Sophia and Cultural Capital

Sophia’s exaggeration of the new, foreign world around her marks what is significant in her western gaze and sensibility. In the seventh letter to Arabella, Sophia tries too exhaustively to emphasize the difference in the “nature” of India and her native Britain. She claims the air she breathes is indescribably different, so much so that the British nature is no “competition” to that of India’s “productions” (67). The discourse she uses to describe India place attributes of value to them. The way she describes the competition and how the value of India is like some sort of precursor to capitalist ideas, but most importantly it is early colonialist. The value is found once Sophia has touched down on India, so the real value is in Sophia’s possession of India. The irony of this is Sophia’s attempt to include a quote by poet Andrew Young as an attempt to prove that what she admires of India is more natural and void of greed:

“Can wealth give happiness?—look round and see

What gay distress, what splendid misery”

Andrew Young’s poem criticizes the idea of excess and even alludes to nature just as Sophia has in her letter. However, the difference is Sophia is in a royal setting while she views everything around her almost through a monetary perspective. The “nature” that she sees and feels is a capital she has achieved that her friend Arabella has not. It is no coincidence that she uses words like “productions” and “competition” while speaking of nature because Gibbes is trying to show the audience that while Sophia is encountering culture in India in a royal and political landscape, the only thing she sees is the price value of everything compared to her native country. Even for the poetry of Young, Sophia is placing a price tag on it as if to validate her opinions about wealth.

–Cesar R

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2 thoughts on “Sophia and Cultural Capital

  1. I think the most original part of this post was its focus on what benefit English has done for India in broadening its horizons. I think as an improvement I would like to see how she describes the competition in India and the poem in reference to that.

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