Writing, Identity, & Queer Studies

In & Out, Either/Or, and Everything In Between

Bloomed Cereus

Tyler in Cereus Blooms at Nightis conspicuously lost. He craves the female nurse’s uniform given to him by Miss Ramchandin, “I was certainly excited by the possibilities trembling inside me”, yet after he put the dress on, he felt “horribly silly” (MooToo 76). Miss Ramchandin did not react to Tyler’s transformation and this causes him to feel out of touch with his identity, “not a man and not ever able to be a woman, suspended nameless in the limbo state between existence and nonexistence” (77). Tyler becomes unsure of his identity because of the lack of response given by Miss Ramchandin. His unsureness shows that peer validation is necessary to feel confident in one’s own identity. Tyler expected Miss Ramchandin to fawn over him when she saw him in the dress, and therefore validate his desire to be the woman he dresses up to be. When she did not respond to his transformation, he lost what he thought was the answer to his identity. It was not until Tyler realized the reason why Miss Ramchandin paid no attention to him in the dress that he felt sure of his identity and confident in his transformation, “to her mind, the outfit was not something to congratulate or scorn-it simply was” (77). People understand themselves through community acknowledgement, and this is exemplified through Tyler.

Foucault says, “a guarantee of the status, identity, and value granted to one person by another, it came to signify someone’s acknowledgment of his own actions and thoughts” (Foucault 58). Looking through lens of Foucault, a person “granting” you an identity shapes the thoughts and feelings of yourself and makes you more self-assured in that identity. In Cereus Blooms at Night, Tyler feels lost when he does not receive a remark from Miss Ramchandin (MooToo 78). Without physical or verbal affirmation from Miss Ramchandin, Tyler completely questions his identity; he does not feel his true identity is male, nor female without the reassurance from Miss Ramchandin. However, after his realization of why Miss Ramchandin did not react, Tyler reflecting on the evening said “I had never felt so extremely ordinary, and I quite loved it” (78). He felt comfortable and confident in his identity as a woman because he felt assured by Miss Ramchandin, and felt as though she granted him freedom in this particular identity.

Tyler’s struggle with his identity connects to the novel in a larger way: the title. During his transformation of wearing the female nurse’s uniform, Tyler is the bloomed cereus. The cereus plant in the novel is ugly when not bloomed and it only blooms at night for a brief amount time, but when it does it is beautiful. The cereus plant parallels Tyler when he puts on the dress. He not only feels beautiful in a physical sense, but discovering his true identity is beautiful to him as well. He only blooms, or puts on the dress, briefly at night for fear of being caught, but when he does he finally feels ordinary instead of different. He feels a sense of belonging.

1 Comment

  1. I love the connection you make between Tyler and the blooming cereus flower. Like you said, Tyler only puts on the dress briefly and at night for fear of being caught, which relates to the second half of the title, but this is more than literal. Night is a time of darkness when things go unseen, and Tyler’s experiences can be taken to signify the fact that many queer people must allow themselves to be themselves only in situations where the majority will never see them. Who would go out to appreciate the beautiful cereus flowers except someone who knew what they were looking for?

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