From the years 1815-1914 over 14 million square miles and 450 million people were under the power of the imperial British Empire. To this day, the countries once occupied by the dominating power are struggling to regain their political independence, while simultaneously reasserting and remembering their own country’s and peoples’ identity. The independence of a country comes with more than just a new government and freedom for the people; there is political unrest, economic upset, and public turmoil as both country and people attempt to establish who and what they are. For India, independence from Britain was not the smooth transition as was hoped; the great mother country left the land in a state of war and division that the new Indian government had to face from the onset of their establishment. With upset raging from the borders of Pakistan, the government of India did not and could not provide its people with a sense of security. Coupled with ethnic and religious tensions that remained from the time of British occupation, as well as the convoluted standards of living left over from the regime, the people of India struggled to identify who they were and what their country stood for. As the British canon of literature focuses strongly on honor, civility, monarchy, and propriety, the climate within the newfound country of India reflected values that both aligned with and diverted from that of their previous law maker. The literature that is produced within a nation has the capability to shape not only readers of the time, but future generations as well. As a result, a nation’s canon must change with the times it faces. Though not all people will always agree on what should be included within such an illustrious group, texts within the canon need to be reflective of both the positive and negative attributes of a nation. For India the literature that is most reflective of their struggles will make the largest impact on their establishment of a new national self-distinction. Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children belongs within the canon of Indian literature, as both the novel and characters reflect the nation’s need to establish a new identity that not only echoes the India that once was, but also one that embraces the benefits and rejects the negatives of the influence of the Western world.
The Establishment of National Self: Combating the Influence of the Empire in Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children.
Undergraduate Review, 14, 140-146.
Available at: https://vc.bridgew.edu/undergrad_rev/vol14/iss1/21
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