Raleigh's work is a blend of fact and fiction. In this text, he views Guiana from a European colonialist perspective. Raleigh depicts Guiana as a pawn to be possessed by a European power (in his eyes, either Spain or England) and views its people and resources with an eye to conquest and appropriation.
Critics have often noted the odd blend of fact and fiction in this narrative. On one hand, Raleigh, who never penetrated far into the Guayana portion of Venezuela, the location Guiana, had access to maps and geographic information, so he was able to talk knowledgeably, with some accuracy, and in detail about native groups, rivers, and towns. He mentions, for example, that the Orenoque river is navigable by canoe for 1,000 miles and that there is a "great town" called Macureguarai located at the foot of a mountain.
Lying next to this accurate information, however, are wholly fictitious accounts, such as of the Ewaipanoma, who
have their eyes in their shoulders, and their mouths in the middle of their breasts, and that a long train of hair groweth backward between their shoulders.
Here, Raleigh covers himself by saying he has heard reports, not seen these people himself.
Raleigh, trying to redeem himself with Queen Elizabeth I, whom he had offended by marrying one of her maids of honor without permission, positions Guiana as filled with gold, though he does not come home with this supposed treasure. He fears that if the British do not gain control of it, the Spanish will, and he envisions British conquest as much gentler and more benign than the Spanish. For instance, he describes the Spanish as having kept native people
in chains, and dropped their naked bodies with burning bacon, and such other torments.
Raleigh overall describes Guiana, despite the presence of Spaniards, as ripe for the picking,
a country that hath yet her maidenhead, never sacked, turned, nor wrought.
In doing so, Raleigh strongly implies that European "rape" of Guiana is its destiny. He never once sees the land as other than useful for England, never considering that its people might have a right to control their own resources or destiny. In doing so, he contributes to a pattern of European paternalism in thinking about the New World.