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The western world versus the Orient in Charles Dickens The mystery of Edvin Drood
2001 (English)Independent thesis Basic level (degree of Bachelor)Student thesis
Abstract [en]

The Mystery of Edwin Drood became Dickens’s last novel, and because he died after having written only half of what he had planned, no one knows for certain what happened to the young Edwin Drood, who disappeared under mysterious circumstances on a Christmas Eve. Dickens used his last novel to focus on the racial prejudices and preconceived ideas about the Orient, which prevailed during the British Empire’s days of glory. In the essay, I describe how the Western World and the Orient are presented in the novel, and how prejudices and antagonism between these opposite poles affect the novel’s course of events as well as its characters. The setting of the novel is the old and respectable town of Cloisterham, and the town and its Cathedral represent the old and secure Western World. Most of the characters are hostile towards the Orient, which most of them, in fact, know very little about. The fact that ignorance is a decisive reason for prejudices is something I look closer into in my essay, for example by describing the prejudiced characters Edwin Drood, his fiancée Miss Rosa Bud, and Mr Sapsea, who is the mayor of Cloisterham. Consequently, the only character that has visited Oriental countries, Mr Tartar, is unprejudiced. In a number of ways, the Orient has found its way into Cloisterham, both in the shape of oriental merchandise, as well as in the shape of two oriental characters, Neville Landless and his sister Helena. In the essay, I describe how Neville Landless soon becomes affected by the citizens’ prejudices, since Mr Jasper, who is Edwin Drood's uncle (and is considered to have murdered his nephew) takes advantage of people’s prejudices in order to throw the blame on Landless, when Drood eventually disappears. Quite naturally, Neville Landless and his sister both have fundamental links to the Orient due to their Oriental ancestry. In the essay, I look into in which ways also the English characters are linked to the Orient. One example is the previously mentioned Mr Tartar, who is “browner than brown faced”, but white below his shirt, and his home is filled with souvenirs from his travels to the Orient. Another example is the friendly and unprejudiced Mr Crisparkle, who lives in a typical “Western” house in the shadow of the cathedral, but his dining room closet abounds with oriental delicacies. In addition, Drood’s uncle, Mr Jasper is also linked both to the West and the Orient, since he is the leader of the Cathedral choir, but also an opium addict. To sum up, the essay investigates what happens when the Orient finds its way into an old and xenophobic Western town, as well as the ways in which the Orient has found its way into it. It also looks into the motives that lay behind the character’s attitudes towards the Orient. Furthermore, the essay describes how people’s prejudices become a tool in the hands of a (presumed) murderer, who easily convinces his fellow citizens that a young Oriental man is the one responsible for his nephew’s disappearance.

Abstract [en]

The Mystery of Edwin Drood became Dickens’s last novel, and because he died after having written only half of what he had planned, no one knows for certain what happened to the young Edwin Drood, who disappeared under mysterious circumstances on a Christmas Eve. Dickens used his last novel to focus on the racial prejudices and preconceived ideas about the Orient, which prevailed during the British Empire’s days of glory. In the essay, I describe how the Western World and the Orient are presented in the novel, and how prejudices and antagonism between these opposite poles affect the novel’s course of events as well as its characters. The setting of the novel is the old and respectable town of Cloisterham, and the town and its Cathedral represent the old and secure Western World. Most of the characters are hostile towards the Orient, which most of them, in fact, know very little about. The fact that ignorance is a decisive reason for prejudices is something I look closer into in my essay, for example by describing the prejudiced characters Edwin Drood, his fiancée Miss Rosa Bud, and Mr Sapsea, who is the mayor of Cloisterham. Consequently, the only character that has visited Oriental countries, Mr Tartar, is unprejudiced. In a number of ways, the Orient has found its way into Cloisterham, both in the shape of oriental merchandise, as well as in the shape of two oriental characters, Neville Landless and his sister Helena. In the essay, I describe how Neville Landless soon becomes affected by the citizens’ prejudices, since Mr Jasper, who is Edwin Drood's uncle (and is considered to have murdered his nephew) takes advantage of people’s prejudices in order to throw the blame on Landless, when Drood eventually disappears. Quite naturally, Neville Landless and his sister both have fundamental links to the Orient due to their Oriental ancestry. In the essay, I look into in which ways also the English characters are linked to the Orient. One example is the previously mentioned Mr Tartar, who is “browner than brown faced”, but white below his shirt, and his home is filled with souvenirs from his travels to the Orient. Another example is the friendly and unprejudiced Mr Crisparkle, who lives in a typical “Western” house in the shadow of the cathedral, but his dining room closet abounds with oriental delicacies. In addition, Drood’s uncle, Mr Jasper is also linked both to the West and the Orient, since he is the leader of the Cathedral choir, but also an opium addict. To sum up, the essay investigates what happens when the Orient finds its way into an old and xenophobic Western town, as well as the ways in which the Orient has found its way into it. It also looks into the motives that lay behind the character’s attitudes towards the Orient. Furthermore, the essay describes how people’s prejudices become a tool in the hands of a (presumed) murderer, who easily convinces his fellow citizens that a young Oriental man is the one responsible for his nephew’s disappearance.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2001. , 18 p.
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-53674Local ID: ENG C-12OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kau-53674DiVA: diva2:1102234
Subject / course
English
Available from: 2017-05-29 Created: 2017-05-29

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