How is British Rule represented in Tom Stoppard's Indian Ink?

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Tom Stoppard offers a complex and ambivalent representation of the British rule in Indian Ink. The playwright offers divergent perspectives that largely vary by the characters’ positions in society, including factors of nationality, race, caste, and gender. By setting much of the play almost a full generation before independence was achieved, he showcases conflicting views of British rule and self-governance. The Rajah, for example, is proud that his “grandfather stood firm with the British during the First Uprising.” The British, however, consider this armed conflict a “mutiny.”

Stoppard also shows how British imperialism allowed the white Britons who flocked to India to gain status, generally to the disadvantage on native-born peoples. Elite English women such as Flora Crewe were intrigued by what they saw as the mystical qualities of Indian society, in which they sought refuge from the materialism of the West. She challenges the painter Nirad Das to “stick up for [himself],” chiding him for being “enthralled” with “everything English.” For Indian men such as Das, success during the Raj became limited by their ability to assimilate to British norms of culture.

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Discuss the representation of British rule in Tom Stoppard's Indian Ink.

The representation of British rule in Tom Stoppard's Indian Ink is somewhat less than flattering.

The Raj, the name given to the British rule in India, is presented as something that has suppressed a rich and varied culture that has existed for thousands of years.

As Anish exclaims in a heartfelt outburst, India was already up to date when Britain was still a backward nation. Even when the British first discovered India in the age of Shakespeare, India already had more than its fair share of Shakespeares, not to mention great artists, composers, and architects.

The implication here is that the self-image of the Raj as a civilizing mission is completely bogus. The fact is that long before the British arrived, India was already civilized. That being the case, British rule of India can be seen as motivated by nothing more than greed and economic exploitation, as Anish doesn't hesitate to point out.

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