In this essay, we would like you to meditate on the significance of colonialism. Please
write a 4-6 page double-spaced essay that assesses what you have learned so far about
empire, colonization, and colonialism. In your essay, you MUST discuss Salman
Rushdie’s novel, Midnight’s Children, but you may center or de-center the book in your
essay depending on the thesis statement or argument you choose.
If you choose to make Rushdie’s book the main focus of your essay, please answer the
following question, using specific examples for the text:
One literary critic said that “the personal is political in Salman Rushdie’s novel,
Midnight’s Children. How does Rushdie use the experiences of individuals to explore
and meditate on the colonial encounter?
If you choose to de-center Rushdie’s book, please answer the following question:
What is/was the significance of the colonial encounter in Asia? (You may choose to
write about Asia as a region or about a specific place within the region.)
Regardless of topic, all essays must do the following:
Include specific examples from Midnight’s Children.
Include specific examples from relevant lectures (and from assigned readings other than
Midnight’s Children where appropriate.)
Your primary task in this essay is to engage with the issues we have raised in class about
the nature of empire. As always, a 4.0 essay will go beyond simply answering the
assigned question to make a larger argument.
Colonialism acted as a double-edged sword, where it caused a lot of pain to people, but at the same time introduced some aspects that helped develop the society. India was a victim of colonization and experienced the same fate as other nations. When the british arrived in India, they caused overwhelming changes in the society. India’s economy as well as the culture experienced drifts. The history of India before, during and after colonization is documented in in many books, journals and videos. The book Midnight Children is read in symbolism, giving the history of India. This paper will focus on the effects of colonialism in India as described by Salman Rushdie in ‘Midnight Children’.
Before colonization, people lived and traded together. There were no superior or inferior complexes. However, as colonization jeted in, people became divided. According to Rushdie (2011), colonization brought the belief that all the best people are white and the rest follow behind in order. He insists that even the blacks had subscribed to this notion seeing the whites as superior. Even some Indians had come to believed that the whites were superior. Salam (2007), identifies how black people were treated in the film Gandhi. In the film Gandhi, a train conductor is given the duty to ensure that black people stay in their designated areas and the whites in theirs as well. Gandhi is thrown out of a Train in South Africa for sitting in a first class section, a place designated for whites and not Indians. The effects of this is that it led to divisions in the society. Some believed the whites were right and others believed that Indians were equally good. Colonization caused division of the society (Rushdie, 2011).
When the British kingdom grows other regions experience a change through the development of new values such as through civilization. The argument being defined is that imposing different values to others could be dangerous and the construction process is defined as the white are better as compared to the blacks. The picture being created is that India is a pluralistic country with a mix of various cultural and religious backgrounds with various races. Rushdie explains that the class that one comes from is significant to fulfill opportunities in life. Saleem for instance gains his position because he comes from a well societal background and anyone reading this novel could be tempted to pick Shiva as a representation of India (Rushdie, 2011).
The impact that British culture had can be illustrated in relation to the family of Saleem. Their grandfather acquires western education and goes back home with different values from the cultural background he comes from. Saleem argues that the empire and background of his culture form the basis of one setting up their identity and defining the identity of the nation that is associated with independence. This dilemma spread across the country as they realize that the Empire could have caused the erosion of their culture, hence going back to their old ways and gaining their heritage was a hard task (Rushdie, 2011).
The national society is imagined through the different cultural characteristics that Rani and Aadam share and the aspect in the growing population. Rani is culturally neutral because of her skin color and this was the foundation in which the community differentiated the colonizers from themselves. This neutrality variation was the main reason that the community wanted to redefine their identity. The illustration of variations is a picture of British existence in India at one time. The neutral characteristic is shown by the elite in a community like Saleem, who buy different things from the colonialists. The father to Saleem buys a house from a white settler and the regulations were that the property was to be handed over on August 15 night with all components being retained, thus this could be seen as a way of making the buyers appear British in nature (Rushdie, 2011).
Even though the British era is gone, their cultural values are still present and have formed a basis of the life of Indians. A policy is made that requires a reformation process to occur to help Indians gain an Identity of a multicultural look and this led to the development of educational centers that were British in nature. There is a clash between the ancestral background and the history within Saleem and that is when he realizes that his real father is a white and not an Indian. This may result to an argument that Indian culture originates from a white perspective (Rushdie, 2011).
The identity of the country is like that of Saleem which is an a dilemma of either being a Muslim, Indian or their colonizers who are British. There is a challenge of finding the real origin of India as the no people are grouped as the real citizens of the country because the fishing way of life for the dwellers of Bombay are being associated to the Kolis who were their colonizers. The interaction between various cultures has resulted in erosion of original values, thus tracing the real authenticity of cultural origins is difficult. The film Gandhi portrays this confusion of culture showing how it resulted to war and eventually to splitting of the nation. When Gandhi tried to save the country, he was assassinated.
The aspect of renaming various locations and also coming up with new names for the unnamed areas is an aspect of colonization. When the British took over different areas in India they showed their power through the renaming of locations. An example includes where the Portuguese had renamed Mumbai to “Bom Bhai” then the British who came there after renaming it to “Bombay” but it was afterwards renamed to its original name, Mumbai. The renaming of different parts of India shows that the British had more authority over Indian locals locals thus they could change anything they wanted (Rushdie, 2011). Salam (2007), identifies this stating it is such seen in the movie Gandhi where Whites act all superior that he felt like punching the TV.
Colonization is significant for the cultural diversity being experienced in India. There are differences within religion, race, culture and values within the population of Bombay. There is an illustration that many people migrated to the city for a fortune and this created the variations. Saleem for instance is a Muslim, Shiva is from the Hindu culture while Mary has a religious background. The social groupings within the city are due to hybridization thus defining their historical identity is a challenge. Displacement of people, and migration is an important topic, within the book. The identities of the migrants are lost as they are disturbed mentally and due to physical displacement. This makes the people to start defining what their identities are, for instance the perforated sheet that Aadam is associated with in relation to his wife Naseem is a symbol for the variation in the identities of the two (Rushdie, 2011).
After the whites had left the land, they left a huge difference. There were new ways of doing things. The whites had introduced their architectural skills and many houses had been set up in their fashion. After the british left, they made sure that they still had influence on india. This means that they still exercised imperialism on India. Rushdie describes how imperialism persisted even after colonization. In Midnight Children, Methwold sells houses to local Indians. He sells the houses at insignificant prices. However, he sets a condition that whoever purchses the houses should not change a thing. After the houses were purchased, the Indian owners abided to the contract. With time, they started enjoying the ways of the englishmen. The ceilins and gas cookers there delight them. Eventually, the new owners are transformed. Methwold is pleased by how the Indians behave more of Englishmen than of Indians. In the film Gandhi, Gandhi is seen to embrace other religions such as Christianity. This is an effect of colonization as civilization believes in freedom of worship.
Methwolds and the new house owners show perfectly how imperialism continued after colonization. As a result of the new values, Indians had adopt to new ways of life putting aside their culture. Colonization brought civilization as Indians could now use green source of energy such as gas cooker. According to Said (2001), the Englishmen applied the concept of Orientalism to ensure that emperialism persisted. The English men portrayed themselves as honest, kind and very brave and portrayed Indians to be weak, coward, promiscus, cruel and all evil. Some people even want to become white with the belief that whites are superior. Ahmed Sinai pretends that he is worried that he is getting whiter day by day. Later, he confeses that he wanted to become white as the whites are superior.
Rushdie’s work exposes the different impacts that colonization brought to India. She has illustrated her experiences through various characters who define different events during and after colonization by the British. Even though the challenges were experienced during and after colonization, it is important to note and acknowledge the various important changes that were introduced into the old Indian culture and values that are associated with the present India. This work is unique from other literatures as the imaginary is blended with the reality, even though it helps in creating a picture of the post-colonial India.
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