Posted by: Kristi
Gabriel plays little role in Hannah’s day-to-day life, yet his character creates a large impact on her life. She changes her life for him, and adapts her desires sometimes in combination with his. Hannah, I think, is the only woman who desires change in this novel. Men, often want change or change themselves to match other men in the Company. The common occurrences of copying in this novel seem strange to me because they’re all in a new land, yet they still choose to all be exactly the same.
All the men in this novel so far have been exceedingly demanding of themselves to be other people. Gabriel, in the first part of the book, was an adventurer who loved to tell tall tales of his journeys and impress anyone who was listening. Once they arrive in India, he seems a much harsher man when one of the chests is overturned. He was “…so angry; with his words muffled by the surf…” (114). And later, a “notices each of these changes in Gabriel, but does not respond, only writes them in her journal. This journal is a small copy of the journal that Gabriel keeps (125). He keeps this journal, as discussed in the book, either because he does not trust Chief Factor Prynne, or because he wished he was a Company writer (142). Another idea presented is that he may want to be Chief Factor himself, and is therefore copying the actions of Chief Factor Prynne. Gabriel also attempts to copy Pedda Timanna and the Marquis in their pirating as well as in their attitudes. He is relatively successful in this, except in the end he remains smarter than these two and survives when they come into the harbor.
Later in the novel, Higginbottham becomes the Chief Factor and in an attempt to save the Company, “These letters took over his life” (199). He attempts to resemble Chief Factor Prynne, but tends to fail in the times that the Company needed it most. Chief Fractor Prynne was a “sordid force of character” (199) which Higginbottham tried to emulate since he began working for Chief Factor Prynne. He becomes, however, “an ineffectual, embittered visionary” (199). Higginbottham from the beginning was a small, weak character that could never muster power over anyone. Each time, such as when he delivered a message for Gabriel to Hannah, he is unable to stand his ground. In this particular instance, “[He] flinched. Hannah was grateful that it was the uneasy Higginbottham and not the cold, self-possessed Cephus Prynne” (186). Higginbottham seems to be the only man in this story that cannot successful emulate his idol. He fails at being a strong and worthy leader, in the way that Chief Factor Prynne was able to, despite his coldness.
The women of the novel also copy each other. Unlike the men, however, it is not to change who they are. They copy each other to remain the same, creating the ideal “English woman” in India. In spending time with Hannah, “they never let [her] forget that they were truly Englishwomen” (134). They explain to her the rules of living in the Indian society and what is acceptable. They act as the aristocratic women of London that attempt to teach young girls how to behave properly in society, very archaic if you ask me. They take this, however, as making sure Hannah acts in the appropriate manner for the society they live in, attempting to create another woman just like them. They fail to recognize that Hannah is changing, just not in the way that they intended.
What I really want to know is what is going to happen to Hannah now that she is out of Gabriel’s life? Yes, she spent most of her time alone anyway, but now he will never return. With her copying of his journal and revolving her life around his adventures, did she idolize him? Or was she jealous of his ability to travel and see the world while she remained at home? Hannah had a different lifestyle than the rest of the women in the fort, who wished only to return to England and to see nothing outside White Town. Is Hannah’s ability to change and desire to do so a result of her four “homes”? Or is it something she has adapted from Gabriel? And finally…Will Hannah change as a result of her loss of Gabriel or will she continue on in hopes of finding herself in a place she belongs?