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Explain how a post-colonial analysis of any text on this module can illuminate the way in which that text encodes the politics of the race.

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Introduction

Explain how a post-colonial analysis of any text on this module can illuminate the way in which that text encodes the politics of the race. The role of Postcolonial criticism is to question and 'undermine universalist claims that great literature has a timeless and universal significance which disregards political, social, cultural and national differences thus judging literature by a single universal standard'. (Beginning Theory: Peter Barry). It is interested in European narration of non-Europeans and of the relation of Europe to non-Europeans. '...it should not be possible, in principle, to read nineteenth-century British literature without remembering that imperialism, understood as England's social mission, was a crucial part of the cultural representation of England to the English. The role of literature in the production of cultural representation should not be ignored'. (Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Critique of post-colonial reason; toward a history of the vanishing present, 1999, p113). A post-colonial analysis of the text of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte will show how the text encodes the politics of race, which contribute to the plot as well as to the imagery of the novel. Bertha Mason, Rochester's wife is a White Jamaican Creole, a representation of imperialism. Despite being European she is not looked upon as such but more as one of the indigenous Caribbean population, a 'mixed race'. ...read more.

Middle

This re-enforces the shame Rochester feels towards her background and of her status as his wife, a non-European from a savage and uncivilized colony. As Bertha is kept Margaret Fernandes -3- isolated in her rooms, Thornfield becomes her 'colony' and she is only able to prowl through its rooms at night. She sees her herself as mistress of the house and her appearance in Jane's bedroom can be construed as a warning of the fate that can befall the colonized victim once they are no longer of use. India too, is also central to the narrative of Jane Eyre. St John Rivers, a clergyman, is an embodiment of Britain's social mission representing justness and holiness. He sees his mission to India as his 'vocation' and 'great work', which displays a superior attitude, although well meaning, to non-European beliefs and culture. He looks to 'bettering their race', which portrays a presumption of the colonizer's arrogance and prejudice and shows his indifference to the people as individuals. His mission 'of substituting peace for war - freedom for bondage - religion for superstition' likens India to a corrupt, sacrilegious and sinful place. He sees himself as a liberator. His journey to India proves fatal to his health and his death is seen as a sort of martyrdom. ...read more.

Conclusion

A comparison can be made with his behavior towards his wife Bertha, a Creole. There is secrecy in the way he hides Bertha at Thornfield and there is a reluctance to claim Adele as his daughter as he conveniently sees 'no proofs' that this is the case. Both these females are treated with prejudice. As he tells Jane a 'mistress' and a 'slave' are both by 'nature' and 'position' inferior reinforcing his superiority and disdain towards different cultures. His description of Paris as with Jamaica is derogatory, implying lose morals while England is viewed as 'wholesome' i.e. upright and decent. Rochester ensures that Adele is indoctrinated into British culture by employing an Margaret Fernandes -6- English governess, Jane, which further enforces England's social mission and shows a disregard towards Adele's French background. The text of Jane Eyre was chosen for post-colonial criticism because its is set in a period when the English began traveling widely across the world to non-European countries and indoctrinating them with their culture and beliefs through colonization. The text contains many hidden allusions to imperialism, which encodes the politics of the race. On first reading the text such a critical approach was not at first obvious. Closer observation of the text, together with an understanding of the theory of post-colonial criticism has created depth and insight of the way language and imagery is used to reflect European attitudes towards non-Europeans. ...read more.

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