What is a critical analysis of the novel Six Acres and a Third?

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Six Acres and a Third is a novel by Fakir Mohan Senapati about Indian society under British colonial rule in the 1830s. He combines wit and satire with historical references to tell the story of a greedy landlord and money lender, Mangaraj, who exploits the peasants on his property for personal gain.

In many ways, Senapati is calling out some of the more unpleasant facets of colonialism through themes of wealth and poverty, greed and theft, and later, crime and punishment—particularly at the end of the story, when Mangaraj is arrested and his land is taken away. The sort of hopelessness and resignation to fate so pervasive in Indian (and more specifically Hindu) culture is also explored when the peasants, upon learning that a new owner—a lawyer—will be taking over the property, state that it does not matter who their new master is because they will remain slaves just the same.

It is through this lens that Senapati explores the lasting effects of colonialism, indicting the political, social, and even linguistic constructs that make such authoritarian rule possible, while simultaneously propagating an egalitarian ethos and the right of cultural self-determination for the colonized.

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Fakir Mohan Senapati has long been described as the "father of Oriya literature" for his pioneering writings in that language, which is spoken in India's Orissa region. Six Acres and a Third, his most well known work, explores the British colonial impact and the indigenous cultural and political resistance some 60 years before the novel's publication, at the turn of the 20th century.

The title refers to a small plot of land and the conflicts over its tenure, including sale and inheritance. The British imposition of new legal requirements, mediated through local administrators in their indirect rule method, unavoidably made some Indian people complicit in moving land to new owners who threaten the established social order.

Drawing on traditional Indian theatrical performative styles, the author creates a self-conscious narrator who mocks all the social pretenses he sees as abundantly present. This satirical slant opens the door for the serious social critique. Writing with hindsight, the author can foreshadow the outcomes of the disputes initiated in his pages, and thereby attribute blame for the resulting problems that he saw as primary in his own day.

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