11. Elephanta Suite
Alice at the Ashram isn’t the same Alice that teaches telemarketers English in Electric City; or at least Alice tries to keep these two selves separate in order to maintain a sense of balance between work and play, purpose and solidarity. Before considering the idea of finding a job while on sabbatical, Alice find the ashram to be a paragon of spiritual India, a retreat away from the hectic lifestyles in Mumbai and the sudden abandonment she feels when Stella leaves. But something was missing at the Ashram and it began to feel cult-like. What was once a place of complete selfless regard for one another became a place where Swami ruled. Patrons confused safety for freedom. Upon realizing that nothing, even her stay at the Ashram, is free in life, Alice chooses to look for a job with the help of Amitahb, regretfully: “With the job, her life changed. The inner Alice was released, and she was able to be two different people in the two different parts of Bangalore…but really she was the same person using two different side of her personality.” (Theroux, 215) Carrying on two different lives in the same place and keeping those lives completely separate from one another was a way for Alice to feel like her trip to India had principle.
Both situations harmoniously played off one another: “the ashram was a retreat from the ambition and worldliness of Electronics City. Electronic City was a refuge from the selfish spiritualism and escapism of the Ashram.” (229) But, the harmony Alice found in her life in Bangalore ended just as quickly as it was sought out. When Amitahb begins to learn American English, his personality changes for the worst, and of course, Alice blames herself for teaching a means of communication that generates such a change: “Indians were much ruder speaking English. They sounded more impatient. Naturally confrontational, these Indians now had a language to bolster their tendency and no longer had to rely on the subtleties of Hindi.” (223) After the rape incident, Alice experiences a drastic character change similar to Amitahb’s: “she was cold, she was sad, she was someone else now.” (251) Theroux constantly keeps the reader on his toes as he bounces back and forth between the ever-changing characters. By creating new situations, Theroux allows for the characters to become dynamic, and the dynamics keep the reader guessing what the next plot twist will be.
Globalization has become a growing force of social change since the post-war period of Bowles, and the information technology industry in India is a perfect example of how Western culture travels across great distances and leads to homogenization. Theroux incorporates this phenomenon into both novellas and explores how Western culture is somehow both attractive to the natives, such as in the case of Shah and Amitabh, while also being somewhat repulsive to Westerners like Dwight and Alice.
It would be too simplistic to argue that both sides experience a sort of “grass is greener on the other side” draw towards the new cultures that they are experiencing, but it seems to be the most convenient explanation available because it doesn’t involve looking into the historical origins and sociological implications of globalization.
As a case study, Dwight seems to be a classic example of a Westerner looking to part with material possessions in order to experience some higher spiritual consciousness. Near the end of the story his gives up his cell phone, blackberry, and laptop to Shah for safe keeping and enters the Hindu temple to find the peace that he had been searching for in his life as a “skinny, sun-burned geek” clad in a turban and a loincloth. Dwight realizes how silly he looks, but he embraces his spiritual quest, all while Shah is embracing the Harvard account that he just secured and the material success that is sure to follow. While this may seem like a win-win situation along the lines of “different strokes for different folks”, it has a certain moralistic bent, as if Dwight knows the true value of Indian culture better than Shah who is abandoning it for material success in the West.
This paternalistic tone of “you don’t know what you’re giving up” is also evident in “The Elephant God” when Alice laments that Amitabh has switched out his original telephone greeting, “Can you please inform me, what is your good name, madam?” with the more Westernized “So who am I talking to?” It’s almost as if Westerners believe that the Indians are foolish for abandoning what they perceive as a more authentic way of life, which leads them to oppose globalization and the spread of Western culture to protect non-Westerners from it when in reality they are really trying to preserve these non-Western cultures for what seem like sentimental and slightly selfish reasons.
Paul Theroux writes of two people, living completely separate lives, but living quite similar realities. The two both start out with a jarring experience to take their trip to India in a direction they didn't think it would go. For Dwight, it was his first meeting with the girl. He hated India, but at the first sign of kindness, learned that there might be something to like about it. For Alice, it was the betrayal of Stella which made her reexamine her real reasons for taking the trip.
The next step was feeling comfortable. Both Dwight and Alice soon grew very comfortable in their new homes, and almost felt a part of the culture. Dwight sank into his daily routine of the monotonous meetings, then taking a taxi to meet Indru, while simultaneously Alice spent most of her day in Electric City working at InfoTech and then took a taxi back to the ashram at Sai Baba at night. These are what Dwight would call "indian surprises", what makes you realize that India is more than a business trip, more than a graduation trip, but something like a home. These are also extremely strong contrasts of the two sides of India, which take turns playing the dominant role in its image to the outside world. One is the industrial working world of India, where the lights never stop shining and labor is cheap. The other side is the spiritual side, the familial side, which Dwight and Alice both thought they fit into perfectly.
Then, the both of them had an unfortunate realization. For Dwight, it was the day on the beach when his secret was revealed. And for Alice, it was the series of events with Amitabh, leading in her being raped. Both of these climactic moments lead to a serious reevaluation on how much either character truly "belonged" in India. Before, race was never an issue either of them had considered. But now, they both felt a racial and cultural divide in everything they did. They realized they couldn't pretend to be part of such a tight knit family as the culture of India that doesn't trust easily. Dwight felt "wisible" while Alice felt the extreme divide on the train with the women and their children.
Finally, the two characters both had a spiritual experience at the end which reaffirmed the entire situation for them. It put things in perspective for both of them and, thankfully, made it so both trips had a positive end. For Dwight, he finally was free of his bad cravings and only wanted to live life, sort of like the Jain philosophy. For Alice, she was finally freed of her pain she felt from being raped when she released her spiritual guide, the elephant, freeing him and freeing her soul as he also stomped away all of the pain that was brought to her in this terrible time.
The greatest part of these parallel stories is that Theroux implies that these two people are just two of the millions of American travelers that think they can assimilate into Indian culture. Every day, he seems to say, there could be another that falls victim to the confrontational family that is India. But in the end, he hopes, they will come out of it better, more spiritual, more thoughtful, more caring, or anything. India will effect you one way or another, and you just have to stay long enough so that it is a positive effect.
We as readers can see the decline of Dwight as the story progresses. He is judgmental of the Indians, contradictory to his reputation as a worldly person. From the onset, Dwight does not take Shah as seriously as he should; later, the dynamic is reversed and Shah becomes the successful businessman while Dwight becomes submissive. Dwight expects the Indians to wait on him and for them to build up his ego, leading for an overwhelming, not to mention false, sense of authority. “You can make anything in India” is a reoccurring theme as Dwight explores the boundaries of this statement.
The slow decline of morality exhibited by Dwight is first introduced with the old woman and her gypsy children. A common American visitor to India would be aware of the beggars that exist there and take action to avoid confrontation with this danger. Dwight, on the other hand, seems to invite the interaction. He somewhat denies the old woman but he is entranced by her, and later the children, so much so that he follows her to an unknown building. This thirst for adventure and passion becomes and inner-conflict for Dwight because, as is referred to a few times, he knows that what he is doing is wrong.
Even when he returns home to Boston, Dwight has to fight the urge and desire to return to India, a place detested by his coworkers. This shows that he is not focusing on the place or even how his life will be when he is there; he is only thinking about the passion that he felt in being there. So much so that Dwight gave Indru his wedding ring, a symbol of love, which he carried with him at all times since the end of his marriage with Maureen. He essentially discarded the ring and any sense of real love along with it. Indru then used the ring to pay for a house and later she grew so attached to Dwight’s presents and payments that the relationship became mutually greedy. He was hungry for desire and she for wealth.
Dwight’s morals and feelings lessen in importance throughout the story, leading to the eventual downfall of his character. His decisions, prompted by desired reactions, led him to act in ways the denied everything he had ever known; a feeling to which he became addicted.
At the beginning of “The Gateway of India,” Dwight despises India and everything about it. The only part of it that he likes is Shah, his business helper and a Jain. He respects and admires Shah and his sect of Hinduism. Even though Dwight repeatedly goes back to Indru’s house and at first says he is “happy” there and feels as if “[he is] home” (127), he realizes that something is not quite right there. Indru and Padmini help Dwight discover his sexuality but only for a cost. Dwight calls himself their “benefactor” but the ominous thunder in his head in and in the background enforce that he is lying to himself. Soon Dwight grows sick of Indru and her endless, pitiful stories of rape and abuse. In the final stage of the story, he decides to leave behind everything that ties him to America and become a true Jain. Dwight strips himself of his American clothing, his valuables and even Shah, who has been Americanized by the end of the story. He is left alone and finally sees happiness in a long term which wasn’t at all planned, “seeing things as they were.” (186)
In “The elephant God” Alice wantsto make a similar commitment to India, but she isn’t able to strip herself of her American-ness the way Dwight does. Like Dwight understands that something isn’t right about his position at Indru’s apartment, Alice sees that something is off at the Ashram (even though she likes it there). At the ashram, she spends most of her time with two Indian women who represent the wealthy portion of India, which is not what most of India is like. At first, her job at Electronics City, makes Alice feel fulfilled and proud, but soon she comes to resent the fact that her polite, respectful Indian students soon become rude imitations of Americans through her teaching of English. The only place that Alice is really happy is when she is with the chained elephant. The elephant is physically in middle of Alice’s two positions and represents the fact that Alice also feels trapped by her American-ness. Towards the end of the story Alice tries to have a similar transformation to Dwight, but is unable to because the, now westernized, Amitabh (a symbol of American Culture) follows her wherever she goes. Amitah and his wester-ness destroy Alice’s mission for self-discovery. Alice is only able to truly be free when she frees the chained elephant (a manifestation of herself) which tramples Amitabh. Then Alice sets out without her belongings, praying to Ganesha, alone.
In the beginning, Dwight Huntsinger is an American businessman whose life changes on his business trip to India. On his first trip he does not touch any Indian food because he does not think of it as food but poison. He’s been recently divorced and is not in the best state of his personal life when he is forced to go through “a week of Indian hell—a secular hallucinatory underworld of actual grinning demons and foul unbreathable air.” Dwight, absolutely disgusted, frightened, and appalled, basically hates India even though he stays at the best and the most luxurious hotel and spends most of his time inside. In this misery and suffering, however, is money and wealth. Once he returns home, he is assigned to go back to India, “not a place to enjoy but one to endure, like going down a dark hole to find jewels.”
On this second trip, he encounters a polite and submissive woman, her children, and an old man, who he later suspects them as having been acting as a team to exploit money from wealthy Americans like himself. Just like Dwight goes to India, a place where you can make anything, to make money, the people of India work to make money from these foreigners who come to their country to exploit. The experience he has in this isolated Indian place that the auntie of the street children he saves makes him feel debauched and aroused; “he felt he belonged here and could not remember how long he’d been in Mumbai or when he was supposed to leave, and didn’t care.” With women described as “submissive and polite, bowing to him, he [feels] powerful and at the same time annoyed with himself for even caring.” Far away from home, he says thing s he would not have said back home without thinking. Meeting Indru, his life changes even more so, manipulatively arranging to go back to India. When he returns to Boston office, he is regarded “as a real traveler and risk taker” and people give “him credit for enduring the discomfort, talk only of illness and misery, and sa[y] he was a kind of hero[,] congratulat[ing] him on the deals he’d done.”
From having been fearful and hateful of India, Dwight changes and grows to love the country; from seeing India as a representation of everything negative, “chaos and night,” he decides to stay at the end while his friend Shah leaves to America…
The Elephanta Suite is a novel that offers a unique interpretation on travel. It focuses on the individual journeys of two Americans in India. Both Dwight and Alice have different events encompass their journeys but each of the journeys follows the theme of using India as a way for them to discover themselves and as a way to exert power on the country in which they could not do back in the United States. Both Dwight and Alice also share the assimilation into the Indian culture as a prominent theme in each novella. They don’t simply travel to India and act as tourists while there. Both Dwight and Alice use India as a way to forget about their past lives and start new ones.
In “The Gateway of India” Dwight experiences new life while traveling to India. Paul Theroux writes, “Second trip, the life changing one” (85). On his first trip to India, Dwight goes about India through the view of tourists or foreigners who don’t take the time out to appreciate a foreign place. His viewpoint on India changes after encountering the real people that live in India. Behind the scenes of the glamorous business world, Dwight is exposed to the vicious nature of the Indian people. They are not into anything but making money and acting upon foreigners who are gullible. This is exactly what happens to Dwight in this novella. Dwight uses his desire for power and control to live in India. Theroux describes this by saying, “His sexual experiences in India had opened his eyes and given him insights. The world looked different to him” (133). Dwight becomes enraged with exploring his sexuality here. His life becomes controlled by visiting Indru. He uses her as a way to express his power and control over another human, something that he didn’t have back in the states. This is what the entire novella centers around is Dwight’s oblivious use of power and control. This need or desire to express his power and control eventually leads to him getting taken advantage of multiple times. He realizes that he may have not been in power this whole time at all. What seems like complete control and personal satisfaction to him, is viewed as foolery and mockery by the natives of India. The way in which he is humiliated however leads to him realizing the only thing he ever wanted. The novella ends with Theroux saying, “Craving nothing except more life- happy, seeing things as they were” (186). After his emotional and experimental journey throughout India, Dwight realizes what he wanted all along was a spiritual finding that will guide him throughout the rest of his life.
The third novella, “The Elephant God” is no different. Like in “The Gateway of India”, this novella features another oblivious American traveler, Alice. She acts similar to Dwight in that she thinks the people of India as her friends. She is unable to realize the true motives of the Indian people who are out to make careers and money and who stick together and trick foreigners into doing things that will profit them. I thought Amitabh’s description of his people proved this point well. Theroux writes, “Its funny how people come here from overseas- Americans, like you- and don’t realize how we are in constant touch with each other” (240). Like Indru and Shah realized in the second novella, Amitabh uses Alice’s oblivious nature against her. She is left with nobody to side with her except an elephant. This is where I think the title of the book becomes relevant. The elephant is the spirituality that Alice has been looking for all throughout her journey as well. Like Dwight who after traveling and undergoing misfortune, humiliation and manipulation by the Indian people found the centre that he had been looking for, Alice finds this at the end of the third novella. The elephant is her key to accomplishing freedom and the spiritual accomplishment that she had been looking for while in India. The novella ends by Theroux writing, “Then she pulled the long pin from the ring on the post, releasing the chain, releasing the elephant, releasing herself”. (274). After dosing out revenge towards Amitabh and getting that sense of power back like Dwight had at the end of his journey, Alice can be happy again and rejoice in song as she has found the fuel to help her proceed in her life. She has found the meaning behind her travels that she had been looking for.
Also, I was reminded of our sadomasochism-in-everyday-life conversation last week when Dwight reflects that: “…it all revealed to Dwight a culture of both punishment and sexual frustration, for the two always went together,” (pg. 134). This only breeds dominant/submissive, master/servant, “exploiter” (pg. 147)/exploited relationships. Dwight later refers to Indru, one of his liaisons as “…a Scheherazade of sadism,” (pg. 157). Sublimation is dangerous in any society especially in a society of constant “want”. At least for a while, India helps Dwight find himself sexually (pg. 159). He comes off as a creeper sometimes though in his sexual dalliances. In the end, he transcends that need, having had enough of it, and finds himself spiritually or starts on the road (I guess the pun might as well be intended) to find himself spiritually.
India’s poverty, prominently described in both novellas, offers Dwight and Alice a chance to be significant. Dwight can stand out as a business mastermind, even though he contributes very little to the projects, because he is a white man from America. More relating to the poverty, Dwight is able to act as a benefactor to the poor girls he sleeps with because these girls live in the nationally desperate conditions. Alice too is able to stand out in India thanks to the same conditions. She easily gets a job and shines because she posses unique educational skills that is celebrated in India (because India’s poverty requires that the nation is subservient to America in that it’s workers must perfect the “American language”). In both of these cases, had India not been victimized by exploitation, neither Dwight nor Alice would have been able to assume their positions of power.
These new positions of power in the poverty stricken environment allow both Dwight and Alice to further take advantage by living lives that are seemingly unattainable back in the States: both Dwight and Alice live “double lives.” Dwight is a businessman by day and a womanizing, “takes-what-he-wants” man that goes on perverse sexual escapades at night. Alice also leads a double life: she lives in the ashram by day and works in the ideologically opposing, capitalist Electric City in the afternoons.
Once again the poverty of Indian, and the characters’ superiority seems to allow offer the easy option of living these double lives (because no one it seems is truly checking up on these superior people). However Dwight’s case is particularly perverse in the way that he enjoys his superiority in India. Dwight makes this most clear as he remembers his feelings about sleeping with Sumitra, “It was reckless, but he was in India. Who cared?” (103). This sort of world without consequences is a clear product of rich people feeling superior in a poverty stricken environment.
I am not willing to reduce Alice’s motives and enjoyment of poverty stricken India to such a perverse level as Dwight’s. Nonetheless, as mentioned above, India’s poverty does catalyze Alice’s ability to be superior and live double lives. At home, despite her prestigious degree and intelligence, Alice is reduced and defined by her looks. However, India, concerned more with capitalist gain to reduce poverty, is infatuated with her ability as a moneymaker. However, Alice too makes exploitative decisions with this new power as she continues to train her students to be rude Americans, even after she notices the horrible personality she is creating and promoting.
Overall, I believe these two novellas offer our class new motives for travel, in which the traveler enjoys their time abroad because they assume power in this destination thanks to the destination’s poverty. However, Theroux also suggests that these travels have to wake up sometime from the their love for their superiority, and this can be a a very rude awakening.
He takes on a new perspective on life when he abandons his relationships from his home and finds Indru’s “family” to take care of. Shah introduces to him Mahavratas, Karma, and other Indian views, which date to before Christianity began. They change Dwight convincing him that the Indians have strong morals and it gives him a sense of duty when he finds out Indru was beaten and raped. Indru is not just a prostitute, but she represents sensuality in India. Dwight finds it okay to be with her because India is a more sensual place than the states and she needs him for support
One of the points the Mahavratas tries to make is to “lack all possessions”. Near the end of the 2nd book, Dwight spends almost no time in his room, lives frugally and notices materialism in everyone he has met. Indru is not struggling for muster up money for food at all; she uses him out of greed. She even quit her job because Dwight can sustain her with presents and money. Dwight really starts to question the morality of the Indians after Shah returns from taking care of some of his own business meetings in the United States.
Theroux writes, “… Shah had praised the Americans he met: very moral, very decent, very faithful, very humble, truthful in all things” (170) when there evidently is immorality all over. Shah tries to just say “the meetings went well” as a report so Dwight does not know about secret deals. Shah even prevents the Harvard men from meeting Dwight so he can take credit for the deals out of greed. I first wondered whether Dwight thought he would skew their opinions of India or something. I couldn’t piece why Dwight’s clients would be with Shah until it comes out. Shah who shared his own beliefs defied them too for the sake of greed.
Perhaps the most prominent element of The Elephanta Suite is sexuality, specifically sexual relations between tourists and natives. What is notable is that there is never a sense that the relationships are egalitarian or even purely consensual. Dwight’s relationship with Indru is nothing more than that between a “John” and a prostitute, yet he regards himself as a generous benefactor. In some ways, Theroux is nearly obtuse with his metaphor of the exploitation of India by America. However, in “The Elephant God” the situation is changed. With Alice’s rape, the relationship between India and America is called into question. Before the rape, Alice made numerous references to how cheap India was to navigate around, which re-introducing the commercial exploitive theme seen earlier in the novel. However, when Amitabh rapes Alice he becomes the one exploiting her femininity, her weakness. The entire relationship changes. Within the novel, sexuality is closely tied to the ideas of exploitation. Theroux also cares to remind the reader that manipulation often works both ways.
Finally, there is the issue of outsourcing, which is closely tied to the issue of economic exploitation. Dwight, who at first bemoans the fact that he would be sent to conduct business in India, notes, “Everyone gets what they want. But at the same time you’re going something you didn’t bargain for” (154). He becomes very comfortable with the fact that India can supply his company with exactly what they need, at a great profit, however he remains weary of the idea. On the other hand, Alice does not go to India for business, but rather for strict enjoyment and personal growth. Her experience with outsourcing was coincidental. There is a theme that echoes in both “The Gateway of India” the “The Elephant God” when it comes to the idea of economic exploitation and that is simply this: as much as Americans are abusing the resources of India, the Indians are always making a profit. Even when Americans are not making a profit, Indians are. At its heart, the story is about the exploitation of India, but more than that it is about the power struggle between two nations and culture, which are deeply enmeshed due to business and tourism.
Desire can drive us to do crazy things; pursue something or someone that we know is wrong or seek revenge on someone who has hurt us. It can drive simple minded individuals into becoming materialistic or rude and it can take seemingly innocent people and turn them into criminals. Sadly, it hits everyone. Even the pious man who is committed to doing no harm can be conquered by a wanting. No one can predict when they are going to be overcome by a wave of lust or yearning. It is inevitable. But, it’s what we do with it that counts.
The Gateway of India and The Elephant God, two novellas in Paul Theroux’s The Elephanta Suite, first come across as completely opposite stories: the business man’s not-quite-appropriate trysts versus the young woman on the quest for self discovery in an ashram. But farther and farther into the stories, it became blindingly apparent; these aren’t the stories of saviors coming into a culture more disturbed than their own and aiding those they meet, these are the stories of blind-sighted Americans creating monsters out of others and of themselves from an all-consuming desire.
Dwight and Alice, both Americans, travel to India for different purposes. On Dwight’s first trip, he comes unwillingly on business, and is constantly hoping that someone would “get [him] out of here” (84). For Dwight, it was “a week of Indian hell,” and he desperately wanted to go home, even though his home life was not much better (84). In his grand sweeping generalization of India, Dwight felt that it was “not a place to enjoy but one to endure” (86). Although Alice is disappointed with India at first, it’s not like the disgust Dwight feels. Alice imagined India to be full of splendor, and rather than coming to the land she had pictured, with “jokes, the love affairs, the lavish marriage ceremonies, the solemn pieties, the virtuous peasants, the environmentalists, the musicians, the magic, the plausible young men,” she found that it was lonely and “a land of empty corners” (190,197).
Eventually, the two find comfort in aspects of India, whether it be through the people or merely through developing a routine. They soon move on in their feelings of comfort to feel almost like they are needed and powerful and this is where they display the greatest shift in personality. Dwight’s downfall comes in the form of Indru and her sister Padmini. On their first meeting, her “formality [and] the mode of her politeness [make] hims feel, if not powerful, then dominant--in charge in this lonely place” (105). He immediately feels that he has control, even though it was she, that approached him and filled him with enough desire to lose interest in Sumitra. Dwight sees Indru as an image of innocence. The white dress that she wears on their first meeting and “her willingness to kiss seemed like the proof that she wasn’t a whore” (106). He thinks these girls are victims and is blinded by the thought that the girls think of him as a hero. Ironically, he is just the type of men that usually use these young girls and victimizes them. His attendance of Shrinaji Gala Dinner dance to Aid Women in Crisis is an irony in itself. By going, he thinks of himself even more highly as others praise him for his coming.
After all the coddling that he provides the girls, they soon to rely on him for materialistic goods, knowing that he will deliver. Because Dwight believes that “giving her [Indru] money when she said ‘ring money gone’ was his way of possessing her,” he continues to do so (132). Dwight almost sees himself in these girls, believing that he too was once “India’s victim” (138). In his mind, if he can overcome the hardships there, why shouldn’t they? Soon, he changes his view of himself, modifying it so it is now that of a superman, not a possessor. Even though he once admitted it to himself that he was enjoying the power, he worries that others will see him that way and insists (at least to himself) that “he [is] a benefactor,” and “had rescued” both girls (147).
It is not long after this that he starts to put himself even higher on the food chain and see the girls not as victims, but as “parodies” (157). They continue telling him their stories and he becomes fed up with the repetition. He wanted Indru to speak out to help her overcome the hardships, but now that she is, he wishes to silence her once more. In his mind, his only release from her talking is sex. Dwight created a whimpering, materialistic girl in his attempts to make himself into the hero he wished to be. By the end of the story, he “had had a vision of himself as a holy man on a dusty road” (186). His opinion of himself is so high now that he sees himself in the same way as Shah’s pious relative. To sum up: the desire that Dwight felt to the girls and for the feeling of being a hero, led him to create a monster both out of himself and out of the “victims.” Quickly too, similarly to the girls, by sending Shah to the states, Dwight changed him, making him into someone who “had been persuaded that he was interesting” (168). But I want to move on the The Elephant God.
Excuse the slightly briefer discussion of the next story. Regardless, In The Elephant God, Alice too creates a monster out of Amitabh. She teaches him to speak in an American sounding way to sound better on the telephone lines for his job. While she intends to just help him with his accent, she accidentally modifies his personality along with it. He goes from being polite and earnest to being stubborn and abusive. At his worst, he rapes her and turns her into a victim of the law system. The desire to seek revenge on Amitabh is what leads her to forcing the elephant on him, and even though she was in an ashram that insists upon peacefulness, she is driven by her strong emotions to kill him.
Sexism is a strong theme in this novel. In The Gateway of India, we see Dwight take advantage of several different women, all desperate because they need money. Interestingly enough, Dwight doesn’t at first recognize that he is exploiting the native people. He instead feels that he is gradually becoming more “Indian,” and this may be true at the end when he finally gives up his life as a rich businessman to seek spiritual enlightenment. However, he must first realize that he is not a saint for leading these girls out of poverty as he would like to believe but instead a sexual fiend. This moment of transformation happens when he realizes that even the partner he respects most, Shah, knows of his sexually perverse lifestyle. The fact that everybody is connected in a social network and everybody knows everything makes Dwight’s actions a crime against the Indian people as a whole. This novel does this to draw a strong distinction between America and India. A similar technique used to draw contrast is when Alice must fight for her case to be seen in court, it appears that it is her against all of Indian society.
Dwight’s transformation is paralleled to Shah’s transformation. The character of Shah may also be a reflection of the faults of American society, as America turns Shah into an impersonal, conniving jerk. Shah even seems to plot to get rid of Dwight by introducing him to a spiritual path. It seems that with both Dwight and Alice, they first get caught up in a type of unrealistic mentality in which they think they are living an authentic Indian lifestyle. But this notion of integration is phony. Dwight has to lure people to him with money he earned as an American businessman, and Alice has to pay her way through this minimalistic spiritual retreat center, which hypocritically frowns upon anything related to money-making. Dwight eventually realizes his disgusting ways and Alice realizes that her once imagined spiritual environment cannot be applied to the real world (Swami does not give her helpful information when she goes to him for help after being violated). At the end, these characters become completely authentic, because they realize who they really are and what matters to them in the world. They finally learn to see things as they truly are.