Multiple Hues of Marginality and Assertion in Jokha Alharthi’s Celestial Bodies

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Dr. Hem Raj Bansal


Marginality is not only a state of tangible/physical suffering but also a condition of mind. However, the nature of both is complementary to each other as the troubled psychic state results only from material reality. The adjective ‘celestial’ in the title seems to negate any material claims to one’s deprived state as emanating from structural inequities. The marginal state of major female characters in Jokha Alharthi’s (b. 1978) the Man Booker International Prize-Winning novel Celestial Bodies (2019) has its basis in the patriarchal functioning of society. Marilyn Booth writes, “The impact of a strong patriarchal system on both women and subordinate men is unsparing but it shapes different generations, and individuals, distinctly as it leads to both suffering and confrontation” (x). All three sisters Mayya, Khawla and Asma in the Celestial Bodies have their own trajectories of hidden pain. Apart from it, marginality as observed in the case of Zarifa, the female slave who unconsciously submits herself to a better life, results from ignorance as she does not find anything appalling even in being a concubine to Merchant Sulayman, the slave owner. Another note of marginality stems in the portrayal of Habib and his son Sanjar who view slavery as an “involuntary human servitude” (Wright n.pag.) and hence break themselves free from the shackles of bondage by leaving the house of Sulayman. While the former realizes that despite being his wife, Zarifa is also his master’s keep which is a blow to his masculinity; his son also identifies selfish motives in Sulayman’s doing a few things for his betterment. Another victim of a husbandly suspicion is Fatima, the wife of Sulayman whose death remains a mystery until it is learnt that it was her husband who hastens her to a poisonous death as her affair with a slave is suspected. Mayya’s daughter London’s marginal state cements the vulnerable status of women as despite from a rich family she is treated in terms of her supposed weak gender as her voluntary marriage to a peasant’s ends in a fiasco. The present paper seeks to provide answer to different types of marginalities found in the Celestial Bodies along with charting out a course of passive to active resistance as adopted by different characters.


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Dr. Hem Raj Bansal. “Multiple Hues of Marginality and Assertion in Jokha Alharthi’s Celestial Bodies”. The Creative Launcher, vol. 7, no. 6, Dec. 2022, pp. 46-56, doi:10.53032/tcl.2022.7.6.05.
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