Hey everyone! I desperately need some help/advice on how to go about the following question:  What role does the romance quest play in colonial representations of India and / or "the Orient"?  I...

Hey everyone! I desperately need some help/advice on how to go about the following question:  What role does the romance quest play in colonial representations of India and / or "the Orient"? 

I am considering writing about The Man Who Would Be King OR Kipling's Kim and The Passage To India. 

Could anyone offer some basic suggestions/ideas on where to start or some arguments to help me think about what I could write? Which texts would work best in comparison with one another?  Does anyone have any links or ideas about critical material? 

Asked on by manita94

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In looking at works by Forster and Kipling, there are some critical elements that can be established in terms of exploring how the romance quest defines colonial perceptions of India.  One part is the perception of Indians within the romance quest. Defining the romance quest, in terms of what is used as the idea of the quest, is going to be essential here.  In both Kim and A Passage to India, an essential aspect of the Romance quest is how the British come to represent a force of truth.  This is embedded within the English and not in the native population.  Kim feels compelled to ensure that the Russians do not gain control of the Himalayan region and wants to free the Lama.  His romance quest is to prevent the Russian forces from becoming the dominant force in the area and to rescue the Lama.  In this light, Kim envisions his own romance quest where he is the primary agent of action.  The villagers and others who help represent how the British would perceive the Indians as ornamental. In Kim, the romance quest is embodied in the form of a British force.  This same perception is seen in A Passage to India.  The ability to understand what actually transpired in the caves can only be understood through the British legal system.  It is the British forces that are on the romance quest to figure out what happened in the caves between Adela and Aziz.  Indians like Godbole and others simply get in the way of this as the search for truth bypasses them and rests in the hands of the English.  In both works, the romance quest is entrusted to British characters.  This helps to shape the representation of "the Other," seen as secondary to the British notion of the good and the romance quest within it.

I think that there is a significant difference in how both authors understand "the Other" in their representation of India and "the Orient."  Kipling seems to be fairly insistent about how the romance quest plays a large role in defining English perceptions of India and its indigenous people.  However, Forster is more ambiguous and complex in his representation.  In Forster's construction, the romance quest itself is brought into question.  This might help to expand ideas about how both colonial and indigenous representation is developed in A Passage to India.  In this light, I think that you could make an argument that Kipling represents a starting point in developing how the romance quest influences colonial representations of India and "the Orient" in general.  It is a process that starts in Kim and then Forster expands this in A Passage to India.  In both works, the romance quest is a critical force in defining colonial representations.  Yet there is a significant difference in the complexity of this depiction. I think that being able to bring out where this contrast is evident might help to enhance such an exploration.


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