Date of Award

Spring 2006

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Kathleen Hewett-Smith


Whatever is worth seeing or hearing in India can be expressed in writing. As soon as everything of importance is expressed in writing, a man who is duly qualified may obtain more knowledge of India in one year, in his closet in England, than he could obtain during the course of the longest life, by the use of his eyes and ears in India.

-James Mill, The History of British India, 1817.

This quotation, from the first philosophical history of India, posits the common British colonial notion that language, specifically the written word, might capture all that is "worth seeing or hearing in India." Such a claim articulates both the problem and solution to this paper's study of the theme of silence in South Asian literature. As this paper will prove, the decision to write silence lies in Indian authors' application of Mill's logic to their own English-languaged stories. The feeling that "everything of importance" not only can but should be written down serves as an important impetus behind much Anglo-Indian writing and finds testimony in the genre's obsession with recording. While the desire to record is not a strictly Indian phenomenon, author Salman Rushdie suggests that Indian authors take this practice to the extreme, asking, "Is this an Indian disease, this urge to encapsulate the whole of reality? Worse: am I infected too." An analysis of his novel Midnight's Children reveals that Rushdie, as a postcolonial Indian author, is in fact "infected."