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Methwold the Representation of English colonization in Midnight’s Children

Updated on August 5, 2015

Representation of English colonization in Midnight’s Children

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdi is a mystical realistic literature and every characters of the novel plays more or less a mystical realistic role. The narrator, Saleem Sinai, starts the novel with his birth like a story teller. After telling his birth, he goes in his grandparent’s lives as he is connected with his grandparents before seeing the light of earth. Again, in the middle of the novel it is disclosed that Saleem Sinai does not have any blood relation with those grandparents and parents that he explained in details in Midnight’s Children. This idea relates with one belief of Indian philosophy that ‘Sole never dies nor destroy, they just exchange body’. Moreover, it is seen in Indian ancient manuscript (for example, Veda or Upanishad) that the guru (the master) talking or arguing with his wife or shissho (the student) about philosophy resembles guru is telling story to them. India is the topic of Midnight’s Children and thus this writing pattern closely conveys the emotion of India. Salman Rushdi introduces many characters in his Midnight’s Children to relate with them the Indian history during British colonialism and after British colonialism. One of the main characters of the novel is William Methwold, an English colonial sovereign. The aim of my paper is introducing and interpreting William Methwold and their relationship with other characters of the novel and Indian history.

Rushdi starts the ‘Methwold’ section with the ‘fisherman’ and ‘Mumbadevi’ of ancient Mumbai and then how the name of the place became ‘Bom Bahia’ and then a vision of William Methwold and then ‘British Bombay’ to introduce the vision of British colonialism in India, “One day in 1633, an East Indian Company Officer named Methwold saw a vision. This vision- a dream of a British Bombay, fortified India’s West against all comers- was a nation of such force that it set time in motion.” (102) In history, East India Company was established by the English in the year 1600 for trade network and British colonialism in India had started from 1757 after the Battle of Plassey. After that, they gradually came to Mumbay and other parts of India. This quote of Methwold from Midnight’s Children shows how clever planer English are and how much dedication they have for plan to be real! Methold saw a vision about Bombay more that 157 years before of colonization and then “in 1660, Charles II of England was betrothed to Catharine of the Portuguese House of Braganza- that same Catharine who would, all her life, pay second fiddle to orange selling Nell. But she has his consolation- that it was her marriage dowry which brought Methwold’s vision a step closer to reality… A fort, and afterwards a city, took their land; pile- drovers stole (tetrapods would steal) pieces of their sea.” (102) This description has a great linked with English vision and plan to introduce British colonialism in India. The English came India, ruled India, changed India and then they left India… with pushing their established pride into Indian mind to lead them after the colonization and Methwild character is a great representation of the performance and action of British colonial.

Then another Methwold was introduced at page 104 when narrator’s family came to buy their house in Breach Candy, Bombay on 19th June, 1947 to see two words “FOR SALE” infront of Methwold state. Then the narrator explains Methwold’s estate’s short description with third person perspective that shows how English decorated India in their colonial period in a third person perspective. For example, “Methwold’s Estate: four identical houses built in a style befitting their original residents (conqueror’ houses! Roman mansions; three storey homes of gods standing on a two-story Olympus, a stunted Kailasa!) … their owner, William Methwold, had named majestically after the palaces of Europe: Versailles, Villa, Buckingham Villa, Escorial Villa and Sans Souci.” (104) This quotation explains that English decorated India with their own Europian way; they never tried to mix themselves with Indian philosophy, Indian architectures and overall Indian anthropology.

After the third person perspective view of the Indian colonization period, the narrator provides descriptions about Mathwold’s stature that illustrates who are the main ruler of India, from where their blood flows, the psychology and physique of the English ruler during the British colonization. For example, “… a six-foot Titan, this Methwold, his face the pink of roses and eternal youth. He had a head of thick black brilliantined hair… Methwold hair, parted in the middle… It was one of those hairlines along which history and sexuality moved. Like tightrope-walkers.” (105) The explanation indicates that their height, their youth, their hair are closely related with history and sexuality and in that way they walked into Indian mind and body. In this quotation the narrator gave a hint about his connection with this Englishman Methwold then the narrator and Methwold relation is explained with Vanita, the musician’s wife.

In page 113, Methwold’s embarrassment and guilty is showed for Vanita’s pregnancy. Vanita is Willie Winkie’s wife and they sing in Methwold Estate. One day, they came to sing in Methwold Estate and Methwold asked Willie Winkie to bring medicine for his headache. During this time Methwold has sexual interaction with Vanita and another midnight’s children’s story has been started with Vanita’s pregnancy. Willie Winkie is singing to say, “You’ve heard about the prize, ladies? Me, too. My Vanita will have her time soon, soon-soon; maybe she and not you will have her picture in the paper! ... this Winkie, because he’s pouring oil on the waters now, saying, ‘A birth is fine thing; two births are two fine! Too fine madam, joke, you see?” infront of Sinai family and Methwold about Vanita’s pregnancy embarrass Methwold. This part explains how English explore and spread themselves their mind and their body though they never lose their pride. They spread themselves like a part of your body that you will hate but can’t avoid.

English never exchange anything without any condition. When Methwold sell his Methwold Estate to Sinai family he also gave two conditions. “Lock, stock and barrel … Those are my terms. A whim, Mr. Sinai … you’ll permit a departing colonial his little game? We don’t have much left to do, we British except to play our game.”(105) this quote states that British always plays plan but the situation is not under British now so playing game is the last option what only they can do during the partition but they don’t avoid their very last option. Before going Methwold plays game, the last thing what they can only do that time.

Methwold thinks that English did many things for India and the partition makes everything in puzzle and that will express the perspective of English person about what they did for India in this novel. Again I explained before that Methwold is the representor of English colonial and they thing they not only did the bad things for India but also they did many good for them. He said in page 105, “…built your road, Schools, railway trains, parliamentary system, all worthwhile things. Taz Mahal was falling down until an Englishman bothered to see to it.” This quote shows that those roads, schools, railway train built for Indians but they don’t agree that they built those for transmitting the goods to Britain that cultivated in India. The system of education makes Indian servant under the British officer. Those are his inner meaning of disadvantage of their colonization. Though Englishman built many things and changed everything of India but they make their nation perfect. In page 107 Methwold said that, “My notion… is to stage my own transfer of asset.” And at last, the Independence makes a fanny thing for him. Therefore, colonization is a kind of game as Englishman’s point of view and this game have advantages and disadvantages.

In this novel, Salman Rushdi explains different perspective about colonization and after colonization by explaining the Methwold Estate differently. For example, Ahmed Sinai cries when he see Scotch, “‘Mr. Methwold is a little electric, that’s all – can we not humor him? With our ancient civilization, can we not as civilized as he?’… and he drain his glasses at one go. Advantages and disadvantages” (109) Here the narrator explains about the people and environment beside the Methwold state and how this environment influence a new born generation of India. Then the narrator explains the furniture of the Methwold house that shows how Indian people’s point of view about new India what English people built. And at last, in page 125, narrator explains the finishing part of Methwold, “Eight hours to go . . . at four o’clock that afternoon, William Methwold drives up the two-storey hillock in his black 1945 Rover.”

The character, William Methwold is one of the main characters of Midnight’s Children who represents the British colonization in this novel. Every character of this novel plays a historical background of colonization and the partition of India, Pakistan and then the partition of East Pakistan and West Pakistan. The character Methwold expose 200 years of colonial period in India in Midnight’s Children.


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