Post Colonial Literature in English: Canada

Silent Mala: An empty vessel full of other's fantasies or an open and accepting individual free of prejudices?

Kathleen Ho '05, Northwestern University

Mala becomes the focal point for two other men, not as the target of desire, but as the source of acceptance and understanding. Both Tyler and Otoh gravitate towards her, and it is through her that they are able to meet and start a relationship.

Otoh says, "I felt as though she and I had things in common. She had secrets and I had secrets. Somehow I wanted to go there and take all my clothes off and say, 'Look! See? See all this? I am different! You can trust me, and I am showing you that you are the one person I will trust. And I am one person for sure, for sure, that you can trust. I will be your friend.'" (124)

There are several levels at which this quote interacts with the rest of the text. First, Otoh asserts his difference, his difference particular to sexuality. One can draw a parallel to Tyler, as Tyler also undresses in front of Mala when he tries on the female nurse outfits. This act of undressing symbolizes both individual's readiness to bare their sexuality. But how does Otoh's desire to assert his difference contrast to Tyler's continual longing to fit in and belong?

Second, Otoh places trust in Mala. This intense confiding he vests in Mala again is akin to the connection that Tyler feels with her. What is it about Mala that draws this confidence and trust? Or is it that Mala is just a silent character that both Tyler and Otoh project their fantasies of acceptance upon?

Finally, Otoh says that he will be Mala's friend. In this last statement, he is taking upon himself the shame that he feels for his fathers cowardice in leaving Mala after finding out that Chandin had been abusing her. What are the implications of Otoh's assumption of Ambrose's responsibility as Mala's lover? Later in the novel, Otoh even dresses up like Ambrose and dances with Mala. In essence, Otoh becomes Ambrose. Ambrose even remarks, "You are indeed a reincarnation "you are a perfect replica of me in my prime. I have never seen you look so stunningly like myself before" (144). What is the significance of Otoh blurring not only gender but also identity boundaries?


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

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Last modified: 25 November 2003