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What can be said about imperialism in King Solomon's Mines?

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feeruse | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 7, 2009 at 1:23 AM via web

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What can be said about imperialism in King Solomon's Mines?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted December 21, 2012 at 6:18 PM (Answer #1)

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Whilst the actual novel does not directly address the fact of imperialism, this is only because it is an assumed reality of the world that is presented to the reader in this novel. Quatermain's narrative is based on the assumption that the British, because of their supposedly greater skill, intellilgence and moral virtue, are beholden to bring the light of civilisation to "darker" areas of the world, such as Africa. The way in which Quatermain talks to the various non-white characters give ample evidence of this belief of European superiority that was at the heart of British imperialism. Note how this supremacy is expressed in the following response of Umbopa to Quartermain's reprimand that he remember his station:

"How dost thou know that I am not the equal of the Inkosi I serve?" he said. "He is of a royal house, no doubt; one can see it in his size and in his eye; so, mayhap, am I. At least I am as great a man."

Such a comment draws the reader's attention to the notion of in/equalitity in the novel, which was at the heart of British imperialism.

Note, too, how Ignosi's isolationist policy when he gains the throne is designed to try and curtail the spread of the more negative impacts of imperialism: violence, greed and drunkenness. On the one hand, Haggard clearly shows he recognises the dark and ugly side of imperialism, but the way in which Quatermain treats various non-white characters also shows that the basic myth of white supremacy remains unchallenged in this story.

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