Dutch three-and-a-half-century imperialism and colonialism in Indonesia has both remained, up till now, a profound wound for most Indonesian society and left poignant historical facts. Tyson (2006, p. 419) states colonialism was based on the colonizer’s assumptions of their own superiority and the native’s inferiority. They believed that their Anglo-European culture was civilized, sophisticated and advanced, while the natives’ were savage, primitive and backward.
Not all natives, however, passively accepted these circumstances. Some educated groups were induced to formulate and struggle for the establishment of a society which had a national identity and culture as unifying means to distinguish their identity with the colonizer’s (Setiowati 2005). A process toward the consciousness to be treated equally as well as the struggles to resist the ruling colonist is the major theme of this Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s ‘Pulau Buru’ tetralogy, which will be explored in this paper.
‘Pulau Buru’ tetralogy is a lengthy, magnificent novel containing four volumes that was written by Pram when he was incarcerated in an isolated camp without legal court process in Buru Island. Before this was written, some said that this tetralogy was re-narrated by the author to his imprisoned comrades in the island. It reflects two things: first, the author indeed thoroughly comprehended the story; second, the author avoided losing the memory of the story due to the matured age (Lentera Dipantara 2010).
This tetralogy chronicles the national awakening period in the beginning of 20th century, initiated by a native named Minke, a plain, ordinary youngster who turns into an intellectual and then a ‘dangerous’ nationalist (for colonial government). All events in the first three novels: Bumi Manusia, Anak Semua Bangsa and Jejak Langkah, are narrated from Minke’s perspectives.
Yet, this paper only focuses on the last volume of this ‘Pulau Buru’ tetralogy, ‘Rumah Kaca’ (House of Glass) because this novel has some distinctiveness in order that the writer is interested in using this novel as the object of this paper. First is the transition of the narrator (I) and the emergence of the character Pangemanann who takes over and masterminds the story writing. Second is Pram’s brilliance of using the term ‘rumah kaca’ (house of glass) to reveal Pangemanann’s (colonialist’s) archival politics. By means of archives, all natives’ activism and movement, which had been put inside the house of glass, would be easily observed, supervised and controlled because house of glass is an analogy of a glass-made house in which all inhabitants’ acts can be easily seen within it.
In analyzing this novel, the writer uses the Derrida’s Deconstruction theory, as written by Tyson (2006, p. 259), in the pursuit of these two purposes: (1) to reveal the text’s undecidability and/or (2) to reveal the complex operations of the ideologies of which the text is constructed. To reveal a text’s undecidability is to show that the meaning of the text is indefinite, undecidable, and fluid. Meanwhile, this deconstruction analysis is done through these following steps: (1) To find the binary oppositions which construct the text and to determine the privileged and unprivileged elements; (2) to reverse those oppositions by looking at the ambiguity and inconsistency which emerge in the text; (3) to obtain different understanding of the text as a result of deconstruction analysis or reversing the binary opposition.
In case of ‘Rumah Kaca’, the binary opposition constructing the text is that between the ‘weak’ class and the ‘strong’ class.
Dia membentuk organisasi dengan cara-cara bukan Eropa dan kelihatannya menggunakan acuan kaum nasionalis Tionghoa. Dia gandrung menggunakan senjata ampuh golongan lemah terhadap golongan kuat yang bernama boycott. Ia berkhayal mempersatukan bangsa-bangsa Hindia di Hindia dan di perantauan, di kawasan selatan Asia dan Afrika, sebagaimana Sun Yat Sen telah melakukan dengan bangsanya. (Toer 2010, p. 4)
From the paragraph above, the ‘weak’ class, which is represented by Minke/colonized, encourages the unification of all nations in Indies through an effective weapon, the so-called boycott. The ‘strong’ class, represented by Jacques Pangemanann/colonizer, on the contrary advocates the separation/division of Indies’ nations to maintain the ruling government in Dutch-Indies by means of archival politics, ‘rumah kaca’. From this ‘weak-strong’ binary opposition, we can see that the privileged is the colonizer or the ‘strong’ class, while the unprivileged is the colonized or the ‘weak’ class.
In addition to the disagreement between the ‘weak’ and the ‘strong’ class, another binary opposition found in this text is that between the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’. The ‘good’ here is represented by Pangemanann/colonizer and Gubermen (Dutch-Indies government), while the ‘evil’ is represented by Minke/colonized and SDI (Sarekat Dagang Islam). Thus, the privileged is the colonizer and the unprivileged is the colonized.
The binary oppositions found in this text can be illustrated as the following table:
The next step of deconstruction is to look at the ambiguity, inconsistency and ambivalence appearing in this text. Ambiguity is confusing parts within the text which consequently generate question in readers’ mind. In ‘Rumah Kaca’, the ambiguity is shown in Gubermen’s (Dutch-Indies government) attitude toward the natives’ rising national awakening.
On one hand, Gubermen established a public elementary school in all regencies and allowed native bigwigs to send their children to E.L.S (Europeesche Lagere School) together with Europeans. On the other hand, Gubermen was apprehensive to the awakening of natives’ nationalism, which constitutes an indirect outcome of Gubermen-established schools.
Meanwhile, inconsistency is also a crucial component in Deconstruction to support the analysis. In this novel, the writer found several inconsistencies related with Pangemanann’s attitude toward Minke and Prinses van Kasiruta, Minke’s ex-wife.
Dia sepenuhnya benar dan aku bukan saja berpihak padanya, juga seorang di antara sekian banyak pengagumnya yang tulus. (Toer 2010, p. 10)
Manusia dengan banyak kelebihan ini, aku secara pribadi benar-benar menghormatinya dengan tulus. Ia telah mencapai jauh -jauh- jauh lebih banyak daripada yang dapat kugapai dalam hidupku yang lebih tua. Aku hormati dia dengan diam-diam. (Toer 2010, p. 13)
Sebagai hamba negeri telah kususun kertas kerja atas perintah atasanku, menulis, menganalisa, memperbandingkan, merentangkan kemungkinan-kemungkinan dan akibat-akibat segala sepak terjangnya terhadap Gubermen. Dan sekarang aku sendiri yang harus laksanakan kesimpulan dan saranku sendiri. Ini tidak lain berarti aku harus memata-matai langsung, bertindak langsung terhadap pribadi yang aku hargai dan aku hormati. (Toer 2010, p. 13)
Jangan dikira dengan senang hati kulakukan tugasku. Tapi tentu kulakukan sesuai dengan kertas kerjaku. (Toer 2010, p. 14)
From these four paragraphs, the writer perceived Pangemanann’s conflicting attitude toward Minke. Pangemanann, on one side, puts high esteem to Minke, whom he frequently calls himself as Minke’s truthful admirer. In contrast, Pangemanann eventually agrees on Gubermen’s command to write, analyze, compare and explore the possibilities and impacts of Minke’s acts to Gubermen which means that Pangemanann brings about Minke’s detention and isolation to Ambon island.
Besides, Pangemanann also shows his inconsistency toward Prinses van Kasiruta, as seen in these paragraphs.
Tetapi peristiwa penembakan itu sendiri telah menerjemahkan betapa perempuan itu memuliakan suaminya. Dan aku tidak salah. Memang orang seperti Minke patut dimuliakan, bukan hanya oleh istrinya sendiri, juga oleh sebangsanya. (Toer 2010, p. 64)
Aku sendiri bergegas pergi ke pesawat telepon. Menghubungi kantor polisi, minta diusirkan dua orang perempuan itu! (Toer 2010, p. 191)
Terdengar dari tempat kami Prinses Kasiruta memaki-maki dan Piah meraung terkena tendangan. Kemudian juga suara pekik kesakitan Prinses. . . Rupa-rupanya mengikuti mereka digelandang ke kantor polisi. (Toer 2010, p. 192)
From these three paragraphs, Pangemanann’s attitude toward Prinses Kasiruta is obviously inconsistent. On one hand, Pangemanann both praises and respects Kasiruta as a loyal, truthful wife. On the contrary, Pangemanann calls the police to get rid out of her in order that she is blown and striken by the police.
In the meantime, the writer also found ambivalences regarding with Pangemanann’s behavior in this novel.
Pekerjaanku adalah pekerjaan khusus, tidak umum. Di antara 48 juta orang di Hindia, barangkali belum tentu adalah sepuluh setengah yang mengetahui tugasku. Jadi memang pengalaman menarik. Patut semua dicatat –siapa tahu suatu kali akan berguna? (Toer 2010, p. 5-6)
Dan aku? Nampaknya tak bisa lain –aku akan tetap dalam kehinaanku. Ya Tuhan, betapa jabatan telah mengubah pedalaman manusia begini macam. (Toer 2010, p. 71)
In first paragraph, Pangemanann seems to be greatly proud of his high-rank position in Gubermen as a police commissioner and archivist that records the national figures’ movements, particularly Minke. But Pangemanann turns to feel disgraceful, as seen in the second paragraph, because he cannot stand spying and recording his ideological master/teacher. Pangemanann is opposed with his conscience. Darmoko (2009, p. 79) argues that Pangemanann’s high-rank position is not influential any longer due to his ambivalence. His position is between European (Dutch) and the natives, even too far away from both. Consequently, Pangemanann feels contemptible and disgraceful because his disgraceful occupation has turned him into a labile person or even caused him alienated from his world. Hence, Pangemanann’s ambivalence as seen in these paragraphs shows that his alienation with his world/environment has brought about the ambivalence.
Minke’s banishment to Ambon island, as stated by Darmoko (2009, p. 80), also significantly causes him out of control. In other words, he undergoes a profound, irredemable remorse.
Apakah gunanya pendidikanku selama ini? Tanpa setahuku aku telah menangis tersedu-sedu. Air mata dari seorang yang semestinya sudah mempunyai cucu. Bangkrut! Intelektual bangkrut! Percuma aku belajar selama ini. Korupsi kolonial telah mengkorup diriku, jiwaku. Ya, Tuhan. Aku bukan lagi seorang pemain catur. Aku seorang budak yang patut dikutuk. (Toer 2010, p. 279)
Pangemanann’s alienation is actually born from his dualistic culture during his life. Pangemanann, born and lived his childhood in Menado, is then mothered by a French-culture family. It causes his mind changing and loose to be in the middle of Menado and French culture.
In conclusion, deconstruction, Tyson argues (2006, p. 252), thus offers a radical vision of the activity of thinking in which our mental life consists not of solid, stable meanings, but of a fleeting, continually changing play of signifiers. These signifiers may seem to be stable concepts, but they don’t operate in a stable manner in our mind. Reality is actualized by means of language based on the social construction or convention. Therefore, ‘strong’ class and ‘good’ (Pangemanann and colonizer) in this novel has a meaning because these are compared with not ‘strong’ class/’weak’ and not ‘good’/’bad’ (Minke and colonized). These terms are not constant, essential, stable, and fixed. Yet, they are unstable, fluid, and not fixed because they are from social convention which can be different in a different place and culture.
Darmoko, E 2009, ‘Ambivalensi Tokoh Jacques Pangemanann Dalam Novel Rumah Kaca Karya Pramoedya Ananta Toer’, Undergraduate thesis, Airlangga University, Surabaya.
Setiowati, L 2005, ‘Minke dan Nyai Ontosoroh Sebagai Subjek Anti Kolonial dan Upaya-Upaya Perlawanannya Dalam Tetralogi Pulau Buru Pramoedya Ananta Toer’, Undergraduate thesis, Airlangga University, Surabaya.
Toer, PA 2010, Rumah Kaca, Lentera Dipantara, Jakarta.
Tyson, L 2006, Critical Theory Today: A User-Friendly Guide, Routledge, London.