Post Colonial Literature in English: Canada

Desire in Shani Mootoo's Cereus Blooms at Night

Kathleen Ho '05, Northwestern University

In Cereus Blooms at Night, Mootoo perverts the ideas of love, romance and desire. The characters, Ambrose and Chandin, lust after females that prove unattainable. This lust denied, they both turn to marriages founded upon familiarity and solace instead of love. When Chandin hears Lavinia marries Fenton, he "wanted nothing more than to collapse in the security of a woman, a woman from his background, and Sarah was the most likely possibility" (45). For Ambrose, "It was only after Mala Ramchandin shoved Ambrose out of her life that he noticed one Miss Elsie Smart. He turned to the eager Elsie for solace" (109).

Their unfulfilled desires fester and manifest themselves in the rebellion of several other characters in the novel. From Chandin's marriage arises a controversial lesbian relationship between Sarah and Lavinia. Out of Ambrose and Elsies marriage comes a daughter who becomes a son. From these complications, how does one judge Mootoo's valuation of love and desire? Are the bizarre consequences of a loveless marriage indicative of unfulfilled lust, or is Mootoo pointing to other factors that shape the impossibility of Chandin and Lavinia or Mala and Ambrose marrying?

Moreover, how does Mootoo trace the evolution of desire? And what does it mean that the desire is directed at Mala as she becomes the victim of two mens delusions of desire? Chandin satisfies his sexual lust by forcing it upon her; whereas, Ambrose realizes he has "fallen in love with desire itself and the act of desiring was its own fulfillment. He was, he realized, unwilling to jeopardize his relationship with desire. If he succumbed to Mala's treasures, desire could change, would disappear even" (217).


Mootoo, Shani. Cereus Blooms at Night. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1998.

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Last modified: 25 November 2003