Analysis of Ideology of Domesticity in Charlotte Mary Yonge’s The Daisy Chain; Or, Aspirations: A Family Chronicle and Frances Wright Collins’ The Slayer Slain
Vishnu Priya T. P.
Vishnu Priya T. P. is currently a Ph.D scholar at the Department of English, University of Hyderabad. Her research interests include Colonial Modernity, Genre studies, Literary History, Gender Studies, and Caste. She is interested in the transnational history of Gender and how Victorian Gender ideology gets appropriated/ contested in colonial Kerala.
This paper offers a comparative reading of two mid-Victorian Pastoral novels, Charlotte Mary Yonge’s The Daisy Chain; Or, Aspirations: A Family Chronicle and Frances Wright Collins’ The Slayer Slain. The first was written in Otterbourne, Hampshire, England, and, the second was written in Kottayam, Kerala, India. Reading them together offers an opportunity to trace the co-evolution of the Protestant pedagogy on gender in metropole and colony. As seen in the novels, the domestic space acts as a site of promise and confession for various characters in various crises. The pedagogic agenda of both novelists is to demonstrate how the central characters became the heroines by being the ‘useful’ pastoral figures for home initially and gradually extending their ‘influence’ outside home.
Keywords: Domestic Fiction, Caste, Gender, Colonial Kerala, Victorian Gender Ideology.
This article offers a comparative reading of two mid-Victorian Pastoral novels, Charlotte Mary Yonge’s The Daisy Chain, Or, Aspirations: A Family Chronicle1 and Frances Wright Collins’ The Slayer Slain.2 The first was written in Otterbourne, Hampshire, England, and, the second was written in Kottayam, Kerala, India. Reading them together offers an opportunity to trace the co-evolution of the Protestant pedagogy on gender in the metropole and the colony. The article argues that the domestic space in these novels acts as a site of confession and comfort for various characters facing moral crises. The characters reveal their inner selves and receive solace from the women who preside over the domestic space. The pedagogic agenda of both novelists is to demonstrate how the central characters became the heroines by being the ‘useful pastoral figures’ for their home to begin with, and gradually by extending their ‘influence’ outside the home.
The Daisy Chain, Or, Aspirations: A Family Chronicle
Written with the Oxford Movement in the background, The Daisy Chain portrays the story of the members of the May family. In the beginning of the novel, the mother dies in a tragic accident, and the eldest daughter Margaret is disabled. Dr May, the head of the family, who was driving the cart, suffers from an arm injury. The death of the mother, who was the sweet presiding power in the family, affects the family members deeply. The eldest son Richard returns home after the incident to help his father. Other children, Flora, Ethel, Norman, Harry, Aubrey, and the baby Getrude try to cope with the new situation. The novel mainly traces the transformation of Etheldred from a bookish girl to a philanthropist. Her energy and restlessness, which are deemed undesirable in a girl, are eventually turned towards good use. She devotes her youthful energies towards building a Church at Cocksmoor. By taking care of the Cocksmoor project, she learns to control herself and learns the domestic lessons of self-denial. Building the church serves her an opportunity to get outside of her home, and work. However, she eventually learns the lesson of self-denial and gradually becomes her father’s favourite companion in the domestic space. She sacrifices her Classical studies to devote herself more to the project. She also tries to behave like how a daughter or sister is expected to behave in order to prove that she is capable of devoting herself to the Cocksmoor project. The novel does not depict so-called significant incidents such as war, rather the minor incidents and situations that happen at home. These everyday events are presented as of great significance. In this space unfolds the family life, the locus of human emotions. The family belongs to that private part of human life where the emotions are invested. For the sisters, emotionally supporting a brother is as important as going for war and becoming a hero. The ideology of the novel seeks to elevate the domestic role of women to the same level as the heroic ideals of warfare.
The preface to The Daisy Chain offers an opportunity to study the project of moral pedagogy that Yonge aims at. It reflects on the form of the novel, the manner of its publication and the purpose it seeks to accomplish. It is worth quoting the preface at length.
No one can be more sensible than is the Author that present is an overgrown book of a nondescript class, neither the “tale” for the young, nor the novel for their elders, but a mixture of both.
Begun as a series of conversational sketches, the story outran both the original intention and the limits of the periodical in which it was commenced; and, such as it has become, it is here presented to those who have already made acquaintance with the May family, and may be willing to see more of them. It would beg to be considered merely as what it calls itself, a Family Chronicle- a domestic record of home events, large and small, during those years of early life when the character is chiefly formed, and as an endeavor to trace the effects of those aspirations which are part of every youthful nature. That the young should take one hint, to think whether their hopes and upward- breathings are truly upwards, and founded in lowliness, may be called the moral of the tale.
For those who may deem the story too long and the characters too numerous, the Author can only beg their pardon for any tedium that they may have undergone before giving it up. (Yonge 3- 4)
In the preface, Yonge mentions that the novel began as conversational sketches in a periodical. The periodical she mentions is The Monthly Packet of Evening Readings for Younger Members of the English Church. It was published from 1851 to 1899. Yonge herself was the editor of this periodical from 1851 to 1899. She first serialised her novel The Daisy Chain in the magazine. However, as mentioned in the preface, her novel outgrew the original intention and the limitation of the periodical form. She went on to publish the novel in the book form in 1856. Publishing in a book form offers the author an opportunity to expand the story and circulate it among a larger audience.
As argued in the preface, Yonge differentiates her work from both the tale and the novel. She also argues her work exhibits features of both the forms. Peter Brooks, in his essay “The Tale vs. The Novel” studies the differences and correlations between the tale and novel forms.3 According to Brooks, a tale is more related to oral traditions. He points out that, “familial and communitarian circles fostered the telling of tales” (285). Here, the reception of the story is more important than the message itself. The listener himself or herself becomes part of the tale-telling circle as he or she becomes instrumental in propagating the tale further, while also contributing to the tale. The novel is much more dependent on the industrial process of printing and distribution (Brooks 285). Brooks argues that “the novel is complicit with ‘information’” (287), implying that everything is explained and analysed in the novel unlike “Storytelling [which] does without explanation and without psychological analysis” (287). Another important feature that Brooks points out is how the novel deals with the meaning of life (Brooks 289). It implies the search of the hero or heroine for his or her purpose in life and attributing a meaning to the events in their life. The protagonists in the novel tend to be seekers or usually in a quest for something which provides this ‘meaning’.
A few examples of the tales and novels that were in circulation during the long nineteenth century gives us a sense of how Yonge attempts to distinguish her work. Oriental tales were a much popular genre during the second half of the eighteenth century and the early decades of the nineteenth century. One feature which unites these tales is that in their different ways they emphasise the vanity of human wishes. They highlight the ephemeral nature of the human world. Samuel Johnson’s History of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia was published in 1759. Rasselas explores and exposes the vanity of the human search of happiness. He meets the men of varied occupations and interests and explores their manner of life. Frances Sheridan’s The History of Nourjahad was published in 1767. This is a moral tale where Nourjahad is taught the vanity of his desires. William Jones wrote The Palace of Fortune, An Indian Tale in 1769. The tale concerns an Indian girl (Maia) who witnesses a series of visions which reveal the vanity of human wishes. In 1785 Clara Reeve wrote The History of Charoba, Queen of Egypt. In the preface, she claims that the story was extracted from a book called The History of Ancient Egypt. The tale portrays the conflicts between Charoba and the invading commander King Gebrius. William Beckford’s Vathek: An Arabian Tale was published in 1786. This is about Vathek, ninth Caliph who is tempted by a supernatural being. The supernatural being promises him the treasures of the world provided that he renounced Islam and commit crimes. In the end, Vathek is condemned to eternal damnation and expulsion to the netherworld. Thomas Moore’s Lalla Rookh (1817) consists of four tales told by young Cashmerian poet named Feramorz employed to entertain the Indian princess Lalla Rookh. These tales are characterised by exotic settings, and the audience constituted the Romantic circles who were fond of exotica.
It can be argued that the most popular genre of novels in the mid-nineteenth century was the ‘Condition of England novels’. They dealt with the social issues during and after the period of Hungry Forties. A feature that unites these novels is their realist engagement with social problems and class relations in mid-Victorian England. One of the novels was Benjamin Disraeli’s Sybil, or The Two Nations (1845). This novel showcases the darker sides of industrialisation. It shows how prosperity was experienced by the few. The title of the novel indicates how England had become two nations, the nation of the rich and the other of the poor. Elizabeth Gaskell’s published Mary Barton in 1848. Mary Barton is from a low-income family who is attracted to superficial things. Later she evolves towards a mature understanding about the relationship between the masters and workers. Another industrial novel by Gaskell was North and South (1855). North and South also deals with the struggles of working-class men and the conflicts between the mill owners and the workers. Margaret Hale is the heroine of the novel. This novel portrays the contrasts between the pastoral south and the industrial north. Dickens published Hard Times in 1854. The story is set in the fictional town of Coketown based partly on Preston. The novel describes the pathetic life in factory towns and the over-emphasis of the philosophy of rational self-interest and the mechanising effects of industrialisation.
For Yonge, her work includes features of both the genres. In the preface, Yonge defines her work as the Family Chronicle. Pedagogic agenda and the domestic setting with a familial/ communitarian circle are the tale like qualities of this work. Tales have an other wordly feel to it. They underscore the ephemeralness of the real world. Human wishes are revealed to be flawed. Yonge also focuses on not entertaining with vain wishes. But her work also exhibits qualities of a novel because it explains every situation and seeks to find meaning and purpose to the main character’s life. Her work is also part of the printing and distribution industry, which is another quality of novel. But it is also different from the novels of Hungry Forties because those novels dealt with subject matters which were less topical and dealt with serious social issues like poverty and industrialisation. Thus Yonge’s work combines the features of both tale and novel.
Yonge also differentiates the genres in terms of the audience they are meant for. The author states that the novel is neither for the young nor for the elders but a mixture of both, that is for the young adults. It is profitable to read the preface of the novel The Daisy Chain in comparison with the editorial of the first issue of the periodical Monthly Packet.4 The editorial will help us better understand the nature of the audience for which Yonge wrote:
If the pretty old terms “maidens” and “damsels” had not gone out of fashion, I should address this letter by that name to the readers for whom this little book is in the first place intended—young girls, or maidens, or young ladies, whichever you like to be called, who are above the age of childhood, and who are either looking back on schooldays with regret, or else pursuing the most important part of education, namely, self-education.
‘It has been said that everyone forms their own character between the ages of fifteen and five-and-twenty, and this magazine is meant to be in some degree a help to those who are thus forming it; not as a guide, since that is the part of deeper and graver books, but as a companion in times of recreation, which may help you to perceive how to bring your religious principles to bear upon your daily life, may show you the examples, both good and evil, of historical persons, and may tell you of the workings of God’s providence both here and in other lands. (Romanes 45- 46)
Though this letter has been chiefly addressed to young girls, it is not intended that the pages of this magazine should be exclusively for them. It is purposed to make it such as may be pleasant reading for boys of the same age, especially schoolteachers ; and it is hoped that it may be found useful to young readers, either of the drawing room, the servants’ hall, or the lending library. (47)
The editor is clear in her authorial intention. She intends the periodical to be read first and foremost by a particular group of people; young girls between the age of fifteen and twenty- five. She means to target this group because this group aims at self-education. By self-education Yonge intends two things. Firstly it is meant to be a companion in times of recreation and secondly to incorporate religious principles into daily life. So the key terms in Yong’s scheme of pedagogy are religious principles, everyday life and examples of good conduct. The periodical also has a secondary audience. This group includes the formal instructors of Sunday Schools, visitors, servants and borrowers of a lending library. This novel is targeted at people who are in their stage of life who can transform or with the scope of becoming mature. To this purpose, the novelist pays attention to the aspirations of young adults who can be instrumental in shaping the character of the younger ones as well.
Ideology of Domesticity and Mid-Victorian Debates about Gender
The section will offer a brief reading of the ideology of domesticity that is constructed in this metropolitan pastoral novel. This novel of pastoral will be situated in the larger context of the mid-Victorian debates about gender. These debates unfolded on a wide variety of registers. The domestic woman was one among the registers. Authors such as Sarah Stickney Ellis, Sarah Lewis, Isabella Beeton and Eliza Lynn Linton were major architects of this mid-Victorian ideology of domesticity. These authors produced a voluminous body of writings which had a significant presence in the literary market of the time. Such writings included The Women of England (1839), Woman’s Mission (1839), The Book of Household Management (1861) and “The Girl of the Period” (1868).5 Along with these kinds of narratives which can be broadly categorised as ‘conduct narratives’ there was a range of mainstream novels which engaged with the domestic ideology and the woman question in mid victorian England. These novels spoke to both women and men about how an ideal woman should be. Even though the domestic handbooks like The Women of England, Their Social Duties, and Domestic Habits by Sarah Stickney Ellis dealt with what they termed as the “insignificant detail of familiar and ordinary life (1)”, they had a significant impact in the socio-political structure of England. These works were instrumental in the ascendancy of the ‘middle class’ to a powerful social status. These books portrayed aristocratic women as superficial and incapable of being ideal companions for men, thereby giving more value to the psychological depth of women rather than beauty, rank, or wealth. The novel The Daisy Chain can be read in this historical context where there were competing discourses on how a woman should conduct herself.
A short review of the scholarship available in the field is in order. Armstrong and Poovey have provided enduring intellectual frameworks to study the formation of the domestic ideology. These frameworks usually cover the eighteenth and nineteenth century. One of the most rewarding works on the question of the domestic woman is the book titled Desire and Domestic Fiction: A Political History of the Novel by Nancy Armstrong. In this work, she argues that the rise of the domestic woman is a major event in political history. The category of domestic woman, though it seemed independent of the political domain, had a significant impact in the political history of England. A considerable amount of literature on domestic woman represented the value of the woman in terms of the essential qualities of mind. Consequentially she became the “first example of modern psychology” (11). She was also the “guardian and guarantor of private life” (11) and exercised the power of domestic surveillance. Writings about the domestic woman contested the dominant notion of sexuality where the desirability of the woman depended on her fortune and class status. Thus the middle-class woman began to represent the ideal family encompassing the virtues of companionate marriage. The power that conduct books and novels attributed to this new category of woman aided the ascendancy of the middle class in the Victorian social structure. Thus the origin of the novel cannot be differentiated from the rise of the middle class and the birth of the first modern individual.6
Also, the history of the novel cannot be differentiated from the history of sexuality. This trend set by conduct books and fiction were followed by disciplines like sociology, political economy and natural history. Thus the domestic novel antedated the way of life it represented. Thus Armstrong also demonstrates how modern culture depends on a form of power that works through language. She builds this argument based on some of the ideas from Foucault’s History of Sexuality.7 In this work Foucault refutes the “repressive hypothesis”, an idea which claims that sexuality in the Victorian era was repressed. On the contrary, he claims that there was a proliferation of discourse on sexuality in Victorian England. Taking a cue from this, Armstrong makes three interrelated arguments such as: “sexuality is a cultural construct and as such has a history; second, that written representations of the self, allowed the modern individual to become an economic and psychological reality; and third that the modern individual was first and foremost a woman” (8) . These arguments form the starting point of my interrogation of the dynamics of gender ideology in colonial South India. By comparing the two novels, one written in colonial Kerala and other in the Metropolitan, I intend to pay attention to how history of sexuality and missionary novels are interwoven in colonial Kerala.
Mary Poovey in her work, Uneven Developments: The Ideological Work of Gender in Mid-Victorian England argues that middle-class ideology associated with the Victorian period was both contested and always under construction. The Victorian gender ideology rested on the binary opposition between men and women. Both sexes were considered to be different at an ontological level and to inhabit separate spheres, i.e. the public and the private. However, this ideological formulation was uneven as it was experienced differently by individuals and was articulated differently by different institutions (3). Poovey gives examples from medical, legal, moral, and literary fields of Victorian England to demonstrate how this ideological formulation happened unevenly. By pointing out these facts, Poovey also shows us the self-contradictions of contemporary feminist theory which does not pay attention to the uneven ideological formulation of gender. Thereby she challenges the importance of the category of ‘woman’ itself and attempts to write a history of this category.
The domestic woman remained ascendant till the 1860s in Victorian England. But many women earned their living working in factories, as seamstresses, farm labourers and even as sex workers, so, categorising all women naturally as “angel in the house” is a glaring misconception. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, a new discourse on women emerged. This new category of woman was called the ‘New Woman’. This term was coined by the writer and public speaker Sarah Grand in 1894. Some of the popular New Woman novelists were Sarah Grand, Olive Schreiner and Mona Caird. These women were considered to be intelligent, educated, emancipated, independent and self-supporting and were in competition with the ideology of domestic woman. There were also widespread attacks on the figure of ‘New Woman’ including claims that she was a “threat to the human race” and probably an “infanticidal” mother who has an “abnormal” sexuality (Ledger 10). She became an object of ridicule in the press and popular fiction. The Punch magazine caricatured her riding a bicycle in bloomers and smoking cigarettes. These discourses were unstable and further incited other discourses on how a woman should be. Contemporary feminists see the new woman movement crucial for the Suffragist movement. But that also meant some of the critics viewed Yonge as an anti-feminist because of the way her ideology differed from the ideology of the new woman.
The Reform of Etheldred
The evangelical novel worked with the concept of reformation. The basic plot narrated the story of a character who is errant to begin with but learns in the course of the story to conform to the ideal of evangelical domesticity. Central to the plot are many features such as the moment of reformation: when the character comes to learn the necessity to reform her, the pastoral figures that guide in her reformation, and she becoming an exemplar for the other characters. Thus the plot necessarily has a pedagogical function. Through the reformation of the central character, it sets up an exemplar for the evangelical audience to relate to and find comfort in. As the plot contains these exemplars, it is called a pastoral novel. The concept of ‘reform’ has an interesting history in the metropolitan. The transformation of Ethel and the pedagogical function of this plot becomes more apparent if we situate this in the broader context of ‘reform’ and what the concept of ‘reform’ signified in the metropolitan at that time.
Joanna Innes, in her essay “‘Reform’ in English Public life: the fortunes of a word”, argues that reform was a chief alternative to revolution (88). The word reform had a particular history in Britain associated with the constitutional reforms. However, she argues that after the 1830s, reform passed into more general currency. When the French revolution brought some discredit to the term reform, some people like Burke tried to legitimise the use of ‘reform’. Innes points out that Burke tried to distinguish reform from what happened in France by suggesting that reform “denoted pragmatic, limited improvement: the correction, by minor adjustment, of faults that stood clearly revealed” (88). Since this suggests minor improvement rather than something radical, it is no longer dangerous. Thus ‘reform’ in the metropolitan emerged as an alternative to revolution.
Ethel’s reform stands in contrast to revolution because it is not “speculative”, the word used to describe Ethel initially (Yonge 143). Her reform happens through “conduct” which is not radical and is not a revolution either. It is moderate but intents the correction of the faults. As Innes points out, the concept of reform emerged as an alternative to revolution. Reform is not a radical and overnight change, but rather a change that unfolds over a period of time. If revolution is associated with term speculation, reform is associated with pragmatism, correction and minor adjustment with an awareness of all that was wrong. Ethel is described as someone with “harum- scarum nature, quick temper, uncouth manners, and heedlessness of all but one absorbing object, have kept her back, and caused her much discomfort” (50). All these terms can be associated with the idea of revolution. The faults of Ethel become more evident with the tragedy that happens in the May family, which is the death of the mother in the accident. Her elder sister is left crippled, which leaves a vacancy for someone in full health to occupy the position held by the mother. However, Ethel with all her speculations and blindness is not equipped to play her role. She is described as “impetuous”8 in the beginning of the novel. According to the governess of May family, Ethel had “a hurried, careless way of doing everything, and an irritability at being interfered with” (167). The governess thought that she would grow up “odd, eccentric, and blue” (169). Ethel’s elder sister Margaret thinks that “it is good for her not to spend her high soul in dreams” (86) and that “there seems to be so much a spirit of energy in her, that if she does not act she will either speculate and theorise” (143). This “theorising” and “speculation” in Ethel are considered very unwomanly traits, and she is reprimanded for not being useful. She is also described as very “noble” and “high”, but her sister thinks that her “high purposeness” should not run into eccentricities and unfeminineness.9
Her older siblings Margaret and Richard, carefully guide her and act as the pastoral figures. They help her to find the balance she needs in her life to handle the Cocksmoor project and her family duties in such a way that Cocksmoor becomes an extension of her domestic duties but not her ambition. Ethel becomes the model to other characters later in the novel. Though Ethel has to let go of her Greek learning, she wields another kind of power towards the end of the novel, which is the power of the moralising agent. The power of authority figure and confession is critical in the novel. Throughout the novel, the characters confess to the authority figure and go through supervision. The character formation happens under this supervision, which pays attention to the minute happenings of everyday life. Though in the beginning she gets into much trouble and is reprimanded by others, towards the end of the novel Trial, she is the one admired by all including Flora. The Christian femininity highlighted in the novel values self-sacrifice rather than Flora’s ambitions even if it is with her husband’s success. Compared to Ethel, Flora May is considered ladylike, but her ambitions were not founded on lowliness. Her failure to uphold these values is indicated by the death of her daughter in The Trial. In the end, the authorial approval is for Ethel and not Flora May who is considered ladylike. Being a ‘visionary’ and ‘domestic woman’ seems like irreconcilable categories. After all, many writers complained about the limitations of the domestic role. A visionary is a person who can imagine how a country, society, industry, and so forth develop in the future and to plan suitably. But Ethel by extending her domestic role outside the home is able to perform the role of a visionary as well.
The Colonial Kerala
The Protestant missionary activities of the Church Missionary Society and London Missionary Society aimed at the conversion of the untouchables and the Syrian Christians. Often European Christians held positions of authority over the native Christians claiming their belief is closer to the ‘truth’.10 In Asiatic Researches, Buchanan describes his meeting with the Metran of the Jacoba ( Syrian) branch of Thomas Christians of Malabar and terms them as Hindus (Frykenberg 245). These Syrian Christians had a proud tradition which they traced back to the Apostle Thomas and his arrival at the island of Malankara in AD 52. Their ritual purity and rank within caste structures was beyond dispute. They even wore tonsures like the Nayars and Brahmins strictly observing the rules of “thottukudayma”.11 Their lineages claimed direct descent from Brahman converts of Apostle. When the first permanent British political residents came to represent the East India Company’s interests in Travancore and Cochin, it was the time of Ecclesiastical struggles between Orthodox West Syrians and Roman Catholic and Nestorian branches of East Syrian episcopacy (Frykenberg 245). In 1811, after Munroe was made Diwan, circumstances for Christians and missionaries began to improve. However, after his retirement in 1820, conflicts started between Brahmans and Christians and then between Anglican missionaries and the Syrian Christians. In 1836, Bishop Daniel Wilson came to Travancore and insisted that Syrian Christians should submit to Anglican doctrines which caused much outrage. The Syrian Christians assembled at Mavelikkara to firmly reject Wilson’s views and reaffirm the authority of their tradition. This is the history of the interactions between the Syrian Christians and the Anglican missions in Travancore.
The picture of colonial Kerala is incomplete if one does not throw light to the interaction among the Syrian Christians, the Anglicans and the slave castes of Pulaya and Paraya. According to the 1836 census, there was a slave population of 164,864 out of the total population of 1,280,663.12 Even though slavery was abolished in Travancore in 1855, it did not drastically improve the condition of the slave castes. Sanal Mohan, in his book Modernity of Slavery: Struggles against Caste Inequality in Colonial Kerala, has pointed out that the emergence of free labour did not happen immediately after the abolition of slavery. The primary slave castes, the Parayas and the Pulayas still lived in deplorable conditions. Most of the information about the slave castes are available in missionary ethnographies. Other than that, the oral tradition of slave songs is an excellent repertoire to understand the experience of slave castes.13 Sanal Mohan also argues that the missionaries interpreted the caste slavery in Kerala under the influence of the experience and knowledge about the Atlantic slave trade. The Atlantic Slave trade was a modern phenomenon because the slaves were subjects of a modern regime of power.14 Through their interpretations informed by these situations, the missionaries constituted the slave castes of Kerala into modern subjects.15 The constitution of the slave castes as modern subjects of power also enabled them to give rise to resistance. Collins authored the novel The Slayer Slain in this historical background.
The story of moral reform is incomplete if one does not take into account how voluntary associations contributed to the development of the public sphere. Charles Taylor argued that “the differences among today’s multiple modernities need to be understood in terms of the divergent social imaginaries involved” (21). A new moral order was the basis of the conception of Western modernity. The essential forms of social self-understanding crucial to western modernity were the economy, the public sphere and the practices of democratic self-rule (Taylor 69). Reform movements constituted a significant part of the public sphere, thereby contributing to the ‘social imaginary’.16 The experience of colonial modernity in Kerala can be better understood by seeing the particular social imaginary involved. This social imaginary is unique because of the contestations and appropriations that happened when the colonial ideologies were translated into the cultural milieu of Kerala. J. Devika, in her book Engendering Individuals: The Language of Re-forming in Early Twentieth Century Keralam, argues that the experience of colonial modernity in Kerala necessarily involved the replacement of caste-based identity by gender-based identity. Thus the notion of the individual as gendered emerged alongside the emergence of the public sphere in Kerala.17 The missionaries started the evolution of the public sphere through print.18
However, later on, it was used by the native authors as well. One of the major topics of debate was the reform of family and woman. Debates were happening about the evils of the matrilineal system not just in the evangelical journals like Vidhyasamgraham but also in the writings of native authors like Chandumenon. In 1891, O Chandu Menon, author of the novel Indulekha, submitted a memorandum to the Malabar Marriage Commission.19 Chandumenon is his report to the Malabar Marriage Commission states his concerns about “native public opinion” (1). He stated that the majority of the native population did not want the colonial authorities to make any alterations to the matrilineal system. He also stated that the native “public opinion” was not being taken into account before making a decision. This idea of “public opinion” was not part of the common vocabulary before, but with the advent of colonial modernity, the scenario changed. Educational magazines like Vidhyasamgraham20 can give us a glimpse into this process. The matrilineal system is highly criticised by one of the authors in “Marumakkathayathalulla Doshangal” (Problems of Matrilineal System) which was published in Vidhyasamgraham.21
The novel The Slayer Slain published in Vidhyasamgraham magazine is also part of the debates in the emerging public sphere of Kerala. The print culture played a crucial role in the emergence of the public sphere. We should keep in mind that the first printing press in Kerala as established by the Church Missionary Society. The different community-based organisations like Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Sangham, Nair Service Society, Arya Sabha, The Yogakshema Sabha, Prathyaksha Raksha Daiva Sabha used the language of reform which was already gendered. Another critic who looked at the experience of colonial modernity in Kerala is G. Arunima. She analyses how state interventions paved the way for the ‘reforming of family and women’.22 She starts her analysis by pointing out the significance of a painting called ‘There Comes Papa’ by Raja Ravi Varma. The significance of the painting is that Ravi Varma chose to celebrate conjugal domesticity and nuclear family at a time when they were comparatively unknown amongst large sections of the matrilineal population. The Matrilineal kinship in Kerala was abolished through a series of legislative interventions that were originally initiated by the colonial state and completed later under the auspices of the postcolonial regime. Under the colonial rule, the desire to render tharavadu23 into a manageable and cohesive unit made the colonial officials redefine power relations within the tharavadu. However, as Arunima argues, “It was as much as a result of state policy as a cultural desire of the community to “civilise” itself from a state of primitive barbarism to one of modernity and progress” (158).24 Thus both the evangelical reform movements and the native reform movements were propelled by the core idea of the reform of women in colonial Kerala.
The Slayer Slain
The Slayer Slain can be considered as a pastoral novel of pedagogy. The preface to it reads: “The following story is from the pen of a lady, who has since gone to her rest. It was intended chiefly for the instruction of the young; and is now published in English, partly as a tribute to her memory; and partly in the hope, that, should it be thought sufficiently interesting and instructive, it may one day assume a Vernacular Press” (Collins 10). The plot of the novel revolves around Mariam, daughter of Koshy Kurien who is a Syrian Christian landlord. He exploits the lower caste people who work in his land and treat them as slaves, going to the extent of chaining them and beating them up. Once in his anger, Koshy Kurien thrashes Paulosa, but in an unexpected turn of events, Paulosa’s grandchild receives the blow and is killed instantly. This incident deeply affects Paulosa, but as a changed man by the intervention of Mariam who introduced him to the Bible and protestant Christianity, he is able to forgive this injustice. Not only he forgives this great injustice, but also he saves the drowning Mariam, thus saving the child of the man who murdered his grandchild. The novel showcases Mariam as the model for the native girls because she is the guardian of morality and has all the attributes associated with the Victorian ‘domestic woman’.
Written by a missionary wife, the novel performs the role of a conduct book for native women in the colony. The novel was serialised in the literary periodical of the leading educational institution of its time. The context of serialisation lends the novel a pedagogical value that is similar to that of the conduct book. In the novel, young Mariam is the overseer of everyday relationships and the guardian of morality. She is portrayed as the reason for Paulosa’s change from a thieving heathen to a forgiving and honest Christian man, and even Koshy Kurien worries about facing Mariam after he thrashes his slaves. Here, being a proper woman is connected to being a Protestant individual.25 The description of a home presided by this individual is as follows:
The appearance of the children with their smooth bright skins and clean cloths showed that a careful attentive mother managed with a clever hand the domestic affairs of this Indian home. No decaying vegetables or unsightly filth were left to annoy the eyes or nose, but all were swept away and collected in a heap at some distance. The cattle and poultry were all fed, and lying at rest beneath the cool shade of the trees. (Collins 15)
This description stands in clear contrast to the description of a home run by a woman who does not conform to the idea of companionate marriage. The cleanliness of the home reflects the ‘Godliness’ of the individuals. The domestic habits of the woman act as the foundation of the progress and well-being of the whole family.
Mariam also steps out of the comfort zone of her home to cure Paulosa for which her father scolds her. Then she reminds him how he read to her the story of the good Samaritan. She points out that she was a good Samaritan to old Paulosa. Not only Mariam is an individual with interiority, but she also confers dignity and individuality to Paulosa the slave when she decides to defy untouchability and approaches him with food and medicine. As an individual, she debates with her father politely, citing from the Bible. This debate affects Koshy Kurien to the extent that he began to feel he had been cultivating a dangerous talent in his child as he could not sin and be at ease in her presence (Collins 36). Soon, the reform of Paulosa is followed by the reform of Koshy Kurien when Paulosa saves Mariam from drowning. Home is not just a site of promise to even the lower caste people in this novel; it acts as a site of confession too. For instance, when Koshy Kurien sees his daughter after accidentally killing Paulosa’s grandchild, he tries to avoid looking her in the eye to which she responds:
“Not there father, not there, I like your eyes to look straight into mine, that I may see deep down into your heart,” said Mariam. His eyes met hers for an instant; but it seemed as if there was a spark of fire in them and he could not bear to look into the pure orbs that met his. (Collins 34)
The novel constructs a domestic ideology of everyday life and offers it as a solution to the conflict between higher and lower castes. It is in this site of ‘everyday life’ and through the values inculcated through the supervisors of this ‘everyday life’ that caste conflicts in the novel are reconciled. Mariam’s ability to take charge of relationships serves to position the domestic space of everyday life as the site of reconciliation between the upper caste Syrian Christians, and the untouchable slave castes. Caste, gender and Colonial modernity are overlapping categories in The Slayer Slain. In Dumont’s view, the Indian caste system is related to the binary opposition of purity- pollution. However, Bayly argues for an analysis of caste not based on a static model as there was no pan- Indianization of the caste hierarchy, privilege and prejudice (373).27 The novel Slayer Slain portrays caste as an ahistorical, essential aspect of Hinduism. The enumeration techniques of British Raj made caste a less fluid category. Also, access to resources of production or land is never portrayed as the source of conflict in the novel. Instead, it portrays how the lower caste slaves become sincere in their work, and stop their thieving habits with their conversion into Protestant Christianity. The narrator marks the transformation of the old slave Paulosa from being a heathen to a Christian by stating that he is “honest” and “industrious” now (Collins 35). Protestant Christianity is portrayed as the ‘true’ belief, which instils work ethics among the labourers. In the novel, the non-existence of caste rituals in everyday life becomes a mark of true Christianity. It consequently, classifies Syrian Christians, whose everyday life is marked by caste rituals, as ‘false Christians’. Thus the conflicts between the true evangelical Christians, false Syrian Christians, and the untouchable slave castes find reconciliation in ‘the everyday life’ that true Evangelical Christianity offers.
As Rupa Viswanath argues, “Missionaries in fact only wished to oppose what they perceived as the genuinely pernicious face of caste, its “religious” aspect, comprising meaningless ritual, irrational fears of contagion, and the cruelty those beliefs elicited” (16). They defined caste as a matter of religion distinct from “labour and political economy” (16). The “Pariah Problem” became a major concern in the writings of Missionaries. The labour rights of the Dalits in the novel is mostly concerned with their right to observe the ‘Sabbath’. The slaves address Koshy Kurien as master and father and beg him to have pity on them: “Master! Oh! master, you are like our father, pity us, help us do not be too hard upon us, we are not beasts, we are men, we have souls, we will work long and hard for six days. Let us have the Sabbath to think about our great master in heaven, and about our souls” (Collins 16). For Paulosa, the injustice that happened to them will have to be balanced out with the divine hand “I go, and we shall never meet again, unless the same grace, that changed the heart of the poor slave, melt that of my stony master, I go” (Collins 19). Finally, Paulosa rescues Mariam and forgives Koshy Kurien because of his Christian values. The injustice and indignity faced by the Dalits are portrayed as a religious issue for which the solution was arrived at via Christianity. A ‘pulayan’ in the nineteenth century Kerala was only permitted to use a specific vocabulary. He cannot address himself as “I” but as “adiyen”, or “your slave”. It is in this socio-cultural background that the author makes Paulosa say “You killed my child; I have saved yours; we are equal now” (38). His individuality and dignity depend on his ability to emulate a Christian virtue, i.e., to forgive the enemy. The hierarchy of master and slave was an essential part of the agrarian economy. The slave was equal to master concerning his Christian values and his claim to having a “soul”. The pulayas in the novel never ask for better food or better shelter. They ask for lesser working hours to observe the Sabbath. The thieving habit of Paulosa is seen as a spiritual degradation rather than an act of desperation arising from poverty. In other words, the neat picture of everyday life constructed in the novel serves to camouflage the political and economic aspects. And this everyday life is part of the ideology of domesticity constructed through the character of Mariam in the novel.
The ideology of domesticity forms a connecting link between the metropolitan and colonial Kottayam. Thus the character of Mariam occupies an interstitial space by being the native woman who embodies the characteristics of a Victorian domestic woman. Homi Bhabha in his book The Location of Culture compares the phenomenon of cultural hybridisation to a stairwell. He says, “[T]his interstitial passage between fixed identifications opens up the possibility of cultural hybridity that entertains difference without an assumed or imposed hierarchy” (Bhabha 4). The impact of the novel The Slayer Slain is such that it is followed by other novels by native authors which have similar pedagogic functions. One such novel is Sukumari, authored by Joseph Muliyil. The novel portrays the domestic woman who performs the role of a pastoral figure for other characters in the novel. Similar novels which highlighted the role of domestic woman in this fashion include Meenakshi by C Chathu Nayar and Saraswativijayam by Potheri Kunhambu. One will find many more novels which highlighted the ideology of domesticity and companionate marriage in nineteenth century Kerala. The polarity of fixed differences between the colonised woman and the white woman falls apart in many ways. Though authors like Sarah Stickney Ellis argued about the essence of English nationality based on the character of domestic woman, we have already seen how the ideology of gender was always under construction in the metropolitan.
Gender was quite central to the evangelical ideology of reform in South India. The Christian Pastorate in the colony constructed and mobilised the rhetoric of gender because it could be successfully mapped on to the larger project of evangelisation. This mapping together of gender and Christianity was not absent in the metropolitan world. However, in the Metropole, the pastorate was not the only site where the ideology of gender and domesticity evolved. In the colony, however, the pastorate was the dominant site for this ideology to be translated and transplanted. We already saw how, in the context of Britain, Nancy Armstrong had forwarded the well-known thesis that domestic ideology helped to construct the first modern individual. To adapt it to the colonial context: the novel asserts that the Indian woman becomes an individual with the intervention of the Christian pastorate. This assertion is based on a power relation—between the Protestant pastorate and the Indian woman. The Indian woman needs to submit herself to the power of the pastorate and, once, she becomes a Christian subject, she goes on to wield her influence over her household. As a literary form, the novel enables the propagation of such a relationship of power and being a proper woman is connected to being a Protestant individual.
 The Daisy Chain, Or, Aspirations: A Family Chronicle was serialized irregularly in the Monthly Packet from July 1853 to Dec 1855. A sequel, The Trial was published in 1864.
2 Frances, Wright Collins, The Slayer Slain, Vidyasamgraham 1864-66. Collins had begun writing the novel in English in 1859. She passed away before she could complete it. Her husband took it up from where she had left it and the book in its present form was published in the Vidyasamgraham, quarterly magazine of the CMS college Kottayam from 1864-66. Mr. Collins translated the Slayer Slain to Malayalam as Ghathakavadham in 1877. The Vidyasamgraham magazine was republished by the Benjamin Bailey Research Centre at Kottayam CMS College in 2003. There is an Australian edition of the novel: Melinda, Graefe and S. C. Harrex (eds), The Slayer Slain, Adelaide: Centre for Research in the New Literatures in English , 1999.
3 Peter, Brooks. “The Tale vs. The Novel.” Novel: A Forum on Fiction, Vol.21, No. 2/3, Winter- Spring 1988, pp. 285-292.
4 Source of the editorial is Ethel Romanes’s book Charlotte Mary Yonge: An Appreciation. 1908.
5 This was first published anonymously in the Saturday Review and then as a hugely popular pamphlet, it first appeared under Eliza Lynn Linton’s name in 1883 in The Girl of the Period and Other Social Essays. Linton was the first woman journalist in England to earn a fixed salary.
6 “Granting all this, one may conclude that the power of the middle classes had everything to do with that of middle- class love. And if this contention holds true, one must also agree that middle- class authority rested in large part upon the authority that novels attributed to omen and in this way designated as specifically female” (Armstrong 4). Additionally, “I will insist that one cannot distinguish the production of the new female ideal either from the rise of the novel or from the rise of the new middle classes in England” (8)
7 “According to Foucault, however, sex neither was nor is already there to be dealt with in one way or another by sexuality. Instead, its representation determines what one knows to be sex, the particular form sex assumes in one age as opposed to another, and the political interests these various forms may have served” (Armstrong 11).
8 “Norman and Ethel do indeed take after their papa, more than any of the others, and are much alike. There is the same brilliant cleverness, the same strong feeling, not easy of demonstration, though impetous in action; but poor Ethel’s old foibles, her harum- scarum nature, quick temper, uncouth manners, and heedlessness of all but one absorbing object, have kept her back, and caused her much discomfort” (50).
9 “Margeret could think: “Dear Ethel, how noble and high she is! But I am afraid! It is what people call a difficult dangerous age, and the grander she is, the greater danger of not managing her rightly. If those high purposes should run only into romance like mine, or grow out into eccentricities and unfeminineness, what a grievous pity would be!” (60).
10 As Frykenberg argues, “European Christian attempts to control and exercise dominion over Indian Christians increased during the Nineteenth century and onwards, especially as this was applied in relation to manifestations of caste consciousness and caste- related customs” (244) (“Missionaries, Colonialism, And Ecclesiastical Dominion”).
11 The practice of untouchability practiced according to the caste hierarchy. The social distance was practiced according to the caste. “According to some writers, the Nayadi had to keep a distance of 100 feet or more, the Pulaya and the Paraya 60 feet, the Mukkuvan or Valan 40 to 60 feet, the Ezhava or Tiyya 24 feet, the Nayar 12- 13 feet, the Ambalavasi 6 feet, the monarch 4 feet from the Nampoothiri Brahmin.” Pp 380- 381 A Social History of India, S. N. Sadasivan.
12 See P. Sanal Mohan pg. 3.
13 See P. Sanal Mohan pg 52.
14 See P. Sanal Mohan, Modernity of Slavery: Struggles against Caste Inequality in Colonial Kerala : “In the Caribbean world, it has been shown that the technologies of manufacturing sugar as well as the organization of the sugar cane plantations were distinctively modern (Mintz 1986). It has been argued that this fundamental feature of modern plantations had contradictory effects on slavery. It had put in practice an extremely repressive system of surveillance, which although negative, enabled the slaves to be modern. In other words, the slaves in the plantations of the Atlantic world were modern subjects, that is, subjects of the modern regime of power in the form of plantations” (43).
15 See P. Sanal Mohan pg. 102.
16 In the metropolitan, moral reform movements made a significant contribution to the emergence of a society capable of debating issues (Roberts 295).
17 J. Devika, Engendering Individuals: The Language of Re-forming in Early Twentieth Century Keralam, 2007, pg. 27.
18 Rajyasamacharam was the first journal published in Malayalam. BMS brought it out from June 1847 from a press owned by the Mission at Illikkunnu near Thallassery. Copies of Rajyasamacharam were distributed free of cost. Although the name of the editor was not mentioned, it is assumed by many scholars that Dr. Herman Gundert was the man behind this first Malayalam journal. This paper lasted up to 1840. Paschimodayam was the second journal in Malayalam brought out from October 1847 from Thallassery. The publishers of this paper, too, was the Basel Mission Society. Its contents included articles on natural science, astronomy, geography and history. Jnana Nikshepam, a monthly magazine in Malayalam, was published by the Church Mission Society (CMS) in Kottayam from November 1848. It was the third among the publications in Malayalam and it was the first newspaper printed in the letter press developed by Rev Benjamin Bailey, a foreign missionary. Keralopakari was a magazine published by the Basel Mission Society from 1878. It was printed from Mangalore. Its contents included articles on Christian literature, essays, proverbs, parables, stories with moral content and Western literature. All these magazines provided a podium for debates and also propagated western modernity.
19 The Malabar Marriage Commission was formed in 1891 by the Government of Madras in response to a bill that was introduced to the Madras Legislative Council in 1890 by Sir C. Sankaran Nair, a lawyer of the Madras High Court. The Commission was to inquire into matrilineal customs among the Hindus of Malabar and explore the desirability of introducing changes in marriage, inheritance and family organization through legislation. The response of the Madras Government to the Commission’s report was to pass the Malabar Marriage Act, 1896.
20 See “Vidyasamgraham: Minority Discourses in Selected Articles” by Soumya Sajan.
21 See Vol. 1 No. 7 of Vidyasamgraham magazine pg. 295.
22 G. Arunima, There Comes Papa: Colonialism and the Transformation of Matriliny in Kerala, Malabar, C. 1850-1940, 2003.
23 A system of joint family practiced by the people in Kerala.
24 See “Matriliny and its Discontents” by G. Arunima.
25 There were alternative discourses on ways of being a woman and an individual. Such alternative discourses were in competition with the pastorate and can be described as counter-conducts.
26 Rupa Viswanath in her book The Pariah Problem says that the Pariah problem was only posed but never solved. The colonial state’s foremost commitment was to maximise tax revenue and the state was dependent on Pariah labour. The East India company sought to have India exempted from the empire wide abolition of slavery in 1833.
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