This Earth of Mankind

2101 Words9 Pages
“Everything that is not European, and especially if it is not colonial, is trodden upon, laughed at, humiliated, for no other reason than to prove the supremacy of Europe and of colonial might in every matter--not excluding ignorance” (Toer, 280). This Earth of Mankind, by Pramoedya Ananta Toer, tells the story of a young man from the island of Java, around late-nineteenth century. This paper will discuss Java and the colonial society that existed there around the turn of the century. With examples from This Earth of Mankind, this paper will seek to address several different themes present throughout the novel, including topics such as class, race, and education, all of which historically played a large role in the region. This Earth of Mankind allows the reader to gain knowledge of what living in Java would have been like from several different points of view within society. Due to the extreme social stratification and colonial factors, the main characters in the novel are forced apart from one another, illustrating the reality that in this colonial society only so much of your life could ever truly be under your own control. The following sections of this paper will address the historical circumstances of the region, discuss important plot points of the novel, and examine circumstances in which the novel illustrates some historical aspects of the society. Java, one of the largest islands in modern day Southeast Asia, holds a rich and expansive history. Lets first begin with the United (Dutch) East India Company (or the “VOC”), and the role they helped play in creating this unique colonial society. The VOC was, in short, a private trading company that was backed by the Dutch government at the time. Essentially, this allowed the VOC to act as representation of the Dutch government, and gave them the power to fight wars for the Dutch, as well as create treaties.
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