New Historicism: Voicing the Subalterns in Amitav Ghosh’s The Flood of Fire

Shuchi Agrawal


Abstract: The Flood of Fire is the last of the ‘ibis trilogy’ published in 2015 by Amitav Ghosh. The novel is set against the First Anglo Chinese Opium War of 1839-1841. The incidents in the novel move through a meandering zig-zag setting of India and China. The novel is a stark critique of colonial history of imperialism. Amitav Ghosh paints a broad canvas between Rangpur, Assam to Canton, Bombay, Calcutta, Nayanpur, Bihar, Barrackpore, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, Chusan, Guangzhou which finally ends in Mauritius. The novel deals with the lives of all the escapees of ibis and how do they find themselves again together grappling with their passions, desires, ambitions, insecurities, sexualities, destinies. Mostly all the characters sketched by Ghosh embark on a voyage which epitomizes their psychological journey unravelling their ups and downs, their transformation from being to becoming. In order to create a diverse and multicultural flavour to the novel, Ghosh spices the narrative with Bangla, Bhojpuri, Chinese, Urdu, Pidgin, Gujrati. The novel is written on an epical scale length of 605 pages with 21 chapters and 37 characters. Amitav Ghosh is using the historical material in ibis trilogy, The Hungry Tides, The River of Smoke, and The Flood of Fire. The method he employs is using the neglected events from national story in a concession to subaltern practice. He gives a new fictional framework to subaltern characters. His characters were ignored/ voiceless in the Grand Narrative –History.


opium; war; history; diaspora; subaltern; new historicism

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