Academic journal article K@ta

What's Left from Max Havelaar's Failures: Max Havelaar's Failures in Improving the Indigenous' Life in Multatuli's Max Havelaar or the Dutch Coffee Auctions of a Dutch Trading Company

Academic journal article K@ta

What's Left from Max Havelaar's Failures: Max Havelaar's Failures in Improving the Indigenous' Life in Multatuli's Max Havelaar or the Dutch Coffee Auctions of a Dutch Trading Company

Article excerpt

Abstract: This paper tries to pinpoint three main reasons why Havelaar's struggles in improving the life of the indigenous can be said to be failures, namely Havelaar's misinterpretation of the exploitation, his misguided perception, and his uncommitted consciousness. Apart from the failures of Max Havelaar, this novel leaves a rich record of the complex relation between the indigenous and their rulers, the indigenous (rulers) and the Dutch, and between the Dutch themselves.

Key words: exploitation, misinterpretation, misguided perception, uncommitted consciousness, historical perspective, New Historicism perspective.

Yes, I will be read! When this object is attained, I shall be satisfied. For it was not my intention to write well...I wanted to write in such a way as to be heard.

(Multatuli, Max Havelaar or the Coffee Auctions of a Dutch Trading Company)

The epigraph is taken from the final pages of Multatuli's Max Havelaar. That quotation has become the "landmark" for Max Havelaar. It is because in the quotation we can see that Multatuli expresses not only his literary style but also his ideals/objectives in writing the book. He forces himself to appear in his work to speak up his voice as if his trumpet character, Max Havelaar, were unable to represent his ideas.

Max Havelaar or the Coffee Auctions of a Dutch Trading Company records Multatuli's experiences as a young civil servant in the Dutch East Indies. It also presents the condition of the indigenous' life under the Cultivation System, which obviously bears a consequence of its recognition in public as a political novel. Since his first post in Natal, in the west coast of Sumatra, Multatuli already applied his strong feeling of humanism in his duty.

In a biographical novel such as Max Havelaar or the Coffee Auctions of a Dutch Trading Company, Multatuli clearly, according to Van Niel (1989), "embellished and interlaced" his story with "good accounts of the sanctimonious Dutch bourgeois merchant class" (p. 1) that makes a comfortable living upon the misery of the indigenous. Williams (1999) points out that while reading the biography of a selected individual, one does not only "see the author's individual and development but also a more general development" of the author. Thus, through biographical novel, the author directly shares with the readers his/her subjective thoughts on him/herself and surroundings. Pierre Bourdieu (as quoted in Dhakidae, 1995) interestingly explains his idea on the relation between the author and the reality through the concept of "the genesis of the producer's habitus", in which a writer takes his stand, determines his character and in turn, chooses a literary genre, which is considered as the best medium in conveying his thoughts. This habitus, derived from the actual reality, will sustain the author's creativity, since this habitus is the manifestation of the "conjunction between the author's experiences and the author's creativity" (Dhakidae, 1995, p. 90). Consecutively, the work of the author will function as a reflection of the society (p. 77).

The elements that gave birth to the Max Havelaar or the Coffee Auctions of a Dutch Trading Company for instance, are not only Multatuli's confiscation and his contemplation concerning the condition of the indigenous, or his relation with his surroundings, but also the historical circumstances where he lives in. The clear check point which explains the attachment of literary works with reality can be derived from the opinion of Pramoedya Ananta Toer (1995, ¶ 10), a famous Indonesian novelist:

That each work of literature is the autobiography of its author at a certain stage and in a certain context. Hence it is also the product of an individual and is individual in character. Presenting it to society is no different from contributing to the collectivity. Also in regard to the relations of power, and to the prevailing standard of culture, the writer's attitude as an individual is disseminated, aware of it or not. …

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