The Juggernaut Roles in England: The Idol of Patriarchal Authority in Jane Eyre and The Egoist
The word Juggernaut, which denotes any object, institution, or idea bearing destructive and inexorable force, is now a relatively familiar English term. In the nineteenth century, however, English readers and writers were acutely aware of its foreign origin. The word is derived from the Hindi Jagannáth, the name of an idol of Krishna, the most famous of which resided at a temple in Puri, India. Translated literally, the name means “lord of the world.” At the turn of the nineteenth century, this idol became a widely recognized emblem of Oriental idolatry, a focal point of imperial concern, disgust, and amusement. It was remarked upon and described in Parliamentary debates, East India Company despatches, missionary tracts, and travel narratives. By turns sublime and picturesque, dangerous and ludicrous, Juggernaut functions throughout these texts as a vivid image of heathen idolatry.1 By the 1840s, however, it also paradoxically served as a figure for varieties of destructive violence and idolatrous worship detected by novelists and social critics at home. As the word wanders from descriptions of outlandish India into descriptions of the domestic social field, it provides intriguing case studies of domestic autoethnography, compelling evidence of the Victorian anxiety that England had failed to distinguish itself from colonial otherness.
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