State repression, forced compliance and self-justification: A psychoanalytical reading of Ediriwira Sarachchandra’s Curfew and a Full Moon

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Thanis Bunsom


Sarachchandra’s Curfew and a Full Moon (1978) is a historical novel about the 1971 youth uprising in Sri Lanka that was driven by university students’ demand for equality and social changes. The book gives an insightful account of the protagonist, Professor Amaradasa, his relationship with several Marxist students, and his indirect involvement in national politics. The focus of this study is placed on the main character and his conflicting psychological conditions shaped by different external forces, including his privileged status in State repression, forced compliance and self-justification: A psychoanalytical reading ofEdiriwira Sarachchandra’s Curfew and a Full Moon Sri Lankan society, his interactions with those surrounding him and the state’s crackdown on the young insurgents. I deploy Tilly’s (2003) theory of collective violence, Foucault’s (1991) theory of power, Festinger’s (1957) theories of forced compliance and cognitive dissonance in the reading of Sri Lanka’s historical retelling and of the novel’s protagonist’s hesitation and failure to act in several instances. The conclusion of the analysis is that Amaradasa’s forced compliance, resulting in his action or lack thereof, is caused both by the fear of rejection from his students with whom he sympathises and by the threats of punishment from the state. This explains the character’s cognitive dissonance, constant moral dilemma and selfjustification that occur throughout the story. I also draw an additional conclusion that Amaradasa’s priority is his own survival, a common human characteristic especially in the midst of political and ideological conflicts.

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Bunsom, T. (2016). State repression, forced compliance and self-justification: A psychoanalytical reading of Ediriwira Sarachchandra’s Curfew and a Full Moon. Journal of Human Rights and Peace Studies, 2(1), 167–187. Retrieved from
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