Change and Leaving a Narrative World in Spider Boys

George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University

More than four-fifths of the way through the novel, the narrator suddenly announces the end of the world about which we have been reading, and then the narrator proceeds to introduce political and historical contexts that have been almost entirely absent until now:

Time flies and things change. Shoot Bird dies suddenly of a heart attack and the Spider Olympic Games die with him. Playing with wrestling spiders is no longer so exciting. Everywhere throughout Singapore people are calling for independence against the British. Strikes hit hard at the deep-water harbor of the rubber factories and the ports. Many leaders are in jail. The whole nation is in an uproar. Supporters of the strikes say, "We must eat the white man raw!" [187]

Like fantasy fiction, works about youth usually move the readers out of the fictional cosmos and return them to their usual worlds. One function of leaving the fictional world serves is to provide a non-jarring transition to the world outside the book, and another is to emphasize the usualness -- and perhaps the wonderfulness -- of the soon-to-vanish fictional world. Such a move seems completely appropriate to a tale of vanished youth in a now-vanished society. In fact, the mention that the Spider Olympic Games died with Shoot Bird moves them even more into a kind of weirdly golden elegaic world of adolsecent self-sufficiency

What effect, then, does the sudden, intentionally jarring mention of Singaporean and Malaysian agitation for the end of colonialism have? Do you find any irony generated by the book's emphasis upon personal independence, the end of British rule, and the author's own personal history? The book of course, does not end at this point, so what is the purpose of the remaining 15% of the text? That is, what happens that affects your understanding of the main character, his world, and the author's ideas about them?

Postcolonial Web Singapore OV Singaporean
Literature Ming Cher