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Reading the “Overland Mail”

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Presentation on theme: "Reading the “Overland Mail”"— Presentation transcript:

1 Reading the “Overland Mail”

2 Reading through Said’s Orientalism
Inhospitable Indian landscape Robbers Tigers Jungles Torrents Tempests Darkness

3 “The Overland Mail” -- Said
Three observations: 1. Where is everyone? Kipling has virtually emptied India of Indians. 2. India is wild and out of control, uncivilized, savage, dark, menacing, dangerous, until the messenger reaches the British settlement, where there is light and civilization. 3. Landscape rises from the railroad to the hill top. The British have ascended, ended up at the top of the heap, with all of India at their feet. We’ve got West = light, above, civilized We’ve got East = dark, below, wild or savage

4 “The Overland Mail” -- Bhaba
The Robber The robber is one of the dangers of the landscape, but he is also (probably) Indian. He represents the dissenting, resisting native. He challenges empire by threatening to disrupt its flow. The Runner Is the obedient servant of empire. How do we read the opposition of these two positions?

5 “The Overland Mail” -- Bhabha
Is Kipling sympathetic to the runner? Does he think of the runner as a “good guy?” What are some other possible reading of the runner? Why does the runner have no name? He is only significant to the British as the one who delivers the mail – therefore he is “named” the runner. He is under the domination of the British – he “must” ford the river, climb the cliff, bear without fail. He is forbidden to complain – there must be no “if” or “but”. He is fated to serve until death “while the breath is in his mouth, he must bear with out fail.” The language of Kipling’s poem foregrounds his servitude, his subservient position.

6 “The Overland Mail” -- Bhabha
In these terms, then, the poem is about the oppressive nature of colonialism. When he declares at the end of the poem, “In the Name of the Empress, the Overland Mail!” We can read this as a sign of his total intellectual colonization, and/or we can read it as an ironic comment on the way empire rewrites or takes over the native’s psyche. Does he really believe what he says? Is he mimicking the colonizer? How would you say it if you were the colonized?

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