Writing under the Raj: Gender, Race, and Rape in the British Colonial Imagination, 1830-1947

By Nancy L. Paxton | Go to book overview

Conclusion A GLANCE AT RAPE IN POSTCOLONIAL FICTION

In this book, I have charted the rise and fall of the most familiar rape script in the colonial imaginary of Anglo-Indian fiction, a plot which features pure Englishwomen threatened with rape by Indian men. My objective has been to expose the primary scripts about sexuality, violence, and power that made this particular rape narrative meaningful to British and Anglo-Indian readers. In many ways, it is the postcolonial literature about India, and the criticism about it, that, in duplicating and elaborating this particular rape script, has created the illusion that rape stories were everywhere in nineteenth-century colonial texts; they were not. So it is here that I would locate our own postcolonial version of the ghost of Miss Wheeler. The graphic and brutal representation of the rapes of colonial women in John Masters's Nightrunners of Bengal, for example, tell us more about the rape scripts at work in our own time, as does the more sensitive treatment of Daphne Manners's rape by Indian hoodlums in The Jewel in the Crown. 1

Postcolonial Indian writers have another story to tell, as I would like to demonstrate with a brief summary of Manohar Malgonkar disturbing The Devil's Wind: Nana Saheb's Story. As Malgonkar's subtitle indicates, this novel asserts Nana Saheb's innocence in the most famous rape story of the Indian Uprising of 1857, the massacre of Englishwomen and children at the Bibighar in Cawnpore (Kanpur). The burden of Nana Saheb's rebuttal clearly expresses the ways that British colonial histories of the Indian Mutiny of 1857 continue to be revised to support the ideological demands of contemporary Indian nationalism. Malgonkar's narrative shows how and why postcolonial intellectuals need to "write back," revising in this case the rape scripts concerning power and violence that helped to hold the Raj in place. As Nana

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