What are the literary allusions in Indian Ink? What are the meanings behind them?

The literary allusions in Indian Ink include references to the Bloomsbury group, Gertrude Stein, and William Shakespeare. The meaning relates to the libertine characterization of Flora and the theme of colonization.

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Tom Stoppard’s play Indian Ink contains many literary allusions. The references advance Flora Crewe’s rebellious characterization and the themes of the play, such as colonization.

In act 1, Mr. Coomaraswami quips about Flora’s lack of religion. Flora replies, “Turning a phrase may do for Bloomsbury but I expect better...

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from you.” Bloomsbury means the Bloomsbury group, a collection of writers and thinkers who hung around Bloomsbury, London during the first part of the 1900s. The group featured key figures like Virginia Woolf and E. M. Forster. Like Flora, Bloomsbury group members had gossipy affairs and held beliefs that deviated from the norms of their time.

Flora’s libertine lifestyle is further illustrated with illusions to the science-fiction writer H. G. Wells, the playwright George Bernard Shaw, and the avant-garde author Gertrude Stein and her partner Alice B. Toklas. These references spotlight the breadth of Flora’s sexuality and appeal. The allusions imply that Flora had an affair with Wells and hint that Shaw was so enticed with her that he offered her a part in his play despite the fact that she wasn’t a trained actress. The mention of Stein and Toklas suggests that Flora is attracted women as well, which might be why Stein, according to “legend,” became jealous and tried to gouge out Flora’s and/or Toklas’s eyes.

The theme of colonialism is illuminated when Eleanor and Anish debate Britain’s impact on India. Eleanor claims that England’s colonization had an enlightening influence. Anish argues otherwise. To prove his point, Anish alludes to the famous British playwright William Shakespeare. “Even when you discovered India in the age of Shakespeare, we already had our Shakespeares.” Using Shakespeare, Anish argues that India was sophisticated well before the arrival of the British. But Nirad’s professed affinity for Shakespeare, Agatha Christie, and other English writers complicates the relationship between the two countries.

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