Obligatorisk opgave 11(4-600 ord) – Engelsk B – e-learning – René Rubion

1) Write a summary of the first 100 pages of Heat and Dust (200 words).

The book has two parallel tracks: A “present-day” (1970s, actually) first-person narrator, whose name we do not learn, goes to India to unravel the family mystery of her grandmother’s sister Olivia: The wife of a British civil servant, stationed in India, who caused a local scandal in 1923 by leaving her husband and taking off with an Indian Muslim prince of a neighbouring principality. Armed with a stack of old letters that Olivia wrote to her sister, the narrator follows her track, going where she went and stayed, while herself getting absorbed and transformed by strange India. The other track of the book tells what happened in 1923 through a third-person limited narrator. Olivia and her husband, who she loves very deeply, are fairly new to the British society in India. They are both younger than the rest of their compatriots. From the beginning Olivia, who is a very beautiful and open-minded woman, has difficulties conforming to the boring life at home with her husband away for long working hours. The Prince seeks her company and friendship and has so far not really made inappropriate moves. Shortly before page 100, Olivia learns that the Prince may be involved in robbery.
2) Analyze the poem The White Man’s Burden.

The message of Kipling’s poem as clearly as bent in neon, carved in stone or cast in reinforced concrete boils down to “noblesse oblige”. It is simply your duty (as nation, as a diplomatic corps, as a teacher, as a doctor, as a soldier or whatever) to help the underdeveloped countries grow out of savagery and mature into civilized democracies. Just like it is your duty to stop kids in the schoolyard bullying one another. The White Man’s Burden was written in the good old days, before political correctness was invented and you would almost have to “respect” even cannibalism and not say anything insulting about it – provided it was rooted in culture or religion – Kipling certainly had no problem about calling a savage a savage. And while the British imperialism, judged by today’s standards, may be called exploitation, gun-boat diplomacy or outright military occupation, their motives were no less noble than a more modern world’s coalition forces’ campaign in Iraq. In fact savagery was as clearly visible in India as a sore thumb at the time. Biological, nuclear and chemical weapons of mass destruction, on the other hand, retrospectively turned out to be more elusive in Iraq. Unlike George Bush, Rudyard Kipling never expected gratitude for forcing his country’s values down the throat of another people. Neither did he hope it would be an easy task – a sting operation. He knew there would be blame to come, as well as he foresaw the need to stay in charge for a very long time to establish permanent changes and prevent the savages from relapsing into savagery.
3) Discuss which characters from Heat and Dust represent the ideology behind Kipling’s poem.

The ideology in Kipling’s poem is partly touched on by the Nawab who, with regard to the unrest in connection with the Husband’s Wedding Day, says something like “they are like little children”. Apart from him, during the discussion about suttee, the Hindu tradition of widows burning themselves on their deceased husbands’ funeral pyres (page 59), Dr. Saunders expresses a great deal of heartfelt outrage about this and various other Indian, cultural and religious savagery and barbarism. He definitely sees it as a universal plight to put and end to such things, whenever and wherever possible.

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