The colonial identity in the Remains of the day

Topics: Colonialism, British Empire, Essentialism Pages: 9 (2059 words) Published: January 2, 2015
The colonial identity in the Remains Of The Day and In the Castle of My Skin.

While Remains of the Day and In the Castle of My Skin are presented in diametrically-opposed perspectives of colonizer and colonized respectively, an assessment of the novels would evince that the application of black-and-white dichotomies in understanding the colonial enterprise may not be effective. Despite the fact that he is English, both Stevens and the indigenous Barbadian community are subordinated within the hierarchy of imperialism. The novels are set in the twilight years of the British Empire, with the crumbling imperial apparatus allowing the reevaluation of one’s identity outside the system. This pervasive system is a double-edged sword that subverts the internal psyche of those in the Mother Country and the colonized as well. The struggle of the characters to establish viable identities while escaping from the fetters of British colonialism is hence a universal one. This essay will examine the dynamics between colonialism and identity of both colonizer and colonized, especially the impacts on the individual psyche as well as the construction of the colonial identity.

The damaged identity under the colonial system

Both novels demonstrate an intimate understanding of the damaged psyche of those involved in the colonial enterprise. After all, the conquering of the epistemological space, rather than the use of physical violence perpetuated colonialism. Internal fragmentation is experienced as the characters attempt to reconcile their individual identities and that designated by the system. Thus, the unreliability of Stevens is not merely an ethical shortcoming, but rather due to the conflict between his position as a butler serving a Nazi-sympathizer and his own moral consciousness. While Stevens’s “every instinct” opposed the dismissal of the Jewish maids, his “professional duty” enslaved him to Darlington’s “wishes” (Remains 148, 149). G’s enrollment in the High School metaphorically “transferred him into another world.” He is forced to enter the ranks of the co-opted Black middle-class despite his desire to be “a boy among the boys” (Castle 120) Thus, G existed in an ironic limbo, with both the village and High school “excluded[ing] me from their [respective] worlds” (Castle 222, 225). G’s status as a colonial subject prevented him from claiming an African heritage, while he could never stand on par with the White colonialist (Booker and Juraga, Caribbean 31).

According to existentialist principles, the characters suffer an inauthentic existence, as whatever individuality they possess has been eclipsed by their colonial personae.1Stevens’s aspirations were derived from Darlington, as his “chief satisfaction” was to have “serve[d] humanity” through serving the latter (Remains 117, 126). Thus, he was unable to denounce Darlington as it meant admitting that his life too, was a “sad waste” (Remains 201). Meanwhile, Little England had become Barbados’s primary identity, its “only source of inherited, cultural pride” (Booker and Juraga, Caribbean 28). The villagers reveled in the “honourable distinction” of affiliation to the Mother Country as they renounced their African heritage (Castle 99, 104).

The colonial rhetoric ingrained into Stevens and the Barbadians impeded the formation of sincere relationships with others, thereby psychologically isolating them. Stevens’s adherence to the imperialist rhetoric of “dignity” and domination by an elite few distances him from the locals who condemn Mr. Lindsey, the physical embodiment of precisely the same values (Remains 183, 184). His emotional “restraint” in accordance to the English character necessitated the sacrifice of relationships with Miss Kenton and his father (Remains 29). Similarly, the Barbadians had internalized the colonial demonization of the Black race. This self-loathing and sense of inferiority were then displaced onto weaker members of the community who...

Cited: Bates, Thomas R. “Gramsci and the Theory of Hegemony,” Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 36, No. 2 (Apr. - Jun., 1975), pp. 351-366.
Booker, M. Keith and Juraga, Dubravka. The Caribbean Novel in English: An Introduction. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2001.
Ishiguro, Kazuo. The remains of the day. London: Faber, 1989.
Lamming, George. In the castle of my skin; foreword by Sandra Pouchet Paquet. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1991.
Richardson, Michael. “Enough Said: Reflections on Orientalism,” Anthropology Today, Vol. 6, No. 4 (Aug., 1990), pp. 16-19.
Rinder, Irwin D. and Campbell, Donald T. “Varieties of Inauthenticity,” Phylon (1940-1956), Vol. 13, No. 4 (4th Qtr., 1952), pp. 270-275
Watson, Timothy Peter.  “The sun also sets: British culture at the ends of Empire,”  Diss. Columbia University, 1998. Dissertations & Theses: Full Text. ProQuest. 15 Apr. 2009
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