Evan Shang

Fictionalizing Reality


“In fiction’s grip, we may mortgage our homes, sell our children, to have whatever it is we crave. Alternatively, in that miasmal ocean, we may simply float away from our desires, and see them anew, from a distance, so that they seem weightless, trivial.  We let them go. Like men dying in a blizzard, we lie down in the snow to rest.” (At the Auction of the Ruby Slippers. 102)

This quote of Salaman Rushdie’s East West shows Rushdie’s ideas on the relationship between intangible desires and fictionalization of reality. He mainly shows this relationship in the stories “At the Auction of the Ruby Slippers”, “Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella of Spain Consummate Their Relationship”, and “The Free Radio”. Rushdie shows us fictionalization of reality begins and then evolves from desires, fear, love, and other extreme emotions. Rushdie portrays this idea by writing in a way that the readers are able to see what the character thinks and wants. Rushdie shows the readers that the characters fantasies, dreams and desires are always better than that of reality. Thus when the character gets stranded in fantasy, the readers are able to better understand and distinguish fiction from reality.

“At the Auction of the Ruby Slippers” shows the narrator, fictionalizing reality for his desires. The narrator attends the auction in hopes of obtaining the ruby slipper in order to win back his lost love, Gale. His desires are so strong that he believe that the only way to get Gale back is to win the ruby slippers at all costs, “and resolved at once to buy them, whatever the cost”(97). At the climax of the auction, the narrator felt that he was in a fantasy, because unlike reality the desire for those slippers caused the money to become fictional numbers to keep score of who was getting closer and closer to the prize.

“At the height of an auction, when the money has become no more than a way of keeping score, a thing happens, which I am reluctant to admit: one becomes detached from the earth. (102)

He soon realizes how ridiculous the idea that presenting a pair of ruby slippers would bring back Gale’s love is, he snaps out of the fictional world of his desires. It is obvious that the narrator fictionalizes his reality for intangible desires, love in this case. This caused him to see the ruby slippers not as a movie memorabilia, but a way to win back his cousin, Gale. Rushdie shows that the narrator’s dream is better than reality, so in an attempt to attain this dream the narrator fictionalizes reality. Only without the grasping hands of fiction does the narrator stop bidding, leave the auction, and go home to sleep.

In the story “Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella of Spain Consummate Their Relationship”, it shows Columbus fictionalizing his reality for his desires of consummation. Columbus comes before Queen Isabella, because he requires her money, her ships and her armada to set out on an exploration. In order for that to happen, Columbus attempts to please the queen in any way possible, because “toying with Columbus pleases the Queen” (109). While in the pigsty, Columbus begins to fictionalize reality by believing that there are more reasons to why the Queen toys with him.

“Does she torment him merely for sport?

Or: because he is foreign, and he is unused to his ways and meanings.

Or: because her ring finger, still hot with the memory of his lips and breath, has been – how-you-say? – touched. Yes: tentacles of warmth spread backward from her fingers towards her heart. A turbulence has been aroused.

Or: because she is torn between the possibility of embracing his scheme with a lover’s abandon, and the more conventional, and differently (maliciously) pleasurable option of destroying him by laughing, finally, after much foreplay, in his foolish, supplicant face.” (110)

The readers know that the Queen has absolutely no feelings for Columbus, and Columbus is just fictionalizing these specific situations of arousal, because those ideas are far better than the reality. This reality is Columbus accepting the fact that he is just some toy used for the Queen’s pleasure, and that his plan and dreams will never become a reality, which he fears happening. Thus, Rushdie once again shows us that the fictionalized world is better the reality. In this case, Columbus would rather live in that fantasy than face the reality of his dreams not coming true.

In “The Free Radio” of the East section, Ramani fictionalizes his reality for his intangible desires instead of his desires leading up to the fictionalization of his world. The readers are able to see the hands of fiction pull him into a fantasy as “he would put one hand up to his ear as if he were already holding the blasted machine in it, and he would mimic broadcasts with a certain energetic skill” (27). It is difficult for the readers to determine Ramani’s desires, as they are never revealed. Whatever his desire may be; fame, wealth, career, true love or the arrival of the radio; it is fictionalized in Ramani’s mind, as he pretends that it’s already there. Even when time has passed, Ramani continues to carry the imaginary radio around as it is the figment that helps him ease the yearning for his desires. Although he did not get the free radio in the end, he moves to Bombay and becomes a big movie star. It is unknown whether he actually became a big hit, because he could have still been fictionalizing his reality when writing that letter to teacher sahib, because he fears not being able to achieve his desires. Rushdie demonstrates that Ramani’s desires and dreams are much better than the reality of him failing and not achieving his dreams. In this specific story, Rushdie shows us how one fictionalizes reality for their desires, but this fictionalization starts from the desires.

In three of the short stories of East West, Rushdie explores the relationships between intangible desires and fictionalization of reality. The idea he explores is that fictionalization of reality comes from strong and extreme emotions, such as love or fear. Rushdie writes in a way that shows the readers that the fantasy world is always better than the real one, thus the readers are able to understand much better to why these characters would trap themselves in fantasized world. Once in that world, it will always be hard to emerge out and face the reality.

Works Cited

Rushdie, Salman. East, West: Stories. Toronto: Vintage Canada, 1996. Print.