Critical Essay on "The Country Without a Post Office"

Citation metadata

Author: Mary Potter
Editor: David A. Galens
Date: 2003
From: Poetry for Students(Vol. 18. )
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 1,240 words

Document controls

Main content

Article Preview :

"Nothing seems more natural and universal to human beings than telling stories," J. Hillis Miller, Yale literary theorist, writes in "Narrative." Starting from this premise, he reasons that because humans have so deep a need for narrative, they also have struggled, since Aristotle did in his Poetics, with their meaning. Miller draws from all narrative forms--novels, stories, and poems alike--three basic elements: a change in a situation; three persons, a protagonist, an antagonist, and a witness; and a patterning of key elements. From the simplest ghost story told at the campfire's edge to War and Peace, Miller holds that all narratives contain these elements. For the more inaccessible works of literature, they can easily--and especially--be used to decipher meaning. The evolution of his many narrators dramatizes the journey of an exile in search of brothers so that the reader enters a dismal journey with global significance.

"The Country Without a Post Office" is a poem that blends the many influences in the poet's background and presents a complex narrative. In the first line, a first-person narrator, a witness to the Kashmiri rebellion, is identified. This narrator is the "I," who has returned to the region of India that in 1990, as Ali writes in a preface to a later volume of his poetry, Rooms Are Never Finished (2002), was "the cause of hostility between India and Pakistan since their creation in 1947" that "erupted into a full scale uprising for self-determination." Seventy thousand people died in the atrocities, and, as he continues, "Because both countries are nuclear powers now, international anxiety has increased: Kashmir, it is feared, may be the flashpoint of nuclear war." The "I" who was in exile returns to a country where "a minaret has been entombed. / Someone . . . each night climbs its steps / to read messages scratched on planets." In these opening lines,...

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|H1420050158