The role of the English novel in perpetuating imperialism

Question: Discuss the role of the English novel in perpetuating imperialism.


The English novels which have been scrutinized by Edward Wadie Said (1935-2003) for the first time in the history of English literature have duality. He blazons that the primary purpose of novels is to learn the cultural forms pleasurably and lucratively. Second, they have played a gigantic role in the formation of sustainable imperial attitudes, references, and experiences.

 Divers role of English novels

Mr. Said alludes to the sundry role of English novels in his international essay “Introduction to Culture and Imperialism”, 1993, which are illustrated here by pointing out with sufficient references from the essay.

Exploration of strange regions

As it is known that the main battle of imperialism is over land and overlapping the land. The English novelists, side by side explorers, say about strange regions of the world and also represent the cultural habit of people of that very land so that imperialism functions well after trespassing. For this, Said has referred to the prototypical modern novel “Robinson Crusoe.” Thus, English novels are inevitable for colonial expansion and perpetuation in accordance with Edward Said.

Psychological study

No other branches of knowledge do well as narrative fiction does in discovering xenophobia. The word xenophobia refers to dislike foreigners or racial intolerance. By discussing this term, English novels inform imperialists to be conscious. Such discovery is helpful for the newly appointed inexperienced imperialists to understand natives amply. Such diverse psychological studies are found in English novels that assist imperialism to hold down. In David Copperfield (1840s) by Charles Dickens (1812-1870), that it has been shown is quoted by Said in the following way:

“A sort of free system where the lobourers could do well

on their own if allowed to do so.”

Britain’s imperial intercourse through trade and travel

The British novelists are so cunning that by writing novels they prove that presently imperialism is free from criticism and will remain free from flaw and criticism because the purpose of imperialism was not to dominate but trade and travel. For a short space of time, Said only examines two novels, “Great Expectations” by Dickens and “Nostromo” by Joseph Conrad, which are the token of colonial purification and packed with the procedures of establishing penal colony in Australia and a powerful and corrupted one in the South American Republic. Hence English novels are the advocate for the eternality of imperialism.

La mission civilisatrice or civilizing mission

The civilizing mission was inaugurated by Portugal and France in the 15th century and flourished by Great Britain. According to Edward said, Joseph Conrad is the precursor of the western views of the third world. Conrad’s novel “Nostromo” published in 1904 embodies the paternalistic arrogance of imperialism. The term paternalistic arrogance concerns the imperialists that dominate the natives as an intruder providing all kind of necessities without giving rights and it is noticed that such kind of bloody political thinking is pertinent in the third world even nowadays. He, Joseph Conrad, seems to be saying in the subtle going into of Said.

“We westerners will decide who is a good native or bad,

because all natives have sufficient existence by virtue of our recognition.”

So, the English novels have been able to understand and realize the imperialists that the other name of “la mission civilisatrice” is eternal domination and looting in a non-violent way.

Anti-imperialistic view

Now it must be a question of how the anti-imperialistic view can be an issue of expanding and eternalizing imperialism. It is very interesting to note that Mr. Said has blazoned his mastery to figure out this. In conformity with Said, Conrad’s vilifying against imperialism has better concerned the imperialists as to the following facts.

  1. Comprehension of foreign cultures.
  2. Political willingness as an alternative to imperialism etc.

That is why Said tells the world:

“To the extent that we see Conrad both criticizing

and reproducing the imperial ideology of his time”


In termination, it can be simultaneously related that if there is no English novel, there is no perpetuation of imperialism and there is no imperialism, there is no progress of English novel as Dickens is the prolific master of narrative fiction.

Click here: For all the notes of Literary Criticism

Ruhul Huda
Ruhul Huda

You can call me Mr. Huda. I am a researcher and doing this work for years. I like to learn everywhere. So, feel free to share your experience with me.

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