Violence for Self-respect in the Indian Socio-political Context: The Psychological Intricacies Perpetuating Yellow Journalism in Siddhartha Deb’s Surface


This article will read Siddhartha Deb’s novel Surface (2005) to illuminate how an unsuspecting individual becomes prey to yellow journalism. And which Deb imaginatively presents through a diffident journalist’s desperate effort to bolster self-respect by achieving an admirable professional standing among his peers. In the process, to gain readers from the Western countries, Amrit Singh deliberately punctuates his reportage on the insurgency challenging India’s democratic setup with multiple fictions that pander to most Westerners’ preconceived notions of the country. Foremost, to establish that Amrit indeed possesses a self-respecting mindset, this study borrows from Immanuel Kant’s instruction to treat all rational beings with absolute respect, which several scholars use as a philosophical basis to comprehend self-respect. Next, Amrit’s willingness to distort the facts is elucidated through the psychiatrist James Gilligan’s observation that people who excessively prioritize upholding their self-esteem are most likely to utilize violence for maintaining their ego. Accordingly, Amrit’s single-minded aim to reinvigorate his dwindling prestige makes him ignore the facts that expose how the armed insurgents have ruthlessly shot and maimed a woman named Leela. Instead, he callously sensationalizes her suffering to project India as violence-ridden for the Western readers. Through a plot replete with nuanced understandings of the human psyche, Deb paints a poignant picture of the cut-throat world of media organizations exploiting a victim’s tragedy.

Author Information
Rohit Jahari, Indian Institute of Technology Ropar, India

Paper Information
Conference: IICAH2022
Stream: Literature/Literary Studies

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon