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COLONIALISM in Jane Eyre and A Fine Balance - essay


Asma 3 / 8  
Dec 13, 2007   #1
i know my essay is VERY long, but i'd be very glad if you could edit it and give me some suggestions on it. Also, i need help with the conclusion.Thanks a lot!

English literature, by far, is greatly influenced by the concept of pre and post colonialism. Considering the fact that colonialism has left a wide impact on not only the countries that were colonized, but on the colonizing country itself, it is no wonder that people then and now have altered lifestyles, languages, cultures, traditions, values and even religions. The books 'A Fine Balance' by Rohinton Mistry and 'Jane Eyre' by Charlotte Bronte, deal intensively with the subject of colonialism. With regards to colonialism, both books focus on religions and conflicts between religions, Social classes and caste systems, treatment of women, and the impact colonialism had had on the lives of the characters involved.

'A Fine Balance' is set in the city of Bombay,India, during the 1970s when colonialism was ending and the internecine religious wars were producing a resultant blow that was felt far and wide. The everlasting war between the Hindus and Muslims in India has been a controversial topic since the time of the British Rule. History shows that the English tried to implement the Divide and Rule policy in India, thereby taking advantage of the then minimal conflicts to create a huge gulf between the people belonging to the two religions. Post-independence India has seem a lot of religious and ethnic violence. During the Partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, there was much slaughter of Hindus and Muslims openly. During this time period in the book, Ashraf, a muslim tailor who decides on staying in India instead of migrating to Pakistan, faces problems with the Hindu community. Narayan and Ishvar, two hindu apprentices of Ashraf, save Ashraf and his family from the hands of violent Hindu extremists. There is a fairly constant reference to not just the wars between these two religions, but also on the conflicts between other religions such as Sikhism. Towards the end of the book, Maneck witnesses the hunting down and killing of Sikhs. Rohinton Mistry portrays the effect of these differences and hostilities on Indians. Indians of all religions supporting a beard were 'mistaken' for being a Sikh, and were slaughtered mercilessly. After the attack, the driver of the taxi taking Maneck home from the airport says how "for three days, they have been burning Sikh shops and homes, chopping up Sikh boys and men". It is not a surprise then, that the driver advises Maneck by saying "You should think about shaving off your beard, sahab...you might be mistaken for a Sikh" (672, Mistry)

One of the major topics in the novel 'Jane Eyre' has to do with religion. Jane undergoes an internal conflict between ethical duties and pleasures of the world. Throughout the book, Jane is influenced to a certain extent by the beliefs the religious people she encounters. Jane receives religious teaching from Helen Burns before she dies. Helen says, "the Bible bids us return good for evil" (53, Bronte). Jane's earliest search for a stand in the religion is reflected in the question she asks Helen on her sick bed: "Where is God? What is God?" (74, Bronte). Later, shortly before Helen dies, she tells Jane "I am sure there is a future state; I believe God is good; I can resign my immortal part to Him without any misgiving. God is my father; God is my friend; I love Him; I believe He loves me" (113; ch. 9).

Jane's experience with Mr. Brocklehurst is bitter, and shows his preposterous beliefs. Mr. Brocklehurst claims his students are filled with pride regardless of the rags they wear and the meager food they get each day. He claims curly hair is also among indulging in earthly pleasures and exclaims:

"Naturally! Yes, but we are not to conform to nature; I wish these girls to be the children of Grace: and why that abundance? I have again and again intimated that I desire the hair to be arranged closely, modestly, plainly. Miss Temple, that girl's hair must be cut off entirely;..." (59, Bronte)

It is very hypocritical of Mr. Brocklehurst to impose all these extreme forms of 'humbleness' and let his own wife and daughters dress extravagantly. He spends very little on Lowood academy and himself splurges and lives lavishly. In contrast to Brocklehurst, St. John, whom Jane chances upon while on the run, portrays a more refined form of Christianity. St. John's views Christianity as a duty towards God and deems himself to be the carrier of the word of God. St. John's ambitious nature and self importance leads him to pressure Jane into giving up herself in the 'way of the Lord' and to sacrifice her emotional needs so that her moral duty can be fulfilled. While Helen and St. John are determined enough to find their happiness in heaven, Jane seeks to find hers here on Earth. She therefore finds her own religious grounds that are mediocre and not as hateful as that of Brocklehurst nor as demanding as St. Johns. St. John wanted Jane to accompany him as his wife on a missionary expedition to India, but Jane is hesitant as she thought St. John's ideas, discipline and severity would stifle her long sought freedom. Jane knows that St. John would do well in India. This relates to the fact that colonizing countries used religion as their basis of capturing countries. Jane indicates that Indians are in need of a severe influence such as St. John to keep them under control. The statement leans towards expressing that Indians, as well as all the other eastern countries are savages and are in need of being taught how to be 'civil'.

Moreover, Both books also deal with the notion of Social Status and Caste Systems. In the book 'A Fine Balance' Ishvar and Omprakash's family come from the Chamaar caste, which is the least in the hierarchy of the Hindu Caste System. These people traditionally cured leather and were considered to be untouchables. These untouchables were punished and humiliated if they were found touching or trespassing the property of a person from a higher class. Ishvar's father Dukhi attempts to break this restrictive caste system and sends Ishvar and his brother Narayan to learn how to sew. As the two begin to practice this profession in their native village, the Brahmins (highest class in Hinduism) begin to ridicule them. In an attempt to "show them their place", the Brahmins torture Narayan when he protests against the voting system in the village, and later burn down Narayan's family and him in their hut. "I think they will remember this for a long time"( 171, Mistry) said Thakur Dharamsingh says after this persecution. Unable to face the horrors afflicted to their family, Omprakash and Ishvar leave their village. Mistry brings out the devatating effects and the astonishing levels of cruelty humans can impart on the basis of so called caste systems. Dukhi observes bitterly "that at least his Muslim friend treated him better than his Hindu brothers" [p. 115]. Even when in the city, there are way too many differences that are highlighted in the book. The treatment of Beggars and slum dwellers by the supposed Upper class, and the treatment of Dina by the landlord is a clear indication of the social differences one can still find to be prominent in India.

Similarly, Charlotte Bronte's 'Jane Eyre' also touches on social inequality. The treatment of servants and the differences between the rich and the poor are consistent in Jane Eyre. Jane who is erratically a poor person surrounded by wealthy people, faces a lot of obstructions particularly at Thornfeild with the Reeds. She continues to have a low self esteem and does not accept opportunities. At Thornfield, when Jane inquires why she would have to call John Reed Master Reed and asks sarcastically is she is a servant, the lady's maid replies " No; you are less than a servant, for you do nothing for your keep..." It is apparent that wealth was of extreme importance in Victorian England. Jane herself speaks out against class prejudice. For example, in indignation, Jane reprimands Rochester by saying "Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong!-I have as much soul as you-and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you."

The caste systems and Social differences shown in both books indirectly deal with the slavery in the colonized countries during the height of the British Rule. In India-one of the major colonies of Britain- Indians themselves were reduced to the level of slaves by the British. All Indians were equivalent to the 'Chamaar' caste and all British were deemed as something like the Brahmins. An Indian could not have trespassed 'British properties', could not buy British goods or drink from the same cup as the British without facing dire consequences. The treatment of the natives was the same in every British colony. They regarded themselves to be of a higher social and moral status than the natives and took it upon themselves to 'educate' and 'civilize' them. Bronte's book also has many symbolic examples of colonialism. The treatment of Mr. Rochester's wife, Bertha, is one such example. Bertha is shown to be a symbol of the 'fear' Britain had of other cultures and it was this fear that made them 'lock up' the cultures it encountered at its height of imperialism.

Social inequalities are linked with the treatment of women in both, Indian culture, and the Victorian era. There are various instances of the injustice done to women in the book 'A Fine Balance' in post independent India. After her husband's death, Dina's primary goal is to become self-reliant. Dina, being the daughter of a parsi family is bought up by her brother after their parents died. Dina's brother Nusswann, therefore takes up full responsibility of Dina and begins to impose his own laws and rules, punishing Dina for any breach of his rules. "This will teach you to look like a loose woman" says Nusswann while hitting Dina with a ruler for 'disobeying' him by cutting her hair short. This is in sync with the fact that Indian men consider themselves superior to the women. Dina, being a female, is constantly harassed by the landlord for either payment of the rent, or to investigate the fact that she is renting out a room to Maneck. Her independence means a lot to Dina, however, as the novel progresses, and she makes new friends, she begins to change her ideas. "We'll see how independent you are when the goondas come back and break your head open," Dina says to Maneck (433, Mistry). A few pages into the book, and the reader finds out about the silent of Dukhi's wife by the hands of a watchman kept to watch a wealthy Brahmin's orchard as a compensation for taking a few oranges for Ishvar when he was a kid. A lot of people also blame the riots happening in the country on Indira Gandhi claiming that women are not suitable for a position as such.

In Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, Jane struggles to achieve social equality and overcome the barrier between the rich and poor. In addition to fighting for a right in a place of rich people, she has to fight against those who believe men are superior to women and try to treat them as such. Throughout the novel, Jane tries to come to terms with the fact that she is unequal both socially and economically to men. Especially Mr Rochester and St. John. Both try to keep Jane in a docile position, and voluntarily or involuntarily suppress her 'free ' thoughts and feelings. To finally gain independence, Jane must reject St. John and marry Rochester only after making sure she is on a equal social and economical stand with him. Jane not only shows the reader her beliefs on female independence through her actions but also through her thoughts. She relates her feelings by saying:

"Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex. (99, Bronte).

Jane does not seem to fit the typical Victorian lady's profile. With her black hair, wide mouth and short stature, Jane becomes sort of an outcast in the gathering at Thornfield. The fact that the British had such set ideals for the perfect English woman, reduces the status of women in the Victorian era considerably low. The women then, had to confine themselves to the standards that men set, the morals and ethics that the men defined. Bertha, Rochester's locked up wife can also be looked upon as a symbol of this 'trapped' Victorian wife who is expected to never travel or work outside the house or disobey those principals set by the society.

In conclusion, Colonialism has had a great impact on not just the books written since the colonial time period, but also the way people live the lives they do today. The two books capture the essence of colonialism in different yet unique ways. Jane Eyre does not directly deal with colonialism. The slavery prominent in the Far East at the time is portrayed through the use of symbols. Similarly, A Fine Balance gives the readers a comprehensible idea of the post-colonial India during the time of the Emergency declared by Indira Gandhi. Both books give a great insight on how the colonialism affected the literary part as well as the impact it had on the world. Not only did it affect the culture of different parts of the world, it also gave the parts where the British rule was, a push towards modernization.

EF_Team2 1 / 1,709  
Dec 13, 2007   #2
Greetings!

I'm happy to help!

both books focus on religions and conflicts between religions, social classes and caste systems, treatment of women, and the impact colonialism hashad on the lives of the characters involved.

Post-independence India has seen a lot of religious and ethnic violence.

St. John views Christianity as a duty towards God

not as hateful as that of Brocklehurst nor as demanding as St. John's.

The statement leans towards expressing the view that Indians, as well as the people of all the other eastern countries, are savages and are in need of being taught how to be 'civil'.

"I think they will remember this for a long time"( 171, Mistry) [delete said] Thakur Dharamsingh says after this persecution.

Unable to face the horrors inflicted on their family,

Jane who is [delete erratically] a poor person surrounded by wealthy people,

A few pages into the book, [delete and] the reader finds out about the silent [do you mean "silencing"?] of Dukhi's wife by the hands of a watchman kept to watch a wealthy Brahmin's orchard as a compensation for taking a few oranges for Ishvar when he was a kid. A lot of people also blame the riots happening in the country on Indira Gandhi, claiming that women are not suitable for such a position.

Throughout the novel, Jane tries to come to terms with the fact that she is unequal both socially and economically to men, especially Mr Rochester and St. John.

Bertha, Rochester's locked-up wife,

Both books provide an insightful look on how colonialism affected literature as well as the impact it had on the world. Not only did it affect the culture of different parts of the world, it also gave British colonies a push towards modernization.

One thing you want to watch out for is that you should capitalize nouns which name something (for example, "Muslim"), but not common nouns such as "emergency" or

"partition." I will leave it to you to double-check this in your paper.

Good work!

Thanks,

Sarah, EssayForum.com


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