Post Colonial Literature in English: Canada

Blame in Cereus Blooms at Night

Kathleen Ho '05, Northwestern University

In the novel, Cereus Blooms at Night, Tyler calls upon Asha in order to understand her departure from Lantancamara. He says, "Asha Ramchandin, Asha Ramchandin, Asha Ramchandin" and proceeds to address her (90). Tyler conflates his own feelings of rejection and displacement with the suffering of Mala and projects that sense of blame and disillusionment unto Asha. He says,

You see, Asha, I must rationalize your leaving and her staying and, as many see it going mad. Otherwise, I must admit to feelings of anger that you left your sister behind. While I don't begrudge your leaving, I wonder if you ever tried to encourage her to go with you. Asha, from the way she calls your name, it is clear that she, more importantly than I, also does not begrudge you. [90]

As Tyler blames Mala's fate on Asha, so too does Otoh blame his father for Malas conditions. Both Tyler and Otoh are obsessed with the appropriation of blame. This obsession can be juxtaposed to Mala who is presented as utterly devoid of grudges and blame. However, the reader, throughout this entire novel, must be extremely skeptical of Tyler's position in the storytelling. How do we know that Mala does not begrudge Asha? It is only insofar as we believe Tyler has fostered an intimate relationship with Mala and that he records it as she claims.

How does Mootoo value blame? Who has the right to blame? Is Mala the only one in the position to blame? How is the reader positioned to assess Ambrose and Asha for leaving Mala as opposed to Tyler and Otoh for taking up the responsibility for caring for her?


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

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Last modified: 25 November 2003