Book Reviews

Indian Images in the Novels of Paul Scott

;Indian Images in the Select Novels of Paul Scott by P.V. Laxmiprasad
Authorspress, New Delhi, India, ISBN: 978-93-87651-28-9 Rs 1200/ Pp 277

This critical book entitled Indian Images in the Novels of Paul Scott authored by P.V. Laxmiprasad is a literary gem in the realm of Anglo-Indian Fiction. In fact, Anglo-Indian fiction dominated the literary world produced by great masters. If India becomes a central part of Anglo-Indian fiction today, it was because of such writers who created the platform for literature. The bulk of Anglo-Indian literature took birth predominantly in fiction. P.V.Laxmiprasad, the author of this book has worked on the novels of Paul Scott who became an authority first as an Officer Cadet in British India and later as a novelist on India he had seen, observed and experienced. He brilliantly produced The Raj Quartet, a four-volume novel on India during the British raj. History becomes at once alive if India figures in Anglo- Indian literature. An image is a mental picture made out of words. Indian images dominate Scott’s novels. The Raj Quartet is a series of four volume novels on India. Paul Scott has given life to those images which contain geographical, historical, religious, and political elements.

The author, P.V. Laxmiprasad who is a scholar, has written a wonderful preface, contents and introduction. The contents include 1) Reminiscences of Quit India in Jewel in the Crown 2) Post-Quit India Movement in The Day of the Scorpion 3) Indo-British Relationship in The Towers of Silence 4) Partition and the End of the Raj in A Division of the Spoils 5) Conclusion 6) Index

P.V. Laxmiprasad has written an elaborate introduction in 70 pages taking from the beginnings of Anglo-Indian writers down to the last days of British Raj. He has touched upon various physical, emotional and emotional histories of the British raj and their rule that depicted attitude and discrimination. The beginnings include among other things the establishment of East –India Company. They made their homes in India and formed relationships with Indians. The word Anglo-Indian was applied to all the British in India but was officially adopted in 1900 to describe persons of mixed descent, then known as Eurasians. Prasad observes that Anglo-Indians has Victorian codes of conduct and followed British etiquette. The survey that he did was really mind-blowing and it went on for a few long pages. He cited the critics of the day like MK Naik for justification of his arguments. Then he proceeds to cover all those novelists who dealt with India as the corpus of literature. The year 1857 was a landmark in the history of India. The Sepoy Mutiny of the year was the first major-revolt against the British rule in India. The Mutiny had its far-reaching repercussions not only in political sphere, but also in literature. The adoption, fascination and attraction towards India had figured in Raj literature. This critical book has covered all the focal points of history that exposed the beginnings and continuation of how British Raj established their legacy for 150 years. Colonialism and imperialism were their main occupations with which they controlled the affairs in all walks of life. Laxmiprasad concludes the introduction that The Raj Quartet has painted India torn and exhausted by the most crucial fight for independence.

In the chapter “Reminiscences of Quit India Movement in Jewel in the Queen” Laxmiprasad has examined the social and political situation in India. The main thrust of the chapter focused on the important events following the Quit India Movement until the closing years of the British Raj. The title, The Jewel in the Crown, the first volume of the Quartet, carries symbolic attachment. It is taken from a portrait in which India, pictured as a sparkling gem, is offered by one of the Indian princes that prevailed until beginning of 20th century. Laxmiprasad covered the main plot of the novel that happened during the riots in Mayapore of 1942 of which the most touching is the attack on the missionary teacher Miss Edwina Crane and the rape of Daphne Manners. Laxmiprasad rightly observes that there was a clash of values and ideologies between the oriental Indians and the occidental British. The conception of Indian life in Scott marks a difference from that of writers like Kipling, EM Forster and others. The construction of Jewel in the Crown is an artful triumph. It becomes a peerless study of human relationships and conflicts. Scott has used the rape symbol as a parallel to the conquest of India.

In the next novel on The Day of the Scorpion, Laxmiprasad focused on the British presence through the reminiscences of memsahibs by presenting the images of India. Further, the novel explores India from two perspectives: continuation of events from the first novel and the arrests if Indian nationalists in the wake of Quit India Movement through individual characters like Sarah Layton and Donald Merrick. The characters successfully represent aspirations and conflicts of people. The image that when the scorpion is encircled by a ring of fire, it will sting itself to death. The British Raj invites its own destruction when threatened by the flames of Indian independence. Thus Laxmiprasad concludes that the British Empire in India was successfully dismantled.

In the third novel, The Towers of Silence, Laxmiprasad has studied the deteriorating state of the British raj during the closing years of the colonial rulers. The continuation of events is retellings from different points of view that happened in the previous novels. The main plot displays a pervading sense of sorrow, sadness, nausea, decay and desolation in The Towers of Silence --- all that indicative of gradual deteriorating state of British raj in India. The decaying garden causes great shock and grief in the minds of certain characters like Aunt Mabel which eventually brought about her death. The death of Mabel is symbolic of the death of the British Raj.

In the last novel, A Division of the Spoils, Laxmiprasad has studied the history of period and its relationship to the fictional history as portrayed in the novel. The main plot, as Laxmiprasad observes, deals exclusively with the British departure from India. Its nausea, period of conflicts and ideologies and final withdrawal was portrayed through different characters. Scott incorporated history of Indian freedom struggle. He recreated certain phases of movement and made them distinctly alive and afresh to the readers of The Raj Quartet. All the individual members of the British R find themselves in one or other absurd situation such as thwarted love, absurd marriage, loss of position and power, the consequences of madness and a longing for death. Most of them suffer and die miserably. Their deaths signify undoubtedly the death of the Raj. Overall, A Division of the Spoils depicts confrontations, conflicts, and struggles and finally the inevitable division of India into two countries on communal card. Paul Scott, as Laxmiprasad observes, recreates history by combining fiction, and this is how he has been successful as a fiction writer.

In conclusion, I hold from the reading of Laxmiprasad critical book that Paul Scott is open –minded, frank and fairly objective in his narration. The Indian images he created truly represent the character, the description and the delineation in a way they actually appear before the readers. He created a vast spectrum of images on India in his The Raj Quartet.


More by :  Dr. Arabati Pradeep Kumar

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Views: 357      Comments: 2

Comment It is wonderfully authored by P.V.Laxmiprasad. Also it is wonderfully reviewed by Dr.A.Pradeep Kumar. The review is known for reviewers' s brilliant analysis. Congratulations to both of them.

19-Aug-2023 10:24 AM

Comment Congratulations to both.

Neha Chikhale
19-Aug-2023 10:09 AM

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