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This Earth Of Mankind By Pramoedya Ananta Toer

1613 words - 6 pages

Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s This Earth of Mankind is an allegorical novel describing the growth of protagonist Minke during the pre-awakening of colonized Java. Set in 1898 during the period of imperial Dutch domination over all aspects of Javan life, the novel provides a clear image of the political and social struggles of a subjugated people through the point of view of a maturing youth. Using several of his novel’s major characters as allegorical symbols for the various stages of awareness the citizens of Java have of Indonesia’s awakening as a modern nation, Toer weaves together an image of the rise of an idyllic post-colonial Indonesia with modern views of Enlightenment ideals.
Toer’s portrayal of Annelies Mellema as innocent and childish is symbolic of a naïve pre-colonial Java before the corruption of Dutch influence. Her birth being the result of a unique relationship between a Dutch colonizer and Javan concubine known as Nyai Ontosoroh, Annelies exhibits physical features of both cultures. Annelies is characterized as being a girl that is “white-skinned and refined with a European face and the hair and eyes of a Native” representing the crossing of two cultures within Java (Toer 25). Despite her capability of helping her mother Nyai Ontosoroh run their family business, Annelies remains submissive and allows various authority figures in her life like her mother, doctor, and husband Minke to make life decisions on her behalf. This, coupled with her physical fragility that is especially apparent in the form of illness whenever Minke is absent from her life for extended periods of time is Toer’s method of illustrating the weakness of pre-colonial Indonesia that is eventually conquered and forever changed by the Dutch. Despite her self-identification as Javan due to her intimate relationship with her mother, Annelies is forced to contend with inevitable influence from the Dutch. Toer likens the invasion of the Dutch to Annelies’s sexual assault from her older brother, Robert Mellema who identifies himself as Dutch despite his mixed upbringing. The brutal nature of Robert’s rape of Annelies is symbolic of the severe physical and psychological damage done to the Javan people by the Dutch that can never be forgotten. At the conclusion of the novel, the Dutch court decides to forcibly send Annelies to the Netherlands to live with Maurits Mellema, the legitimate son of her father Herman because they did not identify Nyai Ontosoroh as her legal guardian. Worse still, Annelies’s relocation is enforced despite the fact that she legally married Minke showcasing the utter lack of regard the Dutch had for Javan traditions and culture. Annelies’s acceptance of her departure is not only symbolic of Java’s acknowledgement that the Dutch have undoubtedly left inalterable repercussions on Javan society but also of the approach of Indonesian awakening. She states “ Like Mama before, Mama, I too will never return home” which is Toer’s implication that Java is on...

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