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E. M. Forster, a British novelist, is most known for his work A Passage to India, which illustrates this heavy British influence of India during the turn of the century. He was born to Welsh and Irish-Anglo parents, and, sadly, lost his father at the young age of two. After inheriting a rather large sum of money, Forster was able to fulfill his dreams of becoming a writer. The following short video clip explains E. M. Forster’s experience at Cambridge and deciding to become an author: “E M Forster Talks About Writing Novels – ‘Only Connect.'” The work that we will read this week, A Passage to India, was completed by Forster after he spent some time in India, during the 1920s. Forster won quite a few awards for this work, including the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1924.
Most of us recognize George Orwell as the author of 1984 and Animal Farm. However, Orwell has written a good number of journal articles as well, detailing some of his experiences within India, where he was born in 1903. The story we are reading this week, “To Shoot and Elephant,” most likely came from Orwell’s experiences as a police officer in India. This work takes place in Burma, today part of Myanmar. However, before 1937, Burma was part of British controlled India. In this work, Orwell spoke out against British imperialism through this work. Although Orwell believed that the people of Burma should have independence, some of the wording within the story does reflect some prejudice against the Burmese.
You probably are already aware that Mahatma Gandhi (1869- 1948) was the leader of India’s Independence movement against Britain and is often referred to as the “Father of the Nation.” As we saw in Forster’s Passage to India, the tension between Indians and the British was high, and many within India did not have the same opportunities as the British who lived in India, simply because of their race. Gandhi, a lawyer and member of India’s merchant class, worked tirelessly to obtain social justice for all of India’s population, especially those who remained in India’s lower classes. He also worked to remove the stigma of being born as an “untouchable,” or those who were born into a class who performed menial labor, as in cleaners, laborers, or butchering. Most especially, though, he called for Britain to leave India in his famous speech made in 1942 entitled “Quit India.” Please listen to Gandhi’s speech below. Through Gandhi’s efforts, the population of India challenged Britain’s rule in a non-violent manner
1) Compare Forster and/or Orwell’s depiction of the English with their depiction of the Indian community. What are the authors’ views British colonialism? Does Gandhi share a similar view?
2) What sort of issues or points do Tagore, Ghosh, and/or Naidu make in the assigned literature about life in India? What sort of issues, if any, do these authors highlight?
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