In the novel, Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje, the author uses figurative language in Ceylon where which the story of his family unravels. He uses figurative language to connect Ceylon to the people who live there, particularly his family. As the story goes on, Ondaatje has the climate and earth of Ceylon form who people are, and how they act. At the beginning of the novel, Ondaatje is just starting to piece together his family’s past.
He starts to realize how stubborn the whole family is, and how that stubbornness is blinding them all, “I see my own straining body which stands shaped like a star and realise gradually that I am part of a human pyramid… We are approaching the door which being twenty feet high we will be able to pass through only if the pyramid turns sideways… the whole family ignores the opening and walks into the nest room. ” (Ondaatje 27) Ondaatje is just starting to understand his family’s dynamics, and he uses imagery in his writing to explain his dream.
Ondaatje’s family is trapped in a cycle within themselves. There will never be a way out for them, Ceylon is like this rose-colored room. Michael Ondaatje’s family is full of different type of personality which are relatable to the gardens that “… were full of cypress, rhododendrons, fow-gloves, arumlilies, and sweet pea. ” (40) The use of imagery by describing all the different flowers in one garden, show the colorfulness, fullness, and diversity in the gardens. It connects to his family, because like the flowers, there is no person similar to another person in his family.
It’s full of different types of people, but they are all together, growing together, although they are diverse. The gardens in Ceylon easily represent Ondaatje’s family. In this novel, Ondaatje primarily focuses on his father, and his father’s drunken escapades that he had when he was younger. Francis a drunk who was his father’s best friends threw the best parties when they Ondaatje’s father was still young in his twenties. There was dancing and karaoke, “People’s memories about Gasanawa, even today, are mythic…
But for the most part it was the tango that was perfected on that rock at Gasawana… Casually dressed couples, coated in a thin film of sweat, swirled under the moon to ‘Rio Rita’. ” (46) The rock at Gasawana was the perfect place for these activities to take place. It is a place that is forever in the minds of the people who went there, a place where people could be uninhabited and feel alright doing it. This is where his father’s generation had the time of their lives. These parties were the basis of many marriages made at that time.
People would drink and sing and dance, and then they would drink some more, and even more extremely so, is father. Ondaatje is back in Ceylon, where there is a heat that is constant, that makes people go crazy. He is starting to comprehend how Ceylon is affecting his family. Ondaatje starts to understand the extreme heat that is there, “The most comfortable hours are from 4 a. m. until about nine in the morning; the rest of the day heat walks the house as an animal hugging everybody. ” (79)
He uses imagery in the form of a simile and explains how the people and Ceylon act. … sex is almost impossible in Colombo except in the morning hours, and very few have been conceived in this month… ” (79) The temperature is also a clue to the cultural context in this novel, each culture is different, and the temperature and weather does influence that. Ondaatje notices how the heat drives foreigners crazy, and wonders if it is making the native’s crazy too. Ceylon is an island primarily built on cinnamon, but there is many resources available there, “This island was a paradise to be sacked.
Every conceivable thing was collected and shipped back to Europe: cardamons, pepper, silk, ginger, silk, ginger, sandalwood, mustard oil, palmyrah root, tamarind… A perfumed sea. ” (81) Every type of beautiful thing imaginable and the Island has it. Ondaatje’s family is full of beautiful people and people who care. Every person is beautiful but like the island, “… it had a darker side. My ancestor knew of at least fifty-five species of poison easily available to his countrymen. ” (81) His ancestors had many problems, and most of them are centered around his father.
His father was the poison in the family full of worthy things. The use of figurative language in the novel, Running in the family by Michael Ondaatje, shows the story of his family. He uses figurative language to connect his family to Ceylon. He shows that his family and Ceylon are almost one and the same, and are easily comparable. Ceylon has a part in everyone’s life, and it has affected everyone who lives there. Ondaatje utilizes Ceylon and all that comes with it to describe his own family, and their dynamics.