The Gift of Rain : re-imagining masculinity, ethnicity, and identity in Malaysia



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Tan Twan Eng's debut novel, "The Gift of Rain" (2007), explores issues of allegiance and belonging through a conflicted figure of mixed heritage -- Philip Hutton. Set during the Japanese Occupation of Malaya during World War II, the novel looks back to this period as an unstable cornerstone from which to imagine and re-imagine ethnic, national, and gender identity in Malaysia. Yet, the vision that Tan offers is itself riddled with inconsistencies. The multi-ethnic identity that the novel celebrates is contingent upon systems of power, particularly those associated with patriarchy, British imperialism, and Chinese heritage. I argue that The Gift of Rain opens up a space within which to question narratives of nationhood and loyalty, ethnicity and culture, masculinity and femininity, suggesting that identity remains conflicted and conditional, emerging and developing amidst constant change.