Singapore as Imperilled Vessel

Marie, the idealistic, if self-righteous, heroine of Lim's Rice Bowl criticizes Singaporeans with two images or analogies. In the first, she claims that all her fellow citizens think about their rice bowl, their supply of food and, by implication, other material goods. Second, she criticizes them for having what one might term a lifeboat mentality:

Two million people living in a city state which perceived itself to be surrounded by hostile forces could never afford the luxury of thinking beyond the level of basic survival. Don't rock the boat whatever you do! The ocean is full of sharks. A few sharks are hidden in our midst and some may be in ourselves. In you. Marie knew this was what the popular mind thought too. Selfish commonsense. Peasant mentality. Such caution was cowardice. [52]

Is it? And what are we to conclude about Marie's political beliefs, class status, and general sympathies by that phrase "Peasant mentality"? Representing oneself or one's class, group, or party as an imperilled vessel or as a shipwrecked mariner has a long history, and adherents of both political right and left have seen themselves as threatened by overpowering, hostile forces. Is Marie's presentation of Singaporean attitudes accurate? Does the novel support her criticism of Singaporeans' self-presentations, or does it undercut them?

Postcolonial Web Singapore OV Singaporean Literature Su-chen Christine Lim