In this essay, I mention the development of ecofiction in the light of Indian English literature. For this purpose, I have considered a few novels on the basis of common themes presented in them. These novels include The Butterfly Effect (2018) by Rajat Chaudhri, The Hungry Tide (2004) by Amitav Ghosh, and Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things (1997). The sole purpose of writing this essay is to highlight the involvement also echo fiction as a genre.
In the recent past literature has predominantly become engaged with the discourse related to the environment. In the midst of 20s, the cultural critics and environmentalists could rightly ask why the authors are not engaged with the subject of nature and environment? This artistic and scholarly attention has gained increased manifestations of climate change and in addition to that people and the stakeholders are hoping that these plays, short stories, poems, novels and children’s stories would be able to create a deeper environmental consciousness among masses that would eventually lead to better progressive policies and politics related to the environment. Climate fiction is also known as cli-fi and its concerns are still lacking in systemic ways and approaches to investigate about its readers or audiences.
Moreover, ecofiction has gained name among masses in recent past. The important question is to define this fluid term. Several scholars related to the field have defined it. In the upcoming section I have discussed what is ecofiction? with regards to the novels taken from Indian English literature.
Emily Stochl (2010) has defined it as “Eco fiction has environmental themes, narratives surrounding human impact on the climate crisis, the natural world, environmental activism, animal and human rights issues, and more. Some eco fiction is futuristic, and more often than not it is dystopic because of the dire state of the climate emergency that faces us. But eco fiction can also be an observation about the natural world today, or a reflection on a past climate event.” In light of these Elements given in the definition for the current survey I have taken two novels from Indian authors and the stance that I have taken from ecocritical perspective is ecocide specifically but that is not the only aspect that could be found in the selected texts. For example, the novel The Butterfly Effect (2018) by Rajat Chaudhri talks about how a lab experiment goes wrong and destroys civilization and takes humans into apocalyptic dystopia. Similarly, in another text The Hungry Tide (2004) by an Amitav Ghosh the destruction caused by human actions can be identified. As the definition entails that echo fiction has environmental themes and it has to do with the futuristic aspect, the novels that I have taken also depict the same side of ecocritical perspective such as in Rajat’s The Butterfly Effect (2018) the dialogue is based around a place, Darkland, which is not real but the name itself entails the calamities committed by human race in order to gain something for a short term and harming the environment and everything in the long run. The story is about a lab experiment that goes wrong. It portrays that how one man’s actions change the fate of the planet. It also sheds light on the picture of humanity and the threats of technology. Moreover, it goes on to show the disastrous conditions that humans have to face after a scientific experiment goes horribly wrong. As a result, human beings are forced into misery and chaos. The novel also focuses on capitalism, poverty, and inequity. It is also futuristic in nature as it talks about a place called Darkland (which is not real) in order to depict the atrocities committed by human beings thus harming the environment.
Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things (1997) Is a novel that depicts the exploitation of nature and the environment by people for the sake of modernization and progress in the world. The novelist has tried to pinpoint the shop familiarity of natural issues being raised in her environment and also her concern for mother earth which is presently under an incredible and perhaps inevitable risk of contamination. her novel also focuses on the concept of more than human life and how technological advancements and modernization are so important for the human race that they have forgotten to preserve natural resources for a better future in the long run.
Additionally, the other text The Hungry Tide (2004) also raise similar kind of concerns related to the environment and ecosystems. As the story is based on such events that are caused by human beings and their culture. The novel is a remarkable insight into the beauty and humanity and how life, to be more specific, human life is inconceivable without the existence of nature. it also depicts that how humankind is interdependent or dependent on their environment. The title of this paper indicates the reading of Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide which is set in the world’s largest mangrove ecosystem-the Sundarbans, which comprises both water and earth and the intersection of landscape, water, human beings and their culture. The tide, which is always hungry comes in twice daily, resulting in a constant reshaping of the land and an uprooting of anything permanent. During partition in 1947 there was such a girl that people covered public and private land the way they wanted. The tides in Sunderbans reach nearly three hundred kilometers inland and everyday thousands of acres of forest disappear underwater. It re-emerges hours later. The island is reshaped almost daily by powerful currents. The theme of the novel ranges from history to current events which he reinterprets and weaves together. Jim Dwyer (2010) stated in his guide to the field of ecofiction that in this line of literature diversity plays an important part and other streams such as Black Speculative Literature, Indigenous fiction, magical realism, science fiction, and more make it more varied and diverse thus vast field. In the novel The Butterfly Effect (2018) two streams are evident that are magic realism and science fiction.
Cole Klubek (2019) has defined the term ecofiction as “Eco-fiction is a subgenre of science fiction that was first written about extensively in 1965 surrounding the effects of human activities on their ….. branched off into three main categories of science fiction: apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic, environmental fiction, and climate fiction.” The fiction surrounding my argument also fall under ths categories of two of these aforementioned groups. In fact, these terms or categories for that matter can be applied to the texts under scrutiny for example in the novel The Butterfly Effect (2018) Rajat has portrayed about a man and his action when a lab experiment goes horribly wrong and leave a disaster on the entire civilization. This course of action depicts the apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic conditions and in addition to these, also portray the environmental issues thus making it an eco-fiction. Similarly, the other novel The Hungry Tide (2004) revolves around the human interaction with everything around them as the narrative is set in the 1947s partition between Pakistan and India. These incidents reported in fiction corresponds to the environmental and climate change as the wars effect humans, non-humans and landscapes in all sorts of negative manners.
Rajat’s book offers an insight into the challenges of unimaginable elements of worldwide disaster that are directly or indirectly caused by human actions. Also, the thirst of technology, power and more than a human world is presented in the novel. Rajat in one of the interviews commented on his book” The book has an eco-dystopian theme centered around the dangers of genetically modified (GM) crops and the inherent threats of this technology. It also has a climate change backdrop in a near-future setting. The double whammy of climate change disaster and a GM experiment gone horribly wrong is what triggers the disastrous circumstances portrayed in the book.” In Amitav’s book effects of human Atrocities in the name of freedom and advancement are depicted. the need and requirement to search for extraordinary creatures that are no longer available and the human thirst to mold everything around them for their own benefits truly portray the binary opposition of master and slave between human beings and environment. Human beings have, for a longest time, considered themselves the master of natural world neglecting the need for harmony and coexistence between environment and human beings. They have taken all-natural resources for granted. Similarly, in Arudhati Roy’s The God of Small Things (1997) the depiction speaks volumes of human ways to exploit, destroy and corner every natural resource in order to gain monetary benefits. The novel also depicts the selfish behavior of human beings in the name of industrialization and modernization.
Also Read: Environment Psychology
The selected novels clearly pertain to one of the dimensions given ecocritical concerns or ecocriticism called ecocide. But by mentioning I do not mean to entail or claim that they cannot fall under other ecocritical streams or offshoots such as ecofeminism, deep ecology, etc. Ecocide, the term equal side comes from a Greek word oikos meaning house and cide from the Latin word caedere (“to cut down or to kill”). This offshoot of ecocriticism discusses the destruction and environmental degradation caused by human world to environment and nature. it also covers the overuse or exploitation of natural resources in the hands of human beings on a large scale thus making human lives, entire or partial civilization, nonliving and non-human lives chaotic and difficult to survive. The novels have somewhat similar kind of shades of apocalyptic dystopia caused by human race.
Chaudhuri, Rajat. Ghosh, Amitav. The Hungry Tide. New Delhi: Ravi Dayal, 2004. Niyogi Books, 2018.
Dwyer, Jim. Where the Wild Books Are: A Field Guide to Ecofiction. Reno: University of (NevadaPress, 2010, Researchgate.www.researchgate.net/publication/297972951_Where_the_wild_books_are_A_field_guide_to_ecofiction. Accessed 11 Apr. 2021.
Ghosh, Amitav. The Hungry Tide. New Delhi: Ravi Dayal, 2004.
Klubek, Cole. Eco-Fiction: The Impending End of a Subgenre Due to the Psychological Effects Associated with Climate Change. 2019. University of Wyoming , PhD dissertation. Researchgate. www.researchgate.net/publication/340394341_Eco-Fiction_The_Impending_End_of_a_Subgenre
Roy, Arundhati. The God of Small Things. IndiaInk, 1997.
Sree, Anitha. “Eco-Critical Study of Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide.” Journal of Emerging Technologies and Innovative Research (JETIR), vol. 5, no. 6, pp. 297-299, JETIR. www.jetir.org/papers/JETIRC006051.pdf. Accessed 11 Apr. 2021.
Stochl, Emily. Book Riot, 10 Aug. 2020, bookriot.com/eco-fiction-books/. Accessed 11 Apr. 2021.