n Missionalia : Southern African Journal of Mission Studies - European missionary attitudes, Chinese culture, and colonial discourse in A.J. Cronin's

Volume 40, Issue 1_2
  • ISSN : 0256-9507



Although A.J. Cronin's best-selling novel of 1941, is one of the most accomplished examples of missionary fiction in English literature, it has been the subject of very little scholarly analysis. In the present article, steps are taken towards filling this lacuna by analysing Cronin's European and Chinese characters against the backdrop of colonial discourse theory. It is demonstrated that the normative dualistic categories of for example good vs. evil and cultural progress vs. primitivism cannot be applied to this novel. Cronin created a gallery of complex characters who embody diverse qualities, some of which run counter to the assumption that Occidental literature has been a conscious and unconscious justification for imperialism. In the case of the ecumenically minded Cronin, this is further underscored by his endorsement of certain elements of Chinese culture, not least parts of its philosophical-religious heritage.

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