Thursday, October 18, 2012



'The Jewel In The Crown'

Paul Scott

Dame Peggy Ashcroft

Earth Prime-Time

'The Jewel In The Crown' was the umbrella title for this adaptation of Paul Scott's four novels in the "Raj Quartet". Barbie Batchelor's story comes mostly from "The Towers Of Silence".

From Wikipedia:
"The Towers of Silence" is the 1971 novel by Paul Scott that continues his Raj Quartet. It gets its title from the Parsi Towers of Silence where the bodies of the dead are left to be picked clean by vultures. The novel is set in the British Raj of 1940s India. It follows on from the storyline in the "The Day of the Scorpion".

Miss Batchelor is a retired missionary schoolteacher who lives with Mabel Layton at Rose Cottage. Barbie is a simple, down-to-earth woman, who believes strongly in her god and in egalitarian Christianity and has clear ideas about right and wrong. She is troubled that in all her years of missionary work, she was not very successful in converting the children in her charge to Christianity ("How many of them did I bring to God?" she asks herself.) Above all, Barbie wants to be useful and to have a role in the society in which she lives.

Barbie is haunted by the suicide of her friend and former colleague, Edwina Crane, who in "The Jewel and the Crown" witnessed a brutal murder during rioting "on the road to Dibrapur."

Barbie comes from a working-class background, and this — as well as her taking up space in Rose Cottage — causes Mildred Layton to resent her. Barbie's egalitarian attitudes, based on her communal Christian beliefs, annoy and exasperate Mildred.

Barbie is a figure of fun for the English elite in Pankot. They mock her and roll their eyes at what they view as her hysterics and spread rumors that she is a lesbian. However, Sarah Layton, especially, and her sister, Susan, have affection for her.

She talks a lot and fondly remembers her father, a drinker from Camberwell with a joy for life.

The author uses Barbie and other characters to show how India changes Europeans until they no longer resemble those they left behind. Barbie speaks fluent Hindi and is perhaps more Indian than British.

The novel begins with the story of Barbie Batchelor, an old missionary schoolteacher, who, after years of service to the church, decides to take her pension and retire. She finds a place as a paying guest with Mabel Layton, a member of the aristocracy of the English in India, at Rose Cottage in Pankot. Barbie and Mabel become close. Late one night, Mabel tells Barbie that she will only go to Ranpur when she's buried, which Barbie interprets to mean that she wants to be buried in Ranpur, next to the grave of her late husband, James Layton.

Barbie is proud of her working class background and her simple Christianity, but she does her best to behave in a manner that makes upper-class Pankot comfortable. Unfortunately, they will never accept her as one of their own, treating her as a peculiar and unwanted intruder.

Barbie, wanting to show her affection for Susan with a nice wedding-cum-21st birthday gift, buys a set of silver Apostle spoons and gives them to Sarah to pass on. Mabel, while going through some old clothes, comes upon a piece of cloth that remained from a christening gown. The fabric is embedded with woven butterflies, symbolically imprisoned in the material. She gives the piece to Barbie, who is quite taken with its fragility.

In order to make up for having the wedding out of town, Mildred throws a buffet luncheon at the Pankot Rifles officers' mess for Pankot society. Mabel and Barbie go together, but are efficiently separated from each other under Mildred's instructions. Barbie is puzzled that her gift of spoons is not displayed with the other wedding gifts.

Mabel Layton has a stroke and dies. Worried about the state of Mabel's soul, Barbie worms her way into the morgue at the hospital and thinks she sees the anguish of eternal torment on the face of her dead friend. She is then shocked to learn that Mabel will be buried in Pankot and not in Ranpur, as she had wished. She barges in on Mildred to plead for her friend's last wish, but Mildred rebukes her harshly for interfering and offers a vicious evaluation of her character. Mildred gives Barbie until the end of the month to vacate Rose Cottage.

Barbie tries hard to get back into the missionary service, but finds a position difficult to secure. She learns through Sarah that Mabel has left her an annuity in her will. Barbie is embarrassed by the gesture and predicts that Mildred will cause trouble over it.

Mildred blames Barbie for planting the idea [of infanticide] in Susan's mind and returns the Apostle spoons through Clarissa.  Barbie, deeply hurt by the insult, sends notes to Colonel Trehearne and Captain Coley saying that she intends to make a gift of silver to the 1st Pankot Rifles. She then sets off in search of Coley to deliver the goods. Arriving at Coley's bungalow in a rainstorm, Barbie gets no answer at the door. Finding it unlocked, she goes in to leave the gift inside. But hearing an odd sound, she investigates and comes upon the sight of Coley and Mildred Layton rutting furiously.

Undetected by the lovers, she flees from the bungalow, but is caught in the rainstorm and falls seriously ill, coming down with bronchopneumonia.

Barbie, recovering from pneumonia but unable to speak above a whisper, finally donates the spoons to the regiment. She gets a letter from Calcutta, offering her a position as a teacher in Dibrapur, the site of Edwina Crane's horror.

Captain Coley informs Barbie that a trunk full of her things has been found stored in a shed at Rose Cottage and it had better be removed before Mildred finds out. Knowing that she will soon be leaving the Peplows and will have enough space of her own, she goes up to the vacant cottage to retrieve her trunk. There she encounters Ronald Merrick, who is in town for treatment at the local military hospital and has come in search of the Laytons; however, no one is currently in residence. Barbie is excited to finally meet Merrick and asks him about Mayapore. She opens her trunk and presents him with her copy of the painting, "The Jewel in the Crown". Merrick recognizes it as one he saw among Edwina Crane's things and accepts it gratefully.

Barbie has the tonga-wallah load the large trunk onto the tonga she is travelling in. Merrick worries that the load is too heavy, especially on such a steep road down from Rose Cottage. Barbie sets off anyway as it begins to rain.

The dirt road becomes slick and the tonga-wallah loses control, dumping Barbie and the trunk in a ditch. Barbie is physically and mentally injured in the accident and ends up at a sanitarium in Ranpur. Her view is of the Parsees' towers of silence of the title. Sarah visits her, but she cannot seem to get through. Barbie dies just as the atomic bomb is exploded over Hiroshima in August 1945.

You can find 'The Jewel In The Crown' in about a dozen segments on YouTube....


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