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King Solomon's Mines

by H. Rider Haggard

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In King Solomon's mine what is the significance of homosociality? To what extent does the portrayal of the same-sex social bonds contribute or conflict with the portrayal of imperial activity?

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The reader can get a sense of the centrality of homosociality to King Solomon's Mines by simply reading the dedication from the fictional hero Allan Quatermain. It reads "to all the big and little boys who read it." Later, in the book's introduction, Quatermain acknowledges that, with the exception of Foulata, the maiden who is saved from sacrifice, there is "no woman in it" and "not a petticoat in the whole history" (9). Quatermain and his companions Henry and Captain Good are models of masculinity, and the book itself is demonstrative of how British imperialism, constantly expanding the influence of the realm around the world, was always interrelated with ideas of British manhood. The bravery, mutual loyalty, and steadfastness with which the three men undertake their adventure sees them through a number of challenges, as does their intelligence and rationality. All of these were seen as masculine virtues, and all are contrasted with the unnaturalness of Gagool, a woman who schemes against the men and dies a gruesome death as a result. In the late nineteenth-century British Empire, places like Africa were sites where men could prove their masculinity (as Rudyard Kipling suggests in his poem "The White Man's Burden"). Other than the dedication, perhaps the most revealing line about homosociality and the masculinity it is intended to portray is uttered by Twala, who says, "Girls are pleasant. . . but men are better. Kisses and the tender words of women are sweet, but the sound of the clashing of men's spears and the smell of men's blood are sweeter far!"(178). Aside from the masculine gendering of empire common in his day, Haggard portrays Quatermain and his companions as "men's men," experiencing the kind of exotic adventure in which, most of his readers would have thought, women and romance would have been distractions.

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