Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Scott’s opening paragraphs of The Raj Quartet quickly come to the point on which the novels will elaborate:This is is the story of a rape, the events that led up to it and followed it and of the place in which it happened.... Since then people have said there was a trial of sorts going on. In fact, such people say, the affair that began on the evening of August 9th, 1942, in Mayapore, ended with the spectacle of two nations in violent opposition, not for the first time nor as yet for the last because they were then still locked in an imperial embrace of such long standing and subtlety it was no longer possible for them to know whether they hated or loved one another, or what it was that held them together and seemed to have confused the image of their separate destinies.

In this work, rape is three things: a specific criminal act, an image of interlocked, struggling bodies, and a metaphor for other, more complex and equally violent personal and political embraces. This opening narrative explanation gives the reader the primary message of the four novels: Rape is failure; nothing taken by force will remain long in the possession of the rapist. No matter with what fervor the British Raj clutched at India, India’s initial submissiveness would turn to revolt; rape is failure to love or understand.

Each novel’s title relays a strong thematic content. The Jewel in the Crown describes Miss Crane’s Indian schoolroom, complete...

(The entire section is 550 words.)