METAPHOR AND METONYMY.
I have discussed ways of deconstruction of fiction using psychoanalytical perspective in my earlier blog .In this blog , I would focus on deconstruction of fiction using linguistic perspective. Once again , I would restrict myself to my first novel and avoid any reference to various schools of literary criticism. For this blog I have chosen two linguistic devices viz. metaphor and metonymy.
At the outset , I would like to admit that there is an element of psychoanalytical perspective in this linguistic deconstruction as well. While writing this novel ,I have chosen several metaphors to allow the narrative to achieve certain fluidity and certain lyricism. It is apparent that my choice of metaphor must have been dictated by my own unconscious mind. Therefore my attempt to deconstruct my novel by deconstruction of linguistic devices , in some sense , is another psychoanalytic deconstruction. However the key difference between these two approaches is the emphasis. While earlier blog tried to deconstruct my own unconscious mind , this attempt focuses on nature of narrative instinct that shapes our linguistic skills( including those involved in creative writing).
Before going into my own compulsions ( of course some of them were not known to me while writing the novel) of employing these linguistic devices , let me outline what , in my view , constitutes a metaphor and what constitutes a metonym.
A metaphor is a way of referring an object by another object. In simile there is a comparison while in metaphor , it is replacement. There are two yardsticks to judge the quality of metaphor. One is the extent of congruence between the original object and the object replacing it during metaphor. For instance the most common metaphor would be referring a pretty face by calling it a moon. Since the extent of congruence is variable , the quality of metaphor varies in each case. For instance , in the example given earlier , the quality of metaphor of referring a pretty face as moon would depend on the beauty of the original face that was referred to in the metaphor. Thus the quality of metaphor is to be judged by the context of referent and reference. The second yardstick for judging the quality of metaphor is the degree of novelty. In the example given above , referring a pretty face as moon may be a good metaphor ( at least when employed to refer someone very pretty) , however it may not be deemed a good metaphor on the ground of novelty. The act of referring a pretty face as moon is so overused that it lacks novelty altogether. Therefore it’s invocation in our times is not a good metaphor.
In that context ,how does a metaphor of Padma stand up ? Let me begin by explaining origin of Padma. When I began the novel , I wanted Manas to represent the futility of human existence. So it was inevitable that the his search for meaning must be personified. To create a counter point and an alter ego , I felt that entity must be a woman. Thus Padma started as a personification. In fact I was not sure how to introduce her in the novel. In fact she appears only in part two. However , once she made an appearance , without my knowledge , she became a metaphor for unattainable creativity of human beings. This semantic abduction was surprising. I did not want it , but it came about just the same. In fact , I can confess that there are lot of things in the novel that have surfaced without my cognizance. I am not happy the way she disappears from narrative. ( which girl , given such a background , would renounce the world ?). However , that is how the narrative forced itself upon me. The question is whether Padma as a metaphor for unattainable creativity is a good metaphor or not. I leave it to readers.
Let us look at metonymy. The traditional way of defining metonymy is that when the part replaces the whole in a figure of speech it becomes metonym for the original referent. The yardstick to judge a good metonymy is the attribute that defines both the referent and the metonym. It is possible that both entities may have more than one common attributes. In that case , there are several ways in which one can create metonymy. Thus there could be several ways in which metonym can represent the original referent depending on the context of the narrative. In such a scenario , same pair of metonym and original referent can have multiple metonymic relationships. A good metonymy is the one there are layers of such metonymic relationships between same metonym and referent. In popular literature the most common example would be that of heart of the individual representing that individual. Moreover , since the symbol of heart shares lots of attributes of the romantic person it represents ,this metonymy is also multilayered. In that sense this ought to be a good metonymy. However , overuse of this metonymy has robbed it of any novelty thereby making it a poor metonymy. Of course , it is possible that a new poet may still invent a new relationship between the heart and the romantic person whom that heart represents. In that case , that poet can conjure up a good metonymy using the same overused metonym and the referent. The question is where is metonymy in this novel and whether it is a good metonymy or not ?
In fact , I found an instance of metonymy in my novel while proof reading the book. I can assure the readers that I was not conscious of that metonymy while writing this novel. I realized that every character is , in fact , is a metonym of my own self. I realized that creative writing in in essence a fragmentation of my own unconscious mind into mélange of characters. The novel in this case is a prism which separated my own complexities into different strands . Each of these strands was personified into a character. Thus all characters in the novel collectively represent my own unconscious self. This interpretation is is worrisome. Is there any Manubhai in my subconscious mind ? However , let me assure the readers that this is naive psychology at work. The above interpretation only means that my own subconscious mind has rather complex and interwoven positivities and negativities lying beneath my conscious self. These tendencies get distorted , magnified and highlighted during fictionalization. Therefore each character ( not just Manas or Manubhai) is a case of metonymy of my unconscious mind.
This brings me to the final point of this blog. In creative writing the author employs several devices ,be it a metaphor or be it a metonymy because he/ she is trying to deconstruct his / her own self . These devices are ways of achieving transference. This process of transference continues with the readers who find echoes of their lives in these novels. In fact I was a voracious reader in my younger days. There are several books which I have read twice ( some of them after a gap of ten years). Strangely , I found out that on both the occasions I found different meanings . The book was the same but I had changed during the intervening years. That convinced me I was reading my own life in these novels. The process of transference was same , only the context of transference had changed. I am also convinced that most of us have read , say , “Great Expectations “ but I can assure you that we have ended up reading different versions of that book ( each version reflecting our own inner life). I also realize , while writing this blog , this plurality is natural. I am not sure how many readers are aware that when we watch a rainbow with our friends and family each one of us is watching a separate ( and perhaps a private) rainbow because the optics of rainbow requires a particular angle of refraction and particular angle of reflection. These details vary even for two individuals standing few inches apart. Therefore each one in the group is watching a different rainbow. The good thing about rainbow is that it signifies same thing to all of us. The rainbows are separate but their cognition ( both literal and metaphorical) is universal. This is the secret of creative writing. It begins with a personal experience and achieves universality through transference.
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