Caught between two worlds
At the beginning of “The Gateway of India,” Dwight despises India and everything about it. The only part of it that he likes is Shah, his business helper and a Jain. He respects and admires Shah and his sect of Hinduism. Even though Dwight repeatedly goes back to Indru’s house and at first says he is “happy” there and feels as if “[he is] home” (127), he realizes that something is not quite right there. Indru and Padmini help Dwight discover his sexuality but only for a cost. Dwight calls himself their “benefactor” but the ominous thunder in his head in and in the background enforce that he is lying to himself. Soon Dwight grows sick of Indru and her endless, pitiful stories of rape and abuse. In the final stage of the story, he decides to leave behind everything that ties him to America and become a true Jain. Dwight strips himself of his American clothing, his valuables and even Shah, who has been Americanized by the end of the story. He is left alone and finally sees happiness in a long term which wasn’t at all planned, “seeing things as they were.” (186)
In “The elephant God” Alice wantsto make a similar commitment to India, but she isn’t able to strip herself of her American-ness the way Dwight does. Like Dwight understands that something isn’t right about his position at Indru’s apartment, Alice sees that something is off at the Ashram (even though she likes it there). At the ashram, she spends most of her time with two Indian women who represent the wealthy portion of India, which is not what most of India is like. At first, her job at Electronics City, makes Alice feel fulfilled and proud, but soon she comes to resent the fact that her polite, respectful Indian students soon become rude imitations of Americans through her teaching of English. The only place that Alice is really happy is when she is with the chained elephant. The elephant is physically in middle of Alice’s two positions and represents the fact that Alice also feels trapped by her American-ness. Towards the end of the story Alice tries to have a similar transformation to Dwight, but is unable to because the, now westernized, Amitabh (a symbol of American Culture) follows her wherever she goes. Amitah and his wester-ness destroy Alice’s mission for self-discovery. Alice is only able to truly be free when she frees the chained elephant (a manifestation of herself) which tramples Amitabh. Then Alice sets out without her belongings, praying to Ganesha, alone.