Outsiders and Insiders: Perspectives of Third World Culture in British and Post-Colonial Fiction

Outsiders and Insiders: Perspectives of Third World Culture in British and Post-Colonial Fiction

Outsiders and Insiders: Perspectives of Third World Culture in British and Post-Colonial Fiction

Outsiders and Insiders: Perspectives of Third World Culture in British and Post-Colonial Fiction

Synopsis

Writers who came to the Third World during the wave of British colonialism, such as H. Rider Haggard in South Africa, Rudyard Kipling in India, and Joyce Cary in Nigeria, describe the colonized country, culture, and people from a detached outsider's perspective. But recent indigenous, post-independence fiction, conceived as a response to the British portrayal, offers a contrasting, insider's view. Outsiders and Insiders pairs a British and an indigenous writer describing a particular region to examine the differing perspectives of the colonial outsider and the native insider. This study concentrates on five disparate regions - India, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, and the West Indies - to see whether the colonial experience is one that has meaning globally or is country-specific.

Excerpt

Early British colonial writers, like H. Rider Haggard and Rudyard Kipling, served the important purpose of introducing readers to worlds and cultures entirely different from their own. In Kipling's Place in the History of Ideas, Noel Annan shows how Kipling's primary concern with the inner workings of societies, as opposed to individuals, became a way of depicting not only Indian society but English society as well. "And what should they know of England who only England know?" asked Kipling, implying that to know one's own culture and society, one must first experience a contrasting culture and society (Carrington, 227). Kipling, Haggard, and other British colonial writers, such as Forster, Orwell, and Leonard Woolf, often wrote about the clash between alien cultures brought on by British imperialism. Of course, the British writers described colonial territories from an outsider's point of view. In more recent years, however, indigenous Third World writers like Chinua Achebe, George Lamming, and Salman Rushdie have shown the reader another side of this confrontation, and thus have pointed up the limitations of the British fiction. Since the British writers reflect the colonizer perspective on the clash of cultures, their chief concern is usually with their English characters. The subject peoples and their homeland typically perform the role of an exotic background. The limitations of British fiction set in "the tropics" thus speak eloquently about the ethnocentric nature of the British Empire itself.

That empire was largely founded by explorers, adventurers, and commercial traders, many of whom became legendary figures in British history. Robert Clive, a clerk in the East India Company, was instrumental in England's colonization of India when he led a military victory over the French at the Battle of Plassey in 1757. Other commercial developers and adventurers, like Cecil Rhodes in southern Africa, Frederick Lugard in Nigeria, and Hugh Cholmondeley Delamere in Kenya, played important roles in later British colonization on the African continent. Although the British government initially kept a safe distance from these adventurers and their questionable aims and practices, it later adopted many of . . .

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