The author of the book under the title Sea of Poppies is Amitav Ghosh. The book is the first part of the Ghosh’s trilogy. The novel takes place in the northern parts of India and the Bay of Bengal in 1838. It describes events just before the British attack on the Chinese seaports referred to as the Opium War. The story represents different world sailors, marines, and passengers of the Ibis. The latter was a slave ship that transported people hired to perform cheap manual labor from Calcutta to Mauritius. During that time, there was the temporary blocking of the opium trade with China. The Ibis carried various personalities that included English navigators, capitalists, Indian nobles, peasants, foreign Chinamen, religious mystics, French women, and Zachary Reid, a hero from America. The essence of the narrative is a struggle between a number of personalities, who wish to sail on the Ibis, a ship destined for Mauritius that was full of emigrants, prisoners and laborers instead of the regular luggage of opium.
The book is created as an expert’s inclination to a fine work of literature that uses the symbolism of various objects and contrast, and is sometimes comic in delivering the audience the account of what has happened during the Opium Wars and trade. The author does not only present an incredible story, but also investigates the hefty theme of British colonial subjugations of the natives.
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The character of Deeti is one of the symbolic objects used in the story. She is the central personality in the book. The author portrays her as a conventional hamlet woman with a strained background. She is the wife of Hukam Singh, a crippled employee that works for the Ghazipur opium factory. Deeti is ill-fated. Her husband is also unproductive. The mother-in-law puts her under the influence of opium on her nuptial night, and her brother-in-law manages to consummate a marriage. When her spouse dies, Deeti directs her daughter Kabutri to visit relatives. The community resigns her during a traditional ritual called Sati, which involved immolation on her husband’s funeral pyre. Kalua, an ox man from the adjoining village comes to liberate her. Then, the couple elopes and unites showing disregard to their kinsmen. She and her spouse became servants on the Ibis, due to they wanted to escape Deeti’s in-laws (Ghosh 123). The character of Deeti symbolized peasant women, who escaped from India as cheap laborers. There were no strong heroes to rescue them from their destinies.
Another object used as a symbol in the novel is the Ibis, a slave ship renovated to ferry cheap workers from Calcutta to the sugar plantations of Mauritius in Africa. It is one of the central objects, around which the poppies saga intertwines. The story is well-thought-out focusing on the Ibis in the anchorage of Bengal that represents a number of contrasting characters. The ship depicts a platform that is a symbol of society, where inequality and injustice are common. It is a solace place for countryside peasants, who depend on poppy farming. They find farming unsustainable and try to seek livelihood alternatives elsewhere. The ship allows them to become new personalities.
In this novel, poppies have also been used as an object of struggle. The story revolves around opium as a nucleus of livelihood. Most peasants are opium-farmers, and others are workers at opium factories. Deeti’s husband faces addiction to the crop just like other people. It is also necessary to note that opium contributes to the loss of society ethics and the rise of imperialism in India. The author has also assigned the book the title Sea of Poppies, which is a representation of the entire life system in the colonial country. People were too pre-occupied with activities that enslaved them. The poppy plant is used as an object that rules destiny.
The author also provides an outline of the concepts of socio-cultural and societal differences in the novel. He portrays a sparkling world with people of different characters and cultural and economic backgrounds through their relationships with colonial and native authorities, unravels the exploiting power of colonialism and empire domination, and reviews humanism responsible for the propulsion of socio-political and economic injustices during the era of imperialism.
Deeti, one of the main characters used to unfold the story as a housewife married to a crippled and barren husband, who later passes on, is skeptical of traditional rituals that the community wants her to experience. She resigns to accept Sati, a ritual that involves immolation on her husband's funeral pyre. However, she finds a man, who helps her to elope. It saves her from the ritual.
Differences between classes in society are also evident in the novel. In the book, the author introduces the hamlets of eastern Bihar, where Deeti lives and becomes a widow later. Her dependent companion is an employee at the British opium factory that possesses immense strength and resources. Then, the story develops, when the author presents Raja Neel Rattan, who is a bankrupt landowner. Other characters in the novel include an American sailor called Zachary, young Frenchwoman Paulette with a Bengali adoptive brother called Jodu, unprincipled British merchant Benjamin Burnham with a Bengali agent named Baboo Nob Kissin. Ghosh presents them in a candid fashion that unravels the distinction in terms of their social class and status in society.
The book also depicts differences in culture. However, the cultures of the Ibis members become united during their voyage. These are people from different backgrounds that include sailors, stowaways, coolies, and convicts. At the times of colonial struggles, destiny united people with diverse backgrounds, namely Indians and Westerners on the Ibis. They allow their old family ties to be eroded away, and in the same way as their historical counterparts, they start behaving as ship-brothers. It leads to the formation of a unique bond that will last even between the future generations. The author depicts an expansive ordeal of cultural assimilation.
Ghosh’s book presents a compilation of the initial nineteenth-century Indian social life. The author explicitly depicts a diet, servants, equipment, religious worship, marine crews, clothing, trade, wedding and burial rites. The erosion of ethics is represented in connection with horticulture, opium cultivation, and alcoholic drinks. The author also recounts the grading of clerks and military officers, who do not experience the commissioning process, criminal justice, illegal sexual practices, traditional medicines, and illegal acts that form the core of social life in India. The book is about rich cultural and social life trends.
The author’s reflection on societal differences and similarities is enriched through parlance, history, geography, and lashings of political economy. The book’s main points are relevant in today’s global socio-political climate. Dependency has continued to loom today’s world for several decades. It is described as the aftermath of imperialism, when coolies on the Ibis are mainly dependent on British colonialism and the trading opportunities availed by it. The farming of opium for cash crop in Bengal and Bihar is for the Chinese target market. The conveyance of Indian indentured employees to harvest sugar canes for the British on such islands as Mauritius, Fiji, and Trinidad is evidence of the intrigues of societal differences. British colonial masters were in charge of opium farming. It denotes the imperialism factor in India. For two centuries, the native people had faced the former together with different social, political and physical curfews. It had entirely altered traditional occupations and the way of life of people. The British colonial authorities established guidelines in India that led to a change from the feudal system of land ownership to the zamindari system. It also resulted in a shift in agriculture from staple products to cash crops like opium. The focus on the latter was particularly cardinal, due to it brought a lot of revenue to the empire. The natives could not run for political offices due to political restrictions. Ghosh narrates that the imperialism rule in India was one of the major destructive forces on the subcontinent (Shalin 66).
Opium farming triggered the British extension of various policies in India. Britain attacked China ports in the First Opium War that the book had just preceded. The author described events at an opium factory, when Deeti hasted in anxiety through all premises in search of her dying spouse. He provided an understanding of how various activities were conducted at the factory. It should be also noted that the poppy is a plant that can be used as a narcotic or medicine. However, it can also be misused as a drug, raising ethical questions. The author describes the processing of poppy flowers, sap and trash before Deeti's terrified naive eyes. Due to she was concerned about the welfare of her husband, it could also imply skepticism concerning the ethics of poppy farming.
Ghosh’s fictional work is a mirror of the current society. There are many situations that require an apparent comparison between the events in the book and the modern world. A relation can be established between situations in the current global climate and the earlier setting unravelled by Ghosh. The injustices in relation to the Indian natives are not different from modern political instabilities. A spiritless response of British people at the Ghazipur Opium factory to Hukam Singh’s death on the “sea of poppies” narrated in the book is relevant even today. It is not so different from the sheer apathy to the victims of thousands of different tragedies that occur in the world today (Shalin 67).
Amitav Ghosh shows his fondness for characters. The entrails of the opium factory and the structure of the Ibis help to delay the advancement of many plots and subplots. Ghosh evidently wanted to brand the novel through borrowing stories about people lost in the past, but in the progression, his characters often appeared like works of art. Symbolism is an art he perfects through presenting a typical housewife from the poppy-dependent hinterlands of northern India and many peasants in the country. Her unfortunate ordeal with life, when she gets married to an addicted, crippled and unproductive spouse working as a laborer at a poppy factory, makes the reader feel sympathy for her. The socio-cultural tussle traps her. She later elopes with a gentleman, who gambles on liberating her regardless of his relatives’ reservations. They link up with the Ibis that becomes for them a place of hope and a new life. The author uses the ship as a platform to unravel other themes of the story, such as slavery, social life of coolies and the political context of India. The book is a model literature reading, purposive on the provision of insights into the villages of eastern Bihar, India. The background setting of the book presents the upmarket poppy arenas of the Ganges area, rolling high seas, and famous backstreets of China. It offers a perfect insight into characters and captures the displeased colonial past of the East. It makes the novel a stunning success of one of the world’s authors.
The book is captivating to read. The novel takes back to historical and political events of colonial India. Ghosh’s captivation with the relocation of vocabularies in other languages is ostensible. With spillovers of the Bhojpuri language, folk songs, marine terms, and colloquial Anglo-Indian, the book provides a truly realistic feeling. The story is an exquisitely expressive prose and splendid imagery.
It is particularly amazing how Ghosh turns the ship into somewhat vigorous, bawd and ineradicably existent. It is the arena for his stunning array of characters, blowhards, eloping lovers, and peasants looking for new lives. Sea of Poppies can work well as an independent novel. It also lays the baseline for the author’s trilogy project. However, the author applies the extensive use of the colloquial native Indian language in dialogues. It disconnects the audience, which is non-conversant with colonial India.
The book can be ranked among the top literary works. Its finale also paves the way for all kinds of the development of events in the second series of the trilogy. It is unquestionably an excellent read. It should be recommended for reading due to being exceptionally informative.
In a nutshell, Amitov Ghosh’s novel deserves high-ranking due to the accuracy of the rending of the maritime social setting of the colonial Indian subcontinent about two centuries ago. His narration merges with the setting to form a work of art that flourishingly represents a bygone era in the readers’ minds.
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