Friday, July 16, 2010

Blogging The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu by Sax Rohmer, Part Eleven – “The Knocking on the Door”

“The Knocking on the Door” was the tenth and final installment of Sax Rohmer’s serial, Fu-Manchu. By the time it was published in THE STORY-TELLER in July 1913, it had already appeared a few weeks earlier in book form as Chapters 27-30 of Rohmer’s first novel, The Mystery of Dr. Fu-Manchu (re-titled The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu for its subsequent U. S. publication).

“The Knocking on the Door” starts off with Dr. Petrie and Nayland Smith grieving the terrible loss of Inspector Weymouth. There is little comfort in Weymouth dying a hero despite his having taken Dr. Fu-Manchu with him to a watery grave. The Inspector was denied his dignity during his supreme act of self-sacrifice for he died a victim of Dr. Fu-Manchu’s madness-inducing bacilli.

In his anguish, Nayland Smith gives vent to one of his most hateful pronouncements, “Pray God the river has that yellow Satan….I would sacrifice a year of my life to see his rat’s body on the end of a grapping iron!”

Time and again, it is Nayland Smith and no other character who gives voice to the racist remarks that make contemporary readers squirm in discomfort. Considering that Smith is Rohmer’s imperialist character – a colonial administrator for the Crown – it is likely this was a deliberate decision on the part of the author to paint the character as intolerant in contrast with the narrator who has fallen in love with an Egyptian. As the series progresses, Rohmer’s narrators will frequently enter into interracial relationships in spite of their association with the bitter and misogynistic Smith.

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