Once again I find myself reminded of Aschenbach from Death in Venice
and even Kit from The Sheltering Sky
with these words from Theroux’s second novella in The Elephanta Suite
: “He left that night…a changed man. Or was he changed? Perhaps these impulses had always slumbered in him and now India had wakened them, allowing him to act,” (pg. 108). Just as Tadzio (and Venice) brought out new sides of Aschenbach and Kit found a new, freer part of herself after the death of Port, Dwight is let loose by India for better or worse. At least, he realizes he has to control himself before it’s too late (unlike Kit and Aschenbach). On the Road
is also brought to mind with this quotation: “…India could be bliss…” (pg. 110). The characters in On the Road
were always in search of blissful moments, and the scene of Dwight Theroux leaves us with at the end seems to be one of these blissful moments we seek in life: “…lying on a narrow cot in the tidy room freshened by the fizz of leaves and the morning air…he saw himself again, a skinny sunburned geek in a turban and loincloth…craving nothing except more life—happy, seeing things as they were,” (pg. 186). Blissful moments are filled with extreme contentment and transcendence. Dwight seems to be imagining himself in said state of contentment here. This final image also reminds me of the final image we get of Kit in The Sheltering Sky
when she runs off into the Casbah. The reader doesn’t know where Dwight is going and whether he’ll ever go back to his American life. He has cast of all his connections to the modern world and has gone into the Indian landscape as Kit went into the desert and into the crowds of the Casbah. It’s simultaneously dangerous, exhilarating, and freeing.
Also, I was reminded of our sadomasochism-in-everyday-life conversation last week when Dwight reflects that: “…it all revealed to Dwight a culture of both punishment and sexual frustration, for the two always went together,” (pg. 134). This only breeds dominant/submissive, master/servant, “exploiter” (pg. 147)/exploited relationships. Dwight later refers to Indru, one of his liaisons as “…a Scheherazade of sadism,” (pg. 157). Sublimation is dangerous in any society especially in a society of constant “want”. At least for a while, India helps Dwight find himself sexually (pg. 159). He comes off as a creeper sometimes though in his sexual dalliances. In the end, he transcends that need, having had enough of it, and finds himself spiritually or starts on the road (I guess the pun might as well be intended) to find himself spiritually.