Narrative as Soft Violence in Margaret Drabble’s The Pure Gold Baby

This article deals with Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of “symbolic” or “soft” violencein Margaret Drabble’s latest novel, The Pure Gold Baby (2013). The novel is about a young anthropologist student, who becomes pregnant whilst in a relationship with her married professor. Her promising academic career and dreams of being a field anthropologist and of returning to Africa are put to one side and she becomes a desk-bound anthropologist in north London while caring for her daughter, the “pure gold baby” of the title, who suffers from serious developmental problems. The article reflects the importance of the ambiguity of narration in the novel in which soft violence is practiced by the author, the narrator, the protagonist, the educational and religious institutions, as well as through the class structure. It shows a complex and interrelated thematic and theoretical strands, discussing the novelist as anthropologist, narration as controlling authorial act, the shift from victimhood to perpetration of violence in the exploration of gender, education and sexuality.It explores the soft violence of racism and colonial exploitation and domination.
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