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literature

Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

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Scott, Paul (1920-1978)  
 
page: 1  2  3  

One of the great features of The Raj Quartet is the sympathy that Scott generates for the dispossessed and marginalized. Edwina Crane and Barbie Batchelor are elderly spinsters who went to India as, respectively, a governess and a missionary. Their inferior social positions keep them on the outskirts of Raj society. Their honesty and humility, however, allow them to witness far more clearly than their more socially powerful compatriots the destructive effects of British rule and, thus, to anticipate the firestorm that occurs as independence approaches.

Edwina Crane's and Barbie Batchelor's combination of great heart and inferior social position both allows them a higher moral intelligence than those who govern the Raj and ensures that each will die tragically: Edwina sets herself on fire in sympathy for the death of an Indian colleague who died protecting her from a marauding mob, while Barbie goes mad as she sees, Cassandra-like, the fabric of the Raj unraveling.

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Hari Kumar's tragedy, conversely, results from his having been raised from the age of two in England and forced as an adult to return to India by the family bankruptcy that follows upon his father's death. His inability to speak Hindi or Urdu makes him suspect to the native population, while the British are offended that a brown-skinned person should speak English and behave socially as well as they. A man with neither a country nor a place in society, Hari is eventually reduced to writing under the pseudonym, Philoctetes--a hero of the Trojan War whom the Greeks at first abandoned and then whose favor they were forced to court.

If the humanity of Edwina Crane, Barbie Batchelor, and Hari Kumar derives from their marginalization by the class-conscious British society to which they nonetheless belong, the inhumanity of Ronald Merrick results from his determination to suppress all natural feeling in order to refashion himself as a member of a class to which he was not born. A racist, Merrick is enraged by Hari's superior speech and manners. And, a repressed homosexual, Merrick sadistically exploits the younger, more attractive men who report to him, and is himself brutally murdered, finally, by a servant, his current bed partner.

Merrick's blackmailing a homosexual junior officer repeats a scene that occurs in The Chinese Love Pavilion, leading biographer Hillary Spurling to conclude that Merrick is based on the officer who humiliated Scott at the outset of his military service. But Merrick incarnates as well the repressed Scott's sexual self-hatred, putting the character in a line of military officers who are sexually obsessed with, and sadistically torment, a handsome male subordinate--as in D. H. Lawrence's "The Prussian Officer" and Carson McCullers's Reflections in a Golden Eye.

"Throughout the Quartet," writes Allen Boyer, "imperialism's failure is expressed by the motif of thwarted love. . . . Imperialism could have succeeded only if based upon a radically different sensibility--one as different from the actual imperial norms as homosexuality is from the heterosexual standard." For Scott, Merrick's repression of his homosexuality mirrors the Raj's suppression of all human feeling between classes and between races, thus leading inevitably to the horrific bloodshed that followed the British withdrawal from the subcontinent in 1947.

Raymond-Jean Frontain

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    Bibliography
   

Aldrich, Robert. Colonialism and Homosexuality. London: Routledge, 2003.

Boyer, Allen D. "Love, Sex, and History in The Raj Quartet." Modern Language Quarterly 46.1 (1985): 64-80.

Gorra, Michael. After Empire: Scott, Naipaul, Rushdie. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.

Lane, Christopher. The Ruling Passion: British Colonial Allegory and the Paradox of Homosexual Desire. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1995.

Rubin, David. After the Raj: British Novels of India since 1947. Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 1986.

Spurling, Hilary. Paul Scott: A Life of the Author of The Raj Quartet. New York: Norton, 1991.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Frontain, Raymond-Jean  
    Entry Title: Scott, Paul  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2009  
    Date Last Updated March 22, 2010  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/literature/scott_paul.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2009 glbtq, Inc.  
 

 

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