Comparing the Native Characters in Colonial Literature to the European Characters in Post-Colonial

Comparing the Native Characters in Colonial Literature to the European Characters in Post-Colonial

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When European colonial authors introduced us to the native, they created the native; the native character became more real to European readers than the actual inhabitants of the new world. The natives' overwhelming otherness eclipsed any individuality that might have been found among them. The native was childish, incapable of reason, and savagely unchristian, or as Lord Cromer described him, a being which "generally acts, speaks and thinks in a manner that is exactly opposite to the European" (qtd. in Said 39). The European world was first given Robinson Crusoe's Friday as a native or, more accurately, the native. Friday could easily (and accurately in the European's mind) be substituted for any non-European. Friday, and the native that he represented, continues to exist in post-colonial literature. Part of him, his otherness, is expressed in the new European character. Another part of him, his nativeness, continues to be expressed in the new native.

The legacy of the other did not die with colonialism. It continues to be a presence in post-colonial literature, only now the other has white skin. Winterbottom/Clarke/Meers/Pilkings is just one character: the other, the European, the white man. Post-colonial literature's example white man is a reincarnation of Friday; his traits may be slightly different, but he remains the same in that he is overwhelmingly opposite from the important individuals found in the literature. Just as the native and the concept of the native was invented by the Europeans, the European has been invented by the new generation of post-colonial authors. In Arrow of God, Chinua Achebe creates Captain T. K. Winterbottom and Tony Clarke, white officers portrayed as mere unemotional bureaucratic cogs in the co...


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...n. The European's once prized light skin has become a sign of illness and he has adopted a stereotypical insensitivity that prevents him from being human. Colonial literature's other, the native, did not end with colonialism. Instead, part of him became the new other, the post-colonial European, while the other part of him remained the native and became the new self. The colonial native is the root of post-colonial characters and, as such, continues to be an integral part of post-colonial literature.



Works Cited

Achebe, Chinua. Arrow of God. New York: Anchor Books, 1969.

Defoe, Daniel. Robinson Crusoe. London: Penguin Books, 1985.

Emecheta, Buchi. The Joys of Motherhood. Oxford: Heinemann Educational Publishers, 1994.

Said, Edward. Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books, 1979.

Soyinka, Wole. Death and the King's Horseman. New York: Norton, 2003.

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