Elements Of Imagination In Michael Ondaatje's Running In The Family

1028 Words 5 Pages
Michael Ondaatje’s semi-autobiographical account, entitled Running in the Family, describes Ondaatje’s journey back to the beginning, to Ceylon where he was born into a privileged family, a mixed group of Sinhalese, Dutch, and Tamil origin. The story of his family is a journey through memory and imagination as he attempts to piece together the adventurous and carefree life his immediate family once led – more importantly, the life his father once lived. Although Running in the Family is primarily a work of non-fiction, blending history, fact, anecdote and opinion, Ondaatje incorporates elements of imagination to fill in the gaps of stories where details are unknown or contract greatly. Although Michael Ondaatje travelled to Ceylon with the …show more content…
In the section, ‘Thanikama,’ Ondaatje describes how Mervyn attempted to contact Doris – his former first wife and Michael’s mother – and after she ignored him, his drive to and day back home at Rock Hill. The peculiar part about ‘Thanikama’ is that it is entirely based upon Ondaatje’s imagination. At certain parts, Ondaatje mentions how “[Mervyn] thought, [he] could sleep here too,” (Ondaatje 169), and how “an hour later, he could have stopped at the Ambepusaa rest house, but continued on, the day’s alcohol still in him though he had already stopped twice on the side of the road, urina[ting] into darkness and mysterious foliage,” (Ondaatje 169), details that would have been impossible for him to know because his father was dead and unable to recount the story; also, there were no witnesses, making this section purely fictional. However, by adding in this imaginative anecdote, Ondaatje revealed to the reader a better take on who Mervyn was and how he acted. Although Ondaatje “cannot come to terms with” (Ondaatje 163) every known detail about his father, he attempts to clarify Mervyn to himself through elements of fiction. Because memory is subjective – Ondaatje has “to force [him]self to be gentle with this [frail memory] in the midst of [his] embrace” (Ondaatje 94) – Ondaatje elucidates how it cannot always be relied upon. In certain cases, he had to fill in details himself, using his imagination, to make up for what was confusing or contrasting. The section ‘The Bone’ talks about “a story about [his] father that [Michael] cannot come to terms with” (Ondaatje 163). In it, he mentions how “[his] father was walking towards [Arthur], huge and naked… hold[ing] five ropes, and dangling on the end of each

Related Documents