Viragaya the Inimitable Psychological Novel

Dr Ruwan M Jayatunge MD –

Viragaya novel is a turning point in Sinhala literature. Literary genius Martin Wicramasinghe vibrantly portrays Aravinda s character in Viragaya digging in to the inner psyche. Therefore Viragaya can be considered as one of the first and best psychological novels in Sinhala literature. Aravinda was a virtuous character trapped in biological instincts and cultural pressure. The complexity of Aravinda s character reveals the inner world of a man who was brought up according to the Buddhist village traditions and how he struggles to fulfill his hidden desires leading to a dramatic transformation.

According to the mundane eye Aravinda was a failure. His ambition to become a doctor and apparent haematophobia and aversion to dissect dead bodies prevented him from pursuing his goal. The untimely death of his father and subsequent financial problems forced him to engage in a petty job and to lead an insignificant life. When his girlfriend Sara offered her love and gave her consent to live with him Aravinda faces a moral dilemma. His Indecisiveness jeopardized the relationship and he becomes lonely for the rest of his life.

Aravinda s loneliness makes him to get close to Bathie. His unusual love for the adopted girl Bathie makes him a jealous man. It was a fatherly love which gradually transformed in to a hidden desire without any physical intimacy. He becomes furious when Bathie finds a young lover. The sociobiological perspective agrees that men tend to react more strongly to sexual indiscretion while women tend to find emotional infidelity more distressing. Hence Aravinda s reaction concurs with this idea.

Aravinda was an outlandish character who repressed his sensual desires due to ethics and moral pressure from the society. Psychoanalytic notion of ethics serves philosophical, religious, and moral causes. In Moses and Monotheism Freud showed that ethics originates in “a sense of guilt felt on account of a suppressed hostility to God”. He further states thus.

Analyse any human emotion, no matter how far it may be removed from the sphere of sex, and you are sure to discover somewhere the primal impulse, to which life owes its perpetuation. … The primitive stages can always be re-established; the primitive mind is, in the fullest meaning of the word, imperishable. … Mans most disagreeable habits and idiosyncrasies, his deceit, his cowardice, his lack of reverence, are engendered by his incomplete adjustment to a complicated civilisation. It is the result of the conflict between our instincts and our culture.

Freud argued that people have always known that at one time they had a primitive father and that they put him to death. The resulting “nostalgia for the father” reflected an insatiable need to appease a sense of guilt by changing the father’s prohibitions into ethical obligations. This idea was represented in Aravinda s character.

Aravinda struggles between morality and biological instincts which leads to a generalized melancholic condition in him. This could be a universal feeling. In the Republic; Plato undertakes the most famous integration of morality and mental health. Mike W Martin Professor of Philosophy at Chapman University argues that moral values are inevitably embedded in human conceptions of mental health. In the end, he shows how both morality and mental health are inextricably intertwined in pursuit of a meaningful life. Nevertheless Aravinda fails to fulfill his heart desire. No one can claim that he was a loser. Hence Aravinda had a meaningful life in the existential point of view.

He was alienated from the society and critical about the social traditions. He was personally free and able to criticize the social values of the world around him. This is more similar to Jean-Paul Sartre s Philosophy which offers an account of existence in general, including both the being-in-itself of objects that simply are and the being-for-itself by which humans engage in independent action. Throughout his life Aravinda wants to find self and the meaning of life through free will.

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