Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, globalisation has caused the interlinking between the global and the local, resulting in the combination of the values and ideals from each. This process of globalisation has invariably had a great impact upon individuals and communities around the world. While there are many things individuals and communities can gain from the influence of globalisation, an intrusion of global values upon small local communities can result in confusion and loss of sense of identity amongst individuals.
Sophia Coppola’s film ‘lost in translation’, Annie Proulx novel ‘The Shipping News’ and novel ‘the God of Small Things’ by Arandhati Roy all explore the challenges that individuals and communities face in accepting a balance between the local and the global and using this balance to find direction. Lost in Translation (LiT), explores the effects of the globalisation process upon the individual. Coppola explores cultural dislocation and disillusionment in a world where we are more connected than ever before.
Set in the supercity of Tokyo, a hybridisation of western and traditional Japanese cultures typical of contemporary Japan, American foreigners Bob and Charlotte find familiarity in one another within an unfamiliar context. While both central characters in LIT take a different approach to their similar situations in the global city of contemporary Tokyo, both experience a struggle in navigating their way through this globalised society towards their search for meaning and discovery of their own cultural identities.
Both time and space are warped, as shown through the constant lights of the big city and the continuing motif of technological communication across time zones and large distances. This highlights the detachment and confusion of the two characters in the hybrid culture of Tokyo. The Insomnia motif further emphasises the character’s discontentment in being unable to navigate their way around the global environment. Coppola implies that the superficiality of technology as a form of communication has caused detached, superficial relationships between individuals.
Whilst Bob and his wife, Lydia, often speak on the phone, they cannot properly connect with each other and after having a conversation with his wife, Bob is left feeling empty and emotionally unfulfilled. Charlotte also has troubles with communication. No dialogue is used by her when outside the hotel, explicitly portraying her inability to communicate in this context. The disassociation she feels after visiting the local Buddhist shrine is shown through her need to make a familiar connection to her own local context, in the following shot of her phone call to her friend.
Her concern that she ‘didn’t feel anything’ is not understood by the friend, further emphasising Charlotte’s feelings of dislocation and isolation in a globally connected world. However, through these mutual feelings of isolation, Bob and Charlotte are able to establish connections with one another, symbolised by the platonic kiss they share at the end of the film. This connection allows them to establish a somewhat secluded sense of belonging in the unknown and isolating global context.
Proulx’s use of characterisation and character experience in The Shipping News (TSN), demonstrates the combining of global and local cultures, and the acceptance and embracing of global ideology within local communities and culture. The protagonist, Quoyle, establishes a new sense of the local when he moves to Newfoundland to start anew. In Newfoundland Quoyle find himself a stable job and remarries to Wavey, a woman who strongly represents the values of the local society.
Quoyle’s initial description of her is of ‘eyes somewhere between green glass and earth colour. Rough hands. ’ The comparison of her eyes to the colour of the earth emphasises Wavey’s connection with the land, and the reference to her rough hands demonstrates her participation in the central labours of the land and sea so important in the local culture of Killick-Claw. Her connection with Quoyle allows the reader to perceive his sense of belonging to his newly adopted local culture.
Interestingly, however, Quoyle still keeps in contact with his old friend Partridge from New York, giving an example of the effects of the globalisation process upon one’s sense of the local. The fact that one person can move their ‘local’, while still holding onto connections made within their ‘old local’ reflects the global values of travel and intercontinental communication, and supports the idea that values and culture have at once become global and local.
Jack Buggit, publisher of the local newspaper is a character that represents the merging of the global and the local in the 20th and 21st century. . Jack is described as a typical product of the local fishing environment – ‘scale spattered coveralls, feet on desk in rubber boots’. However, Jack invests his future in the hands of a global corporation that has encouraged the giving up of local culture and ways of thinking, showing that Jack is willing to accept the values of the global world.
The God of Small Things explores the sense of confusion that can be experienced by individuals in small communities, in particular, a small village called Ayemenem in India, when influenced by different aspects of the globalisation process. It demonstrates how while technology has overcome physical distance through advancements in media, communication and transport, and while allowing for instantaneous communication and long distance travel, much of this development has created tensions between global and local values.
In TGOST, these tensions are portrayed through the extended metaphor of big and small. The title itself gives an example of this – ‘God’ reminds us of global values, while ‘small things’ is linked to local cultures. The tensions between the two are highlighted through the use of truncated sentences throughout the novel, as well as the non-linear narrative form. Both these factors add to the sense of confusion present throughout the novel, emphasising the often bewildering effects of global culture upon local communities.
Told from the perspective of 23 year old Rahel upon her return to her village in India, the story recounts the changing nature of the village throughout Rahel’s childhood during which the town is exposed to many aspects of globalisation. The introduction of a TV to the village is a source of fascination to the locals, yet the use of the figurative language in describing how the images ‘slide between tiles’ and ‘slip through the cracks’ on pg 187 creates a sense of invasion and secrecy.
This highlights the often unknown influence of technology upon an individual and subsequently the often unknown power of globalisation upon local individuals and communities. In addition, the literary equivalent of cross cutting between the sexual assault of Rahel’s brother Estha, and the viewing of the Sound of Music links the two occurrences, causing the reader to associate a product of the global with something extremely negative. This parallel further challenges the effects of globalisation and highlights the detrimental and confusing impact it can have upon individuals and communities.