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Themes of Running in the Family

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Malik Perkins

on 3 September 2013

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Transcript of Themes of Running in the Family

Themes of Michael Ondaatje's Running in the Family
Themes of Running in the Family
Truth is subject to time and perception.
The fragility of love and marriage.
The present is defined by the events of the past.

Theme #1: Truth is subject to time and perception
Ondaatje tells his family's story in a way that romanticizes the past.
Despite her flaws, Lalla is presented to the readers in an idealistic manner.
Despite his dipsomania, Ondaatje never accepted the darker side of his father.
Theme #2: The fragility of love and marriage
• Engagement and marriage were slowly sorted out involving multiple people.
• Divorce was socially acceptable and happened to many.
• Widows and widowers didn't mourn for very long .
• Love and marriage - just going through the motions, no cherishing, could be overlooked by many.

Theme #3: The present is defined by the events of the past
Ondaatje is defined by the history of his culture, experiences, and family. Lost it and wants it back.
Self-identification; connecting with his roots.
The novel is a compilation of history retold in Ondaatje's image.
Quotes for Theme #1
1. “They danced in large living rooms to the music of a Bijou-Moutrie piano while the log fires crackled in every room” (40).
2. "People’s memories about Gasanawa, even today, are mythic" (46).
3. "For most of her life, children flocked to Lalla, for she was the most casual and irresponsible of chaperones..." (117).
4. "Everyone went with her anyway, though they could never be sure of eating" (117).
Quotes for Theme #2
1. "The next day the problems were solved and the engagement was established once more. They were married a year later" (35).
2. "Love affairs rainbowed over marriages and lasted forever- so it often seemed that marriage was the greater infidelity" (53).
3. "There are stories of elopement, unrequited love..." (53).
4. "Even his strong-willed wife could not blossom till after his death" (56).
5. "Lalla was heartbroken. She went into fits of rage, threw herself on and pounded various beds belonging to her immediate family, and quickly married Willie Gratiaen" (114).
Quotes for Theme #3
1. "But it was only in the midst of this party, among my closest friends, that I realised I would be travelling back to the family I had grown from - those relations from my parents' generation... (22).
2. "In my mid-thirties I realised that I had slipped past a childhood I had ignored and not understood" (22).
3. "And why do I want to know of this privacy?... I want to sit down with someone and talk with utter directness, want to talk to all the lost history..." (54).
4. "Sit down in my room and transcribe names and dates... When I finish there will be that eerie moment when I wash my hands... of old paper dust... down the drain" (68).
5. "Lalla remained the centre of the world she moved through. She had been beautiful when young but most free after her husband died and her children grew up. There was some sense of divine right she felt she and everyone else had, even if she had to beg for it or steal it. This overbearing charmed flower" (125).
6. "To us he was an utterly charming man, always gracious" (175).
7. "There is a story about my father I cannot come to terms with" (181).
Michael Ondaatje's novel compiles stories of his Sinhalese culture and family that he left behind. Fiction is interwoven into the novel, but he attempts to stay true to those past events and to their common themes.
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