In Amitav Ghosh’s novel Sea of Poppies, the theme of colonialism is vibrant and well depicted throughout the individual stories of characters within the novel itself. Taking place in India during the late 1830’s, Ghosh begins the novel by introducing a young Indian woman named Deeti. Deeti’s story illustrates the caste system in India, the role and expectation of Indian women, the importance of the poppy crop, and her exciting journey. Another character is Neel Rattan Halder, the Raja of Raskhali. Through Neel’s segments of the novel, the caste system is again evaluated and the connection between Britain, India, China and opium trade comes to light. Both character’s lives change immensely over the course of the novel, and they experience what would otherwise have been unfamiliar if they both never took the journey on the Ibis.
Deeti is of a lower caste in India and is married off to her husband at a young age. Her brother-in-law assaults her sexually on her wedding night after she was drugged via opium. Opium has become the staple product of India, and along with many other Indians, Deeti grows poppy to be sold to the English Sahibs. Deeti explains when she was younger, “things were different: poppies had been a luxury then, grown in small clusters between the fields hat bore the main winter crops- wheat, masoor dal, and vegetables.” (Ghosh, 28) However, now the English sahib’s would to homes forcing cash advances on the farmers and requiring them to sign contracts to grow poppies, which later would barely pay off the previous cash advance during resale. The British completely manipulated the Indians though their contracts. They took advantage of the existing caste system, knowing that Indians could not get ahead in class. When Deeti travels to the opium factory where his husband worked, ”the smell was not of spices and oil, but of liquid opium, mixed with the dull stench of sweat.” (Ghosh, 92) A product that had once been an extravagance had become the main...
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