt to differentiating surroundings. The human mind and body must grapple with disturbing memories or enthralling dramas of life. These thoughts are channelled through various emotions. Emotions are physical or mental expressions, often involuntary, related to feelings, perceptions or beliefs about elements, objects or relations between them, in reality or in the imagination. The growth and transformation of any entity cannot be justly physical, but also mental strength and wisdom.
Past experience of any manner colours the human being for future of constant change. Gustad Noble of Rohinton Mistry’s Such A Long Journey and Elaine Risley of Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye demonstrate the pattern of the “circle of life”: karma, religion, family and friends. The readers can visualize modest lifestyles maturing in the wake of sudden changes. These modifications have the characters questioning their moral heart as their life charts towards uncharted waters. The authors’ interpretations of these realistic situations construct a model for the readers to judge their lifestyles by. Mistry and Atwood use literary devices, diction, and clever wordplay to enhance the reading experience for the audience.
The readers witness the protagonists becoming better individuals through adversity, as they overcome unforeseen challenges. Eastern and Western societies are so different in so many ways, and yet there are some elements that are universal: betrayal, love, compassion, family, and friendship. The emphasis of Elaine and Gustad’s struggles creates an illusion that their tragedies are the readers’ tragedies as well. The central theme of both novels is the need to embrace emotions, especially sadness, and not to run from them and also their different perspectives of change and isolation. It depicts that life has its fair share of bumps in the road, but with persistence and determination, they can be overcome.
In the storylines of both novels, friendship and betrayal become quite evident and explicit. In Cat’s Eye, Elaine Risley allows her body and mind to be abused by her so-called “friends” and to question her sense of identity. This teasing by the girls, Cordelia, Grace, and Carol, shatters Risley’s self-esteem and leads her to adopt disturbed habits, such as peeling her skin, biting her nails, and chewing her hair. In the aftermath of the bridge incident, Elaine stands up for herself and takes a step forward for freedom the girls’ torment and torture. Realization comes crashing down on her, of how she had fallen for the illusion of false friendship. Her childhood was scarred from all the emotional pain she endured.
Similarly, in Such A Long Journey, Gustad Noble had also believed he had been betrayed by his closest friend, Major Jimmy Bilimoria. The Major had sent him a large sum of money to be deposited in the bank, however it was money supposedly to be used to aid rebels in East Pakistan in its war effort. Gustad first thought it would be a heroic mission, aiding the army, but he soon realizes the danger he is bringing to his family and career. Unlike Elaine, who was emotionally attached to her “best friends”, Bilimoria’s actions came as a sudden shock. Jimmy was like family to the Nobles, the children respected and loved him, and provided so much enjoyment to all. First, he departed without a goodbye and then left the Noble family into a trap of deception.
Gaustad has his suspicions, but sees this as a test of loyalty to his old friend. His entire family was against it, and for the most part, so was he. However, Gustad would not let his friend’s call go unanswered, but needed a little persuasion. In both situations, the readers want to reach out and help, and make the ordeal seem less complicated, but both characters are emotionally attached to their friends. When it comes to whether friendship was of importance, Elaine and Gustad stand on opposite sides. Gustad was the more open-minded of the two, even showing respect to the mentally unstable Tehmul, while Elaine shunned Cordelia physical, but was still shaken by her past traumas. Gustad does not prefer change as his life in the past is described as paradise to him. It is with change, comes problems.
He blames the theme of change of causing his son not to go to IIT, as his son has changed into a different person from before who does not respect him. He also blames the theme of change on Jimmy’s betrayal as Jimmy in the past was seen as the “loving brother” but now, he focuses on deceiving Gustad to gain his own selfish goals. Gustad’s reluctance to change is further emphasized by the black wall which represents his life in the past during the war, and by leaving those on his windows he emphasizes that he wants things to be just as how they were back then. The black wall is another symbolist element used to represent change, although Gustad is disgusted by its pungent odour, he doesn’t want the wall to be demolished as it is the source of his isolation and separates himself from the rest of the world.
On the contrary, with Elaine, change is almost constant throughout the novel. Her suffering in the hands of Cordelia, Grace, and Carol have left her scrambling for answers and questioning her sense of identity. As she matures into an adult, her haunting memories of her childhood continue to stay with her. Constant flashbacks remind her of the past, and how she overcame it. The marble of the cat’s eye is used to represent change, as it was like a talisman that protected Elaine from her past hardships. Before, it was Cordelia who held the upper hand in their relationship, but as they became adults, Elaine realized how both their lives ended in completely contradictory paths. Since everything did not go her way in her past, everything must be perfect in the future, and thus constant change. Both Elaine and Gustad explore the nature of memory and identity, and how experience of the present is coloured by past events.
Spirituality and religion also impact the growth and development, as it plays a crucial theme in the lives of Elaine and Gustad. As the world seemed to crash down on him, such as Roshan’s illness, Sohab’s attitude towards going to IIT, Major Jimmy’s issue and his quarrel with a neighbour, Gustad would always turn to his prayers to solve these problems. In Hinduism and Christianity/Catholicism, a person of pure heart is always commended with good fortune, and this was displayed with both Gustad and Elaine. Elaine can be depicted as an immigrant from the start of her arrival in Toronto, different physically and mentally. She was raised as a boy, growing up with her brother Stephen, and was interested in different things than what “normal” girls would like.
The other girls used Elaine like a lower being, in order to feel good about their sub-par appearance. The emotional pain Elaine felt was cured with the aid of the Virgin Mary. One can imagine the Virgin Mary speaking through Elaine as she rejected Cordelias’ demands, freeing her from her prison of unjust treatment. Likewise, Gaustad and his kusti allowed him too overcome the various obstacles in his life. For example, his sacrifice to save an elder’s life left him only with a minor limp, as his friend Major Bilimoria saved him from extensive damages. Also, as the stress began to mount to its peak on Gustad, the readers can easily identify his Gustad’s misfortunes began turning the other way; Roshan recovering, Sohab returning, and learning of Jimmy’s true motifs of the money.
One can imagine the wall of divine beings, an idea of Gustad himself, helped alleviate these burdens. This wall became a temple itself, as provided a diverse mental comfort to those to look at it. Gustad would always praise the street artist who brought this monument to life, as it depicted the spiritual beings that the mortals worshipped to prosper in various aspects of life. Faith is almost always the first thing people turn to in times of need and quite different in both Elaine and Gustad’s cases. Elaine did not even believe in any superior beings, until Grace invited her to attend church. It’s peculiar because afterwards, as she prays to Jesus, that she is demanding her prayers are granted. She imagined God as someone who would answer all her problems in a heartbeat.
In reality, sometimes life doesn’t turn your way all the time, and Elaine did not know that. This may be why she converted into a Catholic and worshipped the Virgin Mary. Gustad, on the contrary, seems to have been a religious man since his childhood. His childhood memories were fantasizing about protecting a castle and fighting off dragons with his sacred kusti. In the current timeframe of the novel, the readers learn countless people made it theirs. The wall had a certain calming aura about it, and that it is his morning ritual to pray before he commences anything else. Although both Gustad and Elaine’s thoughts upon faith and religion are quite different, one can say that it was divine intervention that aided them throughout all their hardships and suffering.
Individuality or independence can be defined as the state or quality of being free from subjection or from the influence, control, or guidance of individuals, things, or situations. Gustad and Elaine feel the necessity of isolation, and confining themselves in their minds, without expressing inner emotions for a majority of the novels. The readers can witness the evolution of Gustad’s character as the novel progresses, before problem after problem began to amount. One can only imagine the internal pain he feels as Roshan falls ill, Sohrab defying his father’s ambitions, and Bilimoria’s apparent betrayal, it is hard not to wonder how he manages to cover his emotions. Gustad is one who does not like to express his emotions publicly, but is very open with his wife Dilnavaz.
They both share a special bond, where they continuously support one another through the rough times. Again, the black wall comes into significance again. Gustad covers the windows of Khohad Building to isolate it from the atrocities of the world. The wall can be symbolism to support, protect, or guard something; similarly this is the same idea in the confines of Gustad’s mind as the wall represents the congested emotions trapped in his head. By demolishing the wall, it is as though he is letting himself become vulnerable and open. This represents the theme of isolation, as Gustad locks his emotions and only releases them when he cannot bear it anymore, especially when Tehmul dies and Sohrab returns towards the end. Elaine can also relate to isolation as well.
As the other girls were tormenting her, she was always alone, no one to turn to. Her parents were completely oblivious to what was going on with their daughter. For example, after Elaine fell into the river and returned home, her mother did not accuse the other girls at all, even though Elaine covered up for their sake. She kept all her thoughts and feelings to herself, not knowing the load she had put on herself. Even as an adult, she continued to hide things from her closest family; another example being hiding her relationship with Josef from Jon after they were married. The readers understand Elaine’s behaviour; she cannot trust another person because of her past experiences. She hasn’t fully recovered from the entire ordeal. However, the one true difference between the two is that Gustad always turns to his family, while Elaine keeps to herself.
When analyzing Mistry’s Such a Long Journey and Atwood’s Cat’s Eye one can clearly distinguish the significant components of both novels that the protagonists evolving as an individual and adapting tot their changing societies with a fair amount of struggle. Gustad Noble and Elaine Risley share many similarities, and also a variety of differences. They have both been through tough situations, and recovered in an assortment of ways. The readers witness the protagonists becoming better individuals through adversity, as they overcome unforeseen challenges. Eastern and Western societies are so different in so many ways, and yet there are some elements that are universal: betrayal, love, compassion, family, and friendship. Gustad had to let go of a simple lifestyle and found himself innocently drawn into a dangerous network of lies and deception. Elaine on the other hand found herself not being able to let go of a horrific childhood where a trio of other girls tormented her.
This impact on her life caused her to become more cautious in the future and also developing an obsession over those who caused her the misery. Family, friendship, karma, religion along with change and isolation affected how both Gustad and Elaine solved their problems. Gustad was amounted with family problems, with is daughter falling ill and his eldest son defying his ambitions. Gustad turned to his faith in order to find some sort of compassion and sympathy in his darkest hours. He did not express his emotions publicly, only releasing them to Dilnavaz when he could not bear them anymore. Change was not an option for Gustad, as he was not ready to accept them all; one example being the apparent betrayal for Major Jimmy Bilimoria. Unlike Gustad however, Elaine had no one to turn to discuss her issues.
Due to the traumatic ordeal with Cordelia, Grace and Carol, Elaine had her self-esteem and body image shattered as she scrambled for answers. These events lead her to living a very conservative life, almost turning into the person she very well hated. As both she and Cordelia became adults, it is almost as if there fortunes had turned tables, on opposite ends of life. The same with Gustad, his good-natured character allowed his suffering to be minimal. Religion and spirituality had different affects and meanings with both protagonists. Gustad believed all his problems would be answered if he prayed with the right mindset. Elaine thought that her troubles would just disappear because of the abilities of superior begins, and the reason why she began attending church.
Material objects also play important roles, Gustad’s black wall and Elaine’s marble. The black wall represented isolation and protection from the horrors and filth of the outside world. Even though it was treated without value, it provided Gustad with a special comfort, and probably the reason he turned it into a shrine. Elaine used the cat’s eye marble was used as a talisman, protecting her from her dilemmas. Even as she grew, one of her most influential paintings was the image of her marble, showing how she recovered from her horrific past. Thus, both Gustad Noble and Elaine Risley were impacted differently by family and friends, the themes of change and isolation, and most importantly, their understanding of their past experiences allowed them to mature as individuals.