Fiction As a Vehicle For Criticism

There are a lot of striking images and ideas in the beginning of ‘Animal’s People.’ I probably wasn’t the only person in class who visited after Sinha directed the reader to the website, a notably modern technique, linking a fictional book to a fictional website. There are a couple tabs that are ‘under construction,’ but for the most part, is a complete and detailed website. Khaufpur is clearly a fictionalized version of Bhopal. It is a common technique in fiction to use fictional aliases for real places, but Sinha takes it a step further by creating such an elaborate fictionalized version of Bhopal. The website is complete with local history and even phone numbers of fictional local officials, an attention to detail that is almost Tolkein-like. An interesting question that I had after reading this passage was what the point in fictionalizing an actual event so blatantly? From the beginning, it’s quite apparent that the book is about the Bhopal disaster. Aside from being simpler to write (not needing to extensively document actual accounts or do an incredibly amount of research), I think fictionalizing this event gives Sinha more freedom to criticize The Bhopal disaster and offer insight into corporation’s relationships and interactions with the environment. This leads me to question not why Sinha chose to fictionalize the event, but what she was able to accomplish by fictionalizing the event that she wouldn’t have been able to accomplish by writing a non-fictional account of the event. I think this could be an interesting question to keep in mind as we continue to read the novel. So far, I think it adds a more human perspective to the novel in Animal’s personality and relationship with the community, those aren’t the sorts of things one is able to pick up in an interview. I also think fiction allows for artistic expression in the novel that makes it more memorable and may provoke more interest from the reader, such as the detail of Animal walking on all fours. I’ll be interested to see what else fiction allows Sinha to do as we continue to read.

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One Response to Fiction As a Vehicle For Criticism

  1. Sarah Beach says:

    I think you bring up a great point with your observation. This idea of fictionalizing a very real historical event and place is a very interesting platform from which to write a story. Another crucial choice Sinha made in this story is the choice of Animal as narrator. Not only that, but also the idea that Animal has been prompted by an American journalist to tell his story is another layer we must consider. These decisions create, in my opinion, a way for Sinha to show effects on a large and small scale simultaneously. Sinha is able to fully develop the effects on the area as a whole while also showing the full range of effects the event had on a single individual. The story is extremely personalized without the entanglements of authenticity, yet it is clear that Sinha has extensive knowledge of the Bhopal disaster. There are so many layers of perspective happening in this story that would not have been accomplished without the license of fiction. Perhaps the real intent behind these choices is reaching a certain audience. I think an important question to ask is, what audiences is Sinha trying to reach with this story? And furthermore, what will he accomplish by reaching his intended audience?