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Ideas of Progress in Naipaul's A Bend in the River Essay

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Ideas of Progress in Naipaul's A Bend in the River

 

In his novel A Bend in the River, V. S. Naipaul paints a picture of Salim, an Indian man living in an isolated African town at the beginning of independence. Salim, as an Indian, has something of a unique perspective on the events of the time - in some ways, he lives between two worlds. Having experienced the "civilizing" influence of British colonial rule, he comes from a culture that is more "advanced" than that of Africa but less so than that of the West. This hierarchy of progress is seen throughout the book, and the theme of progress is best illustrated in this passage from the opening of Part Four, just after Salim's return from London:

 

So at last I had come to the capital. It was a strange way to come to it, after such a roundabout journey. If I had come to it fresh from my upriver town it would have seemed immense, rich, a capital. But after Europe, and with London still close to me, it seemed flimsy in spite of its size, an echo of Europe, and like make-believe, at the end of all that forest. (247) ...


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