Meera Syal’s “The Traveller”: Its Feminist Allegory and Later Echoes
AbstractCommitted to the exploration of the female experience—specifically the South Asian female experience—Meera Syal has often woven a feminist subtext into the fabric of her works. This is probably nowhere more evident than in “The Traveller” (1988), an allegorical short story that constitutes Syal’s more sustained effort to produce a feminist text per se. However, whereas Syal’s novels and screenplays have been accorded considerable critical attention, “The Traveller” has been largely overlooked. This article aims to help rectify this imbalance by reassessing the importance of this text within Syal’s oeuvre. Drawing on feminist discourse, it also provides a detailed analysis of the story, unveiling and examining its feminist allegory. As I contend, “The Traveller” provides a critique of the universalising tendencies at the core of much Western feminism, whilst also enunciating the coming into being of Black British feminism in the 1970s and 1980s. This notwithstanding, through the figure of the “traveller,” a strong metaphor throughout, Syal’s story also creates common ground, highlighting the need to recognise both differences and commonalities and to build bridges amongst South Asian women living at both ends of the East-West divide.
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