Thursday, April 1, 2010

The white man's burden

Current book: A Passage to India
Pages read: 7 - 61

I'm not very motivated to write today, seeing as it's 75 degrees and sunny, so this is going to be short and sweet.

So far, it's good. Mrs. Moore has brought Ms. Adela Quested to India to marry her son, the local magistrate, Ronny Heaslop. Both the women are very much interested in getting the real experience of India: meeting the local people, understanding the culture, and seeing the landscape. Ronny, however, feels that India and her people are beneath him, and does not want his mother or his soon-to-be-fiancee to develop sympathies for them. Mrs. Moore meets Dr. Aziz, a local Indian doctor, one night, quite by mistake, and afterward is intrigued with him and wishes to bring him into the British social circle, which she and Adela are determined to extend to the educated Indians in the area.

E. M. Forster has a lot to say about the politics of the Raj, it's clear. Ronny is completely despicable, and not just because I'm reading from a modern point of view. Adela and Mrs. Moore are well meaning, but are still so wrapped up in their own Western values that they can't really see that the only Indians they want to get to know are those who've Westernized themselves. They're both intrigued by the exotic, but only the exotic that has been rendered safe for them by colonial influence. I expect this book to be quite complex and interesting. Also, you can tell I like it because I only read 60 pages or so, regardless of the fact that my workout was as long as normal. I pay more attention when I like them.

Finally, it's a good thing I lived in Singapore for a while, because Forster has no problem throwing around Indian terms with no context at all. I'm lucky I know what a sais is, is all I'm saying.

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