Sri Lankan Literary Insights: Unraveling Society through ‘Big Match, 1983’ and ‘Roots

As everyone is mindful, the versatile Sri Lankan writer and a senior professor at Sabaragamuwa University, “Rajiva Wijesinha” introduces his masterpiece, “Roots” and the famous poet, “Yasmine Gooneratne”, brings her brilliant artwork, “Big Match, 1983” to the audience to showcase simultaneously the violence and change in society and how it affected to people in various aspects throughout the time. It is brilliant and mind-blowing to see how these two artisans deliver a parallel message through different literary texts with a complete diversity. Therefore, this analysis discovers how Rajiva Wijesinha and Yasmine Gooneratne explore violence and change in their literary works accordingly.

Foremostly, as far as Yasmine Gooneratne’s poem, “Big Match, 1983”, is concerned, she brings out the outbreak of ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka or in other words, she carries Sri Lankan Civil War to portray the violence and change to the audience. Gooneratne explains that it is more chaotic to survive in the country as it is realistically shown in the newspapers, “Flashpoint in paradise” and “Racial pot boils over.” Due to this violent act, people have “lost roots, lost lovers, lost talent.” This further suggests that people are in huge danger and at the same time they have lost at least one person or property they had been protecting with them throughout the time. The poet says that it is hard to “shelter” or to “share” as this moment is difficult for everyone regardless of ethnicity, age, nationality, and so on. People are acting brutally in order to gain power in the country by massacring innocents’ lives. Gooneratne showcases a huge change in society through this conflict as well. Furthermore, people are helpless and powerless and they cannot keep any hope in their lives at least for the next minute.

However, the poet intellectually tries to find the origin of this conflict as according to her, she tries to “trace the match that lit this sacrificial fire” which costs the lives of poor people. At last, there is no way to change what is going on in society as there is “no calm abstraction and no absolution.” The citizens of the country murder their own people with no mercy and spread the fire all over the place. This condition shows utter violence as the fire itself represents the brutality that is all over the place. Anyhow, “the game” is “flaring high and fast” which suggests the complete destruction of society and its people. The poet showcases that contemporary society has derived from its usual schedule because it has to abide by the “curfew” and “jollity” is found nowhere on this land. For instance, when considering “Padmini and the girls”, they are sent to “a neighbor’s house” to keep them safe from the violence that is going on in the surrounding. It is admitted that majorly the children and women are deprived of safety due to this change. Moreover, “a hundred guns” are aimed at people for no reason and it is observable that the police cannot be bothered to intervene in any bloodshed even if it appears before them which shows how violence has changed society and the people’s attitudes. Consequently, due to all of these, “Sri Lanka burns alive.”

Moreover, as far as Rajiva Wijesinha’s short story, “Roots”, is concerned, he tends to bring out the aftermath of the Indo- Lanka Peace Accord signed in July 1987 to showcase the social change and the violence to the readers. Predominantly, the protagonist, Wimal, and his family move to their “remote village” where his brother, Sepala, was protecting their “livestock.” Therefore, Wimal meets a change in his contemporary life after moving there. According to the narrator, “society had changed with ambitions being less subtle and the struggle for positions more ruthless” which suggest that people become more competitive and cruel to save their positions in society. As Wimal has been leading a “prominent social position”, he gained the respect of the villagers more or less. At that time, the People’s Liberation Movement was acting against the government and doing protests all over society. However, people got involved in these protests including children who were “less than sixteen.”

These protests have become “violent” and people were pushed to participate and “march” in the protests due to “conviction or peer pressure.” People were unhappy due to no elections and “unemployment” and that is why they held protests against the government. However, people took “guns” into their hands to say the peaceful protests have converted into violent acts. For instance, Wimal’s servant, Upul handed over a gun which was received by Wimal to showcase how violence has spread among people throughout society. At one point, Wimal had to participate in a protest that he could not resist because some radicals were “scornful” of the resistance. Besides, Wimal knew those who refused to participate in the protests, had to pay “with their lives.” After the government held the elections, JVP lost its power and became “offensive” and led it to “massacre” many “young people” for no reason as to show the viciousness of violence.  However, Rajiva Wijesinha portrayed the change and violence from the beginning till the end of the story unlike any other.

In sum, by observing all of the above-mentioned evidence, one can understand how both Yasmine Gooneratne and Rajiva Wijesinha discussed the themes of violence and change through different contexts and aspects accordingly.

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