In the end the issue is always the same: European against Native, against me. Remember this well: It is Europe that swallows up Natives while torturing us sadistically Eu-r-ope only their skin is white. Their hearts are full of nothing but hate. (Toer, This Earth of Mankind, Pg.329) In her eloquent response to unjust and discriminatory treatment, Nyai Ontosoroh captures the theme of Pramoedya Ananta Toer's This Earth of Mankind. In his novel, Toer explores the inhumane treatment of Nyais and the system that brought about their degradation. He unapologetically criticizes the Indonesian view of sexuality, women's status in society, and race. Using Minke as an example, Toer illustrates Indonesia's naive acceptance of Dutch culture and emphasizes that the West does not necessarily bring civilization: instead it can shake the foundations of an ancient culture and force the people to comply with laws decreed by a ruler only known through photos. Through his main characters, Minke, Nyai Ontosoroh, and Annelies, Toer delves into the demons of his nation's past and offers a poignant critique of the racial tensions and the sexual stereotypes that plagued Indonesia around the turn of the twentieth century.
[...] Through these scenes, Toer illustrates the deep-seeded prejudices of his country: Minke has become so accustomed to being looked down upon that he comes to expect it; and even though people discriminate against him, Minke still conforms to the system and passes judgment on Nyais. Minke has full faith in the Dutch system at this point, and he has not truly stopped to consider the unjust conditions in which he lives. However, Minke's uncritical acceptance of the Dutch system faces many challenges throughout the book and eventually dissolves into resentment and anger. [...]
[...] Toer chronicles Minke's life and his decisions, and shows his transition from a Native who wishes he were European to a Native who loses all faith in the European system because of the racism he and his family experience. When Robert Suurhof brings Minke to the Mellema house, Robert Mellema does not even acknowledge Minke when he enters his home; Minke must wait for Robert Mellema's acceptance before he can enter. Because Minke is a Native, Mellema can refuse to allow him into his home without any other reason. [...]
[...] The Dutch in This Earth of Mankind epitomize colonial exploitation; they are responsible for Nyai's way of life, the discrimination against Nyai, and her eventual downfall. Nyai Ontosoroh worked her life away trying to save and improve her company; she raised her child without the help of a husband because the Dutch views on interracial relationships and nyais corrupted his intentions. The Dutch have placed Nyai in a precarious position, and after years of toil, they take everything she accomplished and loved. [...]
[...] A nyai's morals are considered to be the lowest of society because she is basically a live-in prostitute, but the Dutch created the system and are now uncomfortable with the overt sexuality of it. In Indonesian society sexuality is viewed as taboo: Minke is embarrassed to discuss his sexuality with Dr. Martinet, and when Minke's sexual life is revealed, he is expelled from school because he is viewed as a sexual predator; and nyai's have no rights because they are viewed as sexually immoral. [...]
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