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Images of India in British Fiction: Anglo-India vs. the Metropolis


Sebastian Horstmann

This book investigates how India was portrayed in British novels and short stories during the heyday of the British Raj. In the tradition of post-colonial studies such as Edward Said’s Orientalism, it will be considered in how far fiction by Rudyard Kipling and other writers supported the institution of the Raj by establishing and spreading certain ideas about the Indian sub-continent and the Indian people. In addition, Said’s claims concerning the consistency of what he labels Orientalist discourse will be challenged to a certain degree, as British authors who lived in India are more likely to present an image of the country that is at least partly more detailed and nuanced than portrayals of the Indian scene created by writers who never saw the sub-continent.
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5. The Image of India in Metropolitan Fiction


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5.  The Image of India in Metropolitan Fiction

As outlined above, Moore-Gilbert cites “the case of India” as an indication that “Said’s belief in the unvarying nature of ‘Orientalism’” is problematic, firstly because the overall British image of the sub-continent changed over time, and secondly because authors who lived in India portray the country differently from those who did not. Both factors, he concludes, show “that the discourse is a more variable and flexible phenomenon than is implied by Said” (KO 2–5). In the following sections, the metropolitan image of India will therefore be contrasted with its Anglo-Indian counterpart. Unlike the preceding chapter, works which are not set in the East will be taken into account here, partly to show that certain stereotypes had already been prevalent before a closely-knit Anglo-Indian society even existed, but also to include a wider range of texts, as only few novels and stories produced by writers who never visited the country exclusively focus on India.

Surprisingly, most Britons’ supposed ignorance about the sub-continent, which is one of the leitmotifs of Anglo-Indian fiction, is occasionally mentioned in metropolitan works as well. It must be assumed that the authors in question imitate their colonial role models in this respect. Claiming to quote “a certain writer,” for example, a colonel in James Grant’s First Love and Last Love (1868) declares “that India is so far off, that no one in England cares a brass farthing about what goes...

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