Other Pop-Culture representations of India

Just to revisit the idea of representation that was brought up in the beginning of the term, I thought it was noteworthy to add Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Sign of Four” to our list of representations of India.  This particular novel is set in the Andaman Islands which are located in the Bay of Bengal and contains a handfull of characters that are Indian.  Interestingly, three out of four of the “convicts” responsible for stealing a “treasure” in the Sherlock Holmes mystery are Indian.  During our class discussion, our professor asked us (the students) for our opinion as to who we saw as the most violent character in the story.  Various classmates eagerly raised their hands and explained that the answer was Tonga: the Indian accomplice to the British convict, Jonathan Smalls.  As we searched our books for examples to support this opinion, I realized that Tongo was depicted as a subservient, loyal, but violent individual who gets killed at the end in a heroic scene involving Sherlock Holmes defeating the “villain.”  This portrayal of an Indian in British mainstream literature reminded me of Gunga DIn and his desire to assist and demonstrate his loyalty to the British in any way he could.  This novel also presents the notion of invasion and violence coming to our homes and no longer being limited to the foreign, far off, exotic places that are depicted in films such as Indiana Jones.  The theme of invasion points to the anxiety that the Indian felt about the British invasion as well as the British fear of a counter-invasion which ties in nicely with the idea notion of imperialism that is prevelant in the novel.




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