Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 12 : 9 September 2012
ISSN 1930-2940

Managing Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
         A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.
         Lakhan Gusain, Ph.D.
         Jennifer Marie Bayer, Ph.D.
         S. M. Ravichandran, Ph.D.
         G. Baskaran, Ph.D.
         L. Ramamoorthy, Ph.D.
Assistant Managing Editor: Swarna Thirumalai, M.A.


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Political Reality in V.S. Naipaul’s
The Suffrage of Elvira: A Critical Study

J. Vasanthasena, M.A., M.Phil., Ph.D. Scholar
s. Baghyalakshmi, M.A., M.Phil., Ph.D.


Naipaul adopts political reality as the setting which regulates the structure of his novels enables him to present a fresh perspective on the function of time and place. Life at the time of the second general election in Trinidad in 1950 is portrayed in The Suffrage of Elvira. It continues with Naipaul’s exploration of the theme of elections in Trinidad. The cynical behaviour of the characters contributes fairly to the main theme of the political issue.


Naipaul concerns himself with the political reality of Trinidad just before and after independence. He highlights the problems arising out of the coming of democracy to a multi-racial, multi-religious island. Democracy was a brand new thing in Elvira. The people of Elvira interpret democracy in their own fashion. They have woken up to its possibilities lately. William Walsh points out, “The target of satire in The Suffrage of Elvira is the representative machinery of an abstract democracy without a sanction in tradition or understanding” (26). While commenting upon the democratic set up, Naipaul in India: A Wounded Civilization said, “Formal politics answered less and less, became more and more formal; towards the end it had the demeanour of a parlour game, and became an affair of head-counting and floor-crossing” (167).

A Political Novel

The Suffrage of Elvira is a political novel, portrays the major events before the elections going to be held in an African city. The novel stands out as a satiric chronicle of the burgeoning democratic process in Elvira, a place small enough for people to know each other and where the potential voting pool numbers in the thousands. It is a metaphor for Naipaul’s mockery of the political transformation of Trinidad and Tobago. It depicts politicians as tricksters who trick the voters into voting for them while the voters also try to exploit the politicians by exacting bribes for votes. Pathak comments, “The novel records the consequences as well as the result of the elections in the tradition ridden decadent, degrading and demoralizing society of Elvira” (133). It dramatizes a particular feature of Trinidad’s inability to go back to colonial security or to generate a national identity thus emphasizing its political insignificance. It is a sincere study of the functioning of the most promising political system in the developing world. It records the experiences of Surajpat Harbans, a PWD contractor, and the owner of a quarry and a transport service wants to test his fortune in the elections. It also examines different aspects of the reaction to political independence of the individual and the group.

This is only the beginning part of the article. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE IN PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION.

J. Vasanthasena M.A., M.Phil.,
Research Scholar (Ph.D.)

S. Baghyalakshmi M.A., M.Phil., Ph.D.
Head of the Department of English

Avinashilingam Deemed University for Women
Coimbatore - 641 048

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