Friday, 2 April 2021

India in the Twentieth Century European Literature

 India in the Twentieth Century European Literature

a. Rudyard Kipling: Kim (1901)

b. E M Forster: A Passage to India (1924)

c. T S Eliot: The Waste Land (1918-22)

d. Herman Hesse: Siddhartha (1922)

e. Virginia Woolf: To the Lighthouse (1927)

f. H.G. Wells: Around the World in Eighty Days (1872-73)

Rudyard Kipling: Kim (1901)

Kipling’s ideal  of imperialism in India was that of a paternalistic, quasi-feudal imperial one. As “legitimate” and benevolent rulers, the British took a privileged position at the top of the social chain with a systematic mode of government . Kipling could have easily been influenced by the spreading ideal of social Darwinism, a societal spin on Darwin’s order of the natural world. For Kipling, hierarchy was natural and was determined by survival of the fittest. Imperialism could not be corrupt to Kipling, because social order is fated, therefore moral.

In Kim, it is obvious that Kipling did not see imperialism as any type of disruption, exploitation, or subjugation, but as economic development and moral enlightenment for India. In the novel, working as a spy for the British Empire and looking for spiritual harmony work side-by-side. British rule is never challenged; instead Kipling uses several minor characters strictly for the purpose of advocating British rule. Although Kipling shows a knowledge of a number of Indian languages and the capability of using many voices, there is no variety of viewpoint. All voices hold one style and one dominant point of view in favor of British imperialism. Kipling’s use of Indian words and phrases lacks any attempt to represent the their cultural specificity. 

(Gopen, Shina. 'Rudyard Kipling'.

E M Forster: A Passage to India (1924)
The story of A Passage to India hinges on a rape that never was. A white young woman accuses a charming Indian Muslim doctor of having assaulted her in a dark cave during a picnic, but at the trial of the accused a few weeks later, she goes to the witness box and says she cannot be sure and is withdrawing all charges.
Forster here boldly reverses many Raj stereotypes. The race-and-rape narrative had been common in English novels about India ever since the “Mutiny” of 1857 when several such incidents were believed to have happened. The trope of an oppressed ill-treated native raping a woman of the master race in a token act of revenge for the greater crime of the coloniser having raped his country had been inaugurated in English literature by Shakespeare in The Tempest (1611). (Trivedi, Harish. The rape that never was: Forster and ‘A Passage to India’)

Virginia Woolf: To the Lighthouse (1927)

Herman Hesse: Siddhartha (1922)

H.G. Wells: Around the World in Eighty Days (1872-73)


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