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Class 11, Language Development, Unit 18 Immigration and Identity

Class 11, Language Development, Unit 18 Immigration and Identity

Unit-18 Immigration and Identity


"We are all immigrants. Some people have forgotten that." Moises Rodrigues




Identity Crisis in Immigrants

Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post


a. Who are immigrants? Do you think that people living in foreign countries have no identity?

Ans:- When people cross national borders during their migration, they are called migrants or immigrants from the perspective of the destination country. Identity is that which an answer of the question "who am I?".  Our language, ethnicity, tradition, culture, lifestyle, customs, behaviors, eating behavior, costumes, and religion help to shape our identity. In our homeland or birthplace we are accustomed with these behaviors easily which help to shape our identity. When we go to foreign land we have to assimilate and mimic other's behavior, tradition, language, culture, religion and so on and we feel identity crisis.


b. Complete the bubbles with the terms related to identity.


Key points of the book review:


v This is a review of V.S. Naipaul's novel 'Half A Man' (2001) by Jonathan Yardley published in The Washington Post. Different to Naipaul's other works, Half A Life made him Nobel Laureate. This book presents his worry on cultural and racial identity in an ironic tone.


v The theme of the novel is found in a scene, at the three quarters of the novel, when Willie Chandran encounters a tiller being abused by his Portuguese boss at a restaurant in an African Nation. Through Anna, part Portuguese and part African, Willies knows the tiler to be an illegitimate child of an African girl and a rich Portuguese landowner. He is carrying the shame of his birth on his face like a brand, and Willie is worried about his identity.


v The theme of the novel is found in a scene, at the three quarters of the novel, when Willie Chandran encounters a tiller being abused by his Portuguese boss at a restaurant in an African Nation. Through Anna, part Portuguese and part African, Willies knows the tiler to be an illegitimate child of an African girl and a rich Portuguese landowner. He is carrying the shame of his birth on his face like a brand, and Willie is worried about his identity.


v As a follower of Mahatma Gandhi, Willie's father belonging to high caste married to a girl of low cast for leaving a lasting kind of sacrifice.


v Somerset Maugham, a British writer, noticed Willie's father's sacrifice when he was in India for his book and portrayed him in his book. Because of unhappy and strange relationship Willie and his brother Saroja born. Being unhappy in India Willie manages to get a scholarship in a college in London and flees there.


v  In London, Willie progresses in his study, and begins to feel disdain and unconcern of British to his father, but his disdain turns into compassion because he finds freedom there. He doesn't find racial discrimination, and feels that he can remake himself, his past and his ancestry.


v He starts to create his history there. He takes part in Bohemian immigrant life of London and realizes their unconventional lifestyle. He starts writing scripts for the BBC and later writes stores bringing plots from different movies,

v He can't find materials for his writings, faces difficulties in writing and stops. He collects his stories and publishes a little book of stories. Except Ana, the book is neglected universally. A mixed African background girl Ana finds similarities between the condition of her life and content of the book. They manage to meet. Willie feels comfortable with Ana who accepts him completely.

v Ana decides to leave London for her Portuguese African country, Willie follows her. To live a second rank Portuguese is event to have high status there and even Willie finds acceptance there. But most of people like Willie are living a life of second rank there. Willie feels that whenever he goes in the world his own land is no more certain and secure than that. Seeking an identity in other's countries is not possible.

v This is the central point of Naipaul told in a fine point. The omniscient narrator tells this story from the point of view of Willie, but this is the story of Naipaul who discovers that he has been living in other's countries mimicking their behaviors to hide his past.


Ways with words:

A. Find the words from the text to solve the crossword puzzle below. The meanings of the words are given in the clues.



2. As is certain to happen - inevitable

4. Famous and respected -eminent

6. A temporary stay- sojourn

7. Knowing everything - omniscient



1. The state of being preoccupied-preoccupation

3. Anxious or fearful that something bad will happen- oppressive

5. a person of mixed white and black ancestry - mulatto


B. Find the meanings of the following words in a dictionary as they are used in the text.


melancholy, elusive, motif, disdain, fabricate, intoxicate, resentment


Melancholy- a feeling of pensive sadness, typically with no obvious cause

Elusive- difficult to find, catch, or achieve

motif - a central or frequent idea in an artistic work

disdain- the feeling that someone or something is worthless of one's concern or admiration

fabricate - invent (something) in order to deceive

intoxicate - to cause someone to lose control of their faculties or behavior

resentment - bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly

C. Do the bold words in the following sentences have the same pronunciation but different meanings?

Dear Board of Education

I am also board of education!


Homophones are words with the same pronunciation but having different meanings and spellings. For example, board and bored, meet and meat are homophonous.


D. Choose the right word to fill in the blanks.

a. Can you bury the box in the back garden? (bury/berry)

b. Alex could not break the branch off the tree. (break/brake)

c. Whose pencil is on the floor? (who's/whose)

d. We have got very few tasks (phew/few) left. (phew- expressing a strong reaction of relief, or of disgust at a smell)

e. Some tribes worship their gods before the prey. (prey/pray)

f. Damn it. Everything is messed up. (Dam/damn) (damn- curse)



Answer these questions.

a. How is Willie Chandran different from the rest of his family?

Ans:- Willie Somerset Chandran is a mixed racial person born out of a Brahmin father and a dalit mother. He is different to the rest of his family because he is neither a Brahmin nor a dalit child. He is unsecure about his mixed racial identity.


b. Who is the main character of Half a Life? How is he described?

Ans:- The main character of V.S. Naipaul's novel "Half A Life" is Willie Somerset Chandran. His father was a man of high cast who married a woman of backward caste. He was born in India 40 years ago. He got his middle name from a British writer Somerset Maugham. He is unhappy in India so he goes to England for his higher identity and secure identity. He migrates to different countries in search of his identity but at the last he finds that nobody is more certain and secure in his/her own land than in foreign land.


c. Why does Willie leave India?

Ans:- As a child of a high caste father and a low caste mother, Willie feels that he has no certain identity in India. He is hateful to his father as in the name of sacrifice, being a high caste people who married to a low caste woman out of whom he got birth. He is bitterly unhappy in India and by managing a scholarship in London, he leaves India.


d) What is the revelation that Willie begin to feel in college and in London?

Ans:- Willie begin to feel that he is secure and free unlike in India where racial discrimination plays a vital role. There he could write his own revolution, remake himself, his past and his ancestry.

e. Why does Willie accompany Ana?

Ans:-  Willie writes stores there in London, and manages to publish a little book of stories which is ignored  universally except  Ana- a mixed African girl. Because of her words and behavior, Willie likes her and decided to go back home to her Portuguese African country where he can find a complete acceptance.


f. What is the central issue Naipaul has raised in the novel?

Ans:- In the novel "Half A Life", V.S. Naipaul has raised an issue of identity crisis regarding ethnicity and culture. In the name of religion and caste, some people specially having mixed racial identity feel insecure in their birth place and in search of certain identity and freedom migrates to different place but the ultimate certain and secure place is own birthplace.


Critical Thinking

a. What kind of divided identity is depicted in the novel 'Half a Life'? How do characters in the novel try to create new identities for themselves? Explain.


Ans:- According to the review of the novel 'Half A Life', there are three characters having mixed racial or divided identities. They are Willie, Ana and a big light eyed man.  Willie, the central character of the novel has divided identity because of his birth from a Brahmin father and a low caste mother. Because of racial discrimination that prevails in India, Willie feels unsecure and loss of identity. He is unhappy in India and to find his freedom and identity he migrates to London. Ana is another character having same kind of divided identity. She belongs to a mixed African identity (part Portuguese and part African) similar to the identity of Willie. Willie and Ana like each other. Ana has also come in London in search of her identity but later after meeting Willie, she feels that she may have a high status in her Portuguese African country even to be a second rank Portuguese than mimicking other's behavior to hide her past. Willie also follows her to her home country in a hope of a complete acceptance there. But he also feels there lack of identity. He sees the plight of an illegitimate man illegally born out of and African mother and a Portuguese landowner father. Such people are abused by Portuguese people because of the same of their birth.


b. Discuss the similarities between the author and the protagonist in the novel?

Ans:- Half a Life is a novel written by V.S. Naipaul in 2001. The novel revolves around the story of Willie Somerset Chandran, whose father is a Brahmin from the Hindu caste system and his mother a Dalit. Willie's middle name 'Somerset' comes from the name of an English writer called Somerset Maugham who had visited Willie's father in a temple once. Willie has a strained relationship with his father and decides to leave India so as to go and study in London, England. He lives the life of a poor immigrant whilst in London but later writes a book and manages to publish it. The publishing of his book leads to Willie receiving a letter from a fan called Ana, who admires the book and wants to meet Willie. Ana and Willie fall in love and Willie goes back with Ana to her homeland in Africa. The novel ends with Willie leaving his 18 year stay in Africa and going to live with his sister in Berlin. Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul was born in Chaguanas, Trinidad on 17 August 1932, and the eldest son of a second-generation Indian. He was educated at Queen's Royal College, Trinidad, and, after winning a government scholarship (1950), in England at University College, Oxford. His novel 'Half a Life' records Naipaul’s exiled life and manifests the splits among subjectivity, geography, and language toward multicultural and fluid identity. The masterpiece also portrays the protagonist Willie’s constant exiled life from India, England, Africa, and Germany so as to rediscover and affirm his self-identity.

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