“The Difference Between Outside and Inside”

TW: sexual assault

In Cereus Blooms at Night, trauma is a permanent obstacle for Mala Ramchandin. “Pohpoh worked on finding that perfect balance between being rigidly alert and dangerously relaxed” (143) Pohpoh and Mala seem to be one and the same. However, Pohpoh is the younger version of Mala, a separation of herself from the act of violence she endured. It is neither the innocent or the evolved version of herself. She is the hurting version of Mala, the one whose wounds are still open and lives with the anxiety of her trauma. Mala is the older version of herself, the wiser and protective sibling who seeks justice through means of physical altercation. Mala struggles with the wounds as she imagines herself  “wanting to to tear and scream into her father’s room” and “punching him in his stomach over and over until he cried like a baby” (143) This part of the reading is filled with the tension and internal conflict Mala and Pohpoh have. 

This is similar to the way we saw Geryon in the Autobiography of Red internalize his conflict after his trauma with his brother. The day after he was abused by his brother, they both went to the beach where Geryon finds an object he hides from his brother. “That was also the day he began his autobiography. In this work Geryin set down all inside things particularly his own heroism and early death much to the despair of the community. He cooly omitted all outside things.” (Carson, 29) The autobiography itself is a space outside of the event of trauma where he can explain himself, be himself without fear of judgement. Throughout the rest of the novel he describes himself as a red monster, a version of himself that is separate from Geryon. The four: Mala, Pohpoh, Geryon and the red monster are all versions of past, present, and future versions of themselves. The past versions of the individuals serve as guides to differentiate what is safe inside of their circles from what are the dangers externally. For Mala, Pohpoh is the preservation of her youth, her obstacle to navigate family dynamics and what it means to be a survivor. We can see that time and space in both texts is fluid despite the trauma being a constant.

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