DECONSTRUCTIONIST ANALYSIS OF LAXMI PRASAD DEVKOTA’S “THE LUNATIC”
The poem “The Lunatic”, by Laxmi Prasad Devkota, a translated work by the poet himself from his Nepali poem “Pagal”, is a seminal work in the field of Nepali poetry. In this semi-autobiographical work, the poet resists the social injustice through advocating an alternative perspective of the world around him.
The central idea of the poem The Lunatic is perception, how a person views the world from a different perspective and is, in turn, delegated to the status of a lunatic. It is a literary work which contradicts the functional social structure that dictates people to believe and perceive from a set vantage which cannot differ from the practiced norm. The very beginning of the poem in contrast with the accepted binary of sensory perception;
I see sounds,
I hear sights,
I taste smells…
The poem itself is a work of deconstruction which embodies reversal of sensory perception. This is an indication of how the poet senses the world around him in non-confirmatory manner. The very sensory perception mentioned here contradicts the assumed binary of tangible and transcendental.
The centrality or the logos has been challenged in the poem. The centrality created by the society prescribes the individual to perceive form a certain viewpoint and the poet challenges the norm by discarding the normative values and creating an independent perception which does not confirm to the established norm.
|I touch not heaven but things from the underworld,things people do not believe exist,|
whose shapes the world does not suspect
The binary of heaven and hell mentioned here as the signifier of evil and good within men has been challenged. The port believes that the very basic nature of people that the society defines as evil and good is perspectival.
Language is the vehicle for communication, or that we what we are led to believe. But the poet contradicts the very ethos of communication when he describes discourse with leaves, as a communication that cannot be expressed in languae
a language, friend,
that can’t be written or printed or spoken,
can’t be understood, can’t be heard.
This also raises the contradiction where language is supposed to be heard, or written or understood.
This is a work in disestablishmentarianism where the poet tries to raise voice form the marginal fringes of the society, attacking the social injustice created by the leaders of the society. This work is also said to be autobiographical in nature, and the experiences of the poet himself has been integrated to create a tool for fighting social discrimination. In
|I called the Navab’s wine blood,the painted whore a corpse,|
and the king a pauper.
In these lines, the poet expresses the injustice and the reality of the different factions of society. We, who praise the successful people in terms of their worldly success, are often blind to the reality about the price the society has to pay for their success.
Historically, we have heaped greatness to unlikely candidates that the poet abhors.
I attacked Alexander with insults,
and denounced the so-called great souls.
The lowly I have raised on the bridge of praise
to the seventh heaven.
The social perspective that we have regarding the erudity and greatness is a lopsided binary. The poet feels that greatness can be observed in mundane entities that ever miss the cursory glance of the observers who dictate the social norms of our society.
We also have an inclination to give priority to exactly those items that are most disturbing and disruptive for us.
your heaven my hell,
your gold my iron,
friend! Your piety my sin.
The poet is bold enough to renounce the very social axioms that are considered desirable or religious. He believes that the alternate also exists, it can sometimes be more profound than the conditioned beliefs that we believe in.
The poet is also critical about the social structure that we live in. he believes that we have been led by the wrong people with wrong ideals, which has resulted in regression of the whole society.
I see the blind man as the people’s guide,
the ascetic in his cave a deserter;
those who act in the theater of lies
I see as dark buffoons.
Those who fail I find successful,
and progress only backsliding.
We can also observe the reversal of binaries here, where we believe that the sages, or the leaders have the best of interest in their hearts regarding the social progress; are actually the agents of regression.
The poet is angered by the dominating games that the leaders play without regard for the human rights. He is also sceptical about the truthfulness of what the press publish.
Look at the withered tongues of shameless leaders,
The dance of the whores
At breaking the backbone on the people’s rights.
When the sparrow-headed newsprint spreads its black lies
In a web of falsehood
The poet expressed his madness as the result of such grave injustice in the society and the uncomprehending nature of social norms. He sees discrimination and it evokes a powerful emotion in him which the society fails to recognise.
When I see the tiger daring to eat the deer, friend,
or the big fish the little,
then into my rotten bones there comes
the terrible strength of the soul of Dadhichi
and tries to speak, friend,
like the stormy day crashing down from heaven with the lightning.
This is a case of Freudian sublimation, where the supressed emotions have found an outlet in multiplicity of perspectival explosion, which the society terms “madness’ for the lack of comprehensibility.
In creating an alternate possibility, the poet has contradicted the possibility of changing the nature of the society that we live in through constructive and positive practices. Although this is an exemplary work in deconstruction, and a masterpiece in poetry, as a harbinger of change, it still paints a dark picture, which feels more revolutionary than evolutionary. The poem challenges the very fundamental aspects of the society which believes in the established norms and the path shown by the political and spiritual leaders. It highlights the perspectives of an individual, thus, centring the marginalised. The destruction of the centre as the theme of the poem delegates this work in the realm of deconstruction.
(* Mr. Mabindra Regmi is the Faculty Member at Kathmandu University, School of Education.)