Q & A: The role of tradition in two short stories

Q: Discuss the role of tradition with reference to 2 stories you have studied.

For Malaysian Form 6 Students

Q: Discuss the role of tradition with reference to 2 stories you have studied.
A Certain Cry – Cynthia Anthony
Ratnamuni- K S Maniam

Tradition plays an important role in Malaysian society as a lot of emphasis is put on it in rituals and customs. Ratnamuni by K S Maniam and A Certain Cry by Cynthia Anthony show us the role tradition plays in the stories’ context.

In A Certain Cry by Cynthia Anthony, cruelty is justified as a part of tradition. Mick’s father deplored the killing of animals such as frogs, but at his dautghter’s marriage feast, a goat was slaughtered cruelly by slitting its threat and letting it run while bleeding to its death. However, Mick’s father justifies it by declaring it part of their tradition. Mick believed this as well. The protagonist watched on in horror, hence the detail paid to the proceedings of the slaughter, making readers wonder why such cruelty was seen as a tradition, since animals are living beings like us humans, and should be treated equally.

Besides, Cynthia Anthony’s A Certain Cry shows that tradition can shape a person’s character. This is shown through Mick, who had witnessed the slaughtering of animals numerous times as part of a family tradition. Although he claimed to abhor the killing of animals, he proved to be ruthless when he caught frogs  with his colleagues to be eaten. When he caught the frogs he grabbed them with his bare hands wildly, as opposed to Jiga who pinned down the frog’s hind legs to render them inactive. When they kill the frogs to be cooked, Mick used barbaric ways such as smashing the frogs with a pestle and bashing their hands on the concrete. He felt indifferent about his methods, saying, “Both ways they die, don’t they? So why worry?” showing how his upbringing has affected his attitude towards killing animals.

On another note, K S Maniam’s Ratnamuni shows the role of tradition through the uduku. The uduku is a tool in prophesing and clairvoyancy, and wields enormous influence in the society in Ratnamuni. Muni, the uduku player, uses it to change his status in the community. Before he made a living with his uduku, he was looked down on by the other villagers, and his fair-skinned wife Malini causes a lot of scrutiny among the villagers. However, after his fame travelled round the village as a uduku player, the villagers respect him and his wife, and his status was elevated to that of “Muniar” among the villagers. He became popular as well, as everyone came to consult him on their health and fortune. This would not occur had the villagers been less superstitious and less reliant on spiritual intervention. 

In Ratnamuni, tradition is also a manipulative device used by Muni the uduku player. The society’s trust in him as a clairvoyant in so great that they place infinite trust in the things he says in a trance, especially when he speaks of the supernatural. Apart from that, Muni hid behind his uduku to commit murder. It was Muni’s vision of Malini where he was told the reason for Malini’s death, and led to his murder of Muthiah in order to avenge her death. No matter what the reason for committing a crime, it is still morally wrong. Yet we see that the community feels that it is alright for Muni, a spiritual authority, to murder Muthiah, as they make no comment on it.

In conclusion, the role of tradition is one that cannot be ignored, but is not entirely beneficial to society. Tradition can blur our moral judgement and shape us to become the person that we are, while having a powerful influence on individuals and society as a whole.

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