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Themes Of Postmodernism In Nissim Ezekiels Poems English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1242 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The study of the postmodernists to the realistic, historical and technical aspect of modern era has been strongly deep rooted in being self-conscious, ironical and experimental. Postmodernism focuses on themes such as irony, playfulness, black humour and so on. This paper focuses on the aspects of Postmodernism in an Indian context, with a special reference to NISSIM EZEKIEL. This presentation concentrates on the techniques such as irony, parody and anti – thesis that has a free play in the poems of Nissim Ezekiel.

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Modern English poetry in India is one of the many new literatures which began to emerge at the end of the Second World War. The emergence of modern English poetry was a part of modernization which included urbanization, industrialization, independence, social change, etc. Gradually with passing time the English language poetry became more indianized in nature. Such Indianisation had been proceeding for several generations and is prominent in the poetry of Kamala Das and it is more likely to be felt in the verse of Nissim Ezekiel. In 1960’s it is the great trio NISSIM EZEKIEL, KAMALA DAS and A.K. RAMANUJAM who wrote poetry. They all have greatly contributed to the creation of a new literature in English in our country. Indian English Literature in the post 1980 era can be marked as the postmodernist period. Most important poets during this period include – Nissim Ezekiel, Jayantha Mahapatra, A.K. Ramanujam, Kamala Das, Dom Moraes and few others. But, Indian English Poetry got its name only with the publication of Nissim Ezekiel’s “A Time to Change” in London 1952.


Nissim Ezekiel (14 December 1924 – 9 January 2004) was an Indian Jewish poet, playwright, editor and art-critic. He was a foundational figure in postcolonial India’s literary history, specifically for Indian writing in English.

He was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1983 for his Poetry collection, “Latter-Day Psalms”, by the Sahitya Akademi, India’s National Academy of Letters. No discussion in Indian English Poetry in the post-colonial era can begin with any poet other than Ezekiel. To read his poetry is to watch an actor performing a comic play in all its features. He came as a liberating force technically and encouraged poets to make more of interplay of past, present and future. He helped to popularise free verse in Indian English poetry.


Postmodern aspects in Nissim Ezekiel’s poems deal with the theme of irony, playfulness, satire and so on. We come across such themes in Ezekiel’s poems such as “The Professor” and “The Patriot.”


Satire is primarily a literary genre or form. In satire, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, preferably with the intention of embarrassing individuals, and society itself, into improvement. Although satire is usually meant to be funny, its greater purpose is often constructive social criticism, using wit as a weapon. It is common for postmodernist to treat serious subjects in a playful and humorous way.

The poem “The Professor” is essentially a satire on Indian English. This poem is in the form of a dialogue between a professor and his old student. But the listener is silent throughout the poem and so it can be termed to be a monologue. The speaker in this poem is a professor and his basic profession is to educate others. But, he himself seems to lack the proper command of the medium he utilizes. Thus it is ironical indeed.

From the conversation with his student we come to know that he only showcases his family members. He showcases his sons as a social showpiece. He says,

“Are well settled in life.

One is sales manager,

One is bank manager.

Both have cars.”

The poet makes fun of the Indian tradition that makes use of rhyming names for their kids. He says,

“Sarala and Tarala are married”

The speaker in the poem, puts forth with an air of satisfaction that,

“Sarala and Tarala are married

Their husbands are very nice boys”

The poet portrays that in Indian society the end achievement for girls is to get married and to have kids. And for boys on the other hand is to be in a good position and to have a high pay.

His language is very amusing. It appears to be a direct translation of the native language with the same structure and tone. But, though the tone is serious, the subject is very trivial in nature.

The speaker asks the listener a question that is so indifferent. He says,

“How many issues you have? Three?

That is good. These are days of family planning

I am not against. We have to change with times.

Whole world is changing. In India also

We are keeping up. Our progress is progressing.

Old values are going, new values are coming.

Everything is happening with leaps and bounds.”

This conversation does not verge on academic topics. Though he seems to advocate family planning, he doesn’t seem to adopt it.

The professor that is portrayed in this poem proves to be a good one neither academically nor morally supportive one. He seems to be hopelessly egocentric obsessed with his own matters.

Thus this poem in way typically portrays the Indian mentality for his age and position in society. The poet in a subtle sarcastic way ridicules the mindset of the old age people. The style that the poet uses to describe this leaves a far greater impact on the readers mind than the content itself.

The poem “The Patriot” is another example of postmodern poem that essentially deals with the theme of patriotism. Though patriotism is a serious subject to be discussed, the post persona in this poem deals about this in a very light and playful way.

In this poem he mainly deals about many serious concepts such as Unity in Diversity, Brotherly Love and Progress in Science and Technology.


He talks about the principle that is being followed in India.

“In India also

Gujaratis, Maharashtrians, Hindiwallahs

All brothers –

Though some are having funny habits.

Still, you tolerate me

I tolerate you.”


When he talks about brotherhood he says,

“All men are brothers no?”

Though he deals with a serious subject, its seriousness is not recognised by the reader because his thoughts are directly translated into English from a common Indian speech in this poem.

This poem projects the Indian flavour by stressing on the various mistakes that the Indians commit while they use the English language.

Thus Ezekiel is a poet of many themes and one who finds wide range of subjects and variety in his poetry. His poetry is also not born out of dogma and he doesn’t confine himself to a particular type, theme and technique. His new poetry demanded a new use of language and called for the use of everyday speech rhythm in his poetry. Thus Ezekiel has succeeded in creating a new Indian English idiom to a great extant.


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