The writer’s main point in Banana Bottom might be to illustrate the often complicated and intricate relationship between colonialism, race, and individuality. The entangled dynamic is arguably represented by the novel’s main character, Bita Plant.
When she’s twelve, Bita is sexually assaulted by Crazy Bow. According to the narrator, Crazy Bow descends from a “strange Scotchman” who bought Banana Bottom and freed the slaves. Yet as Crazy Bow’s assault on Bita demonstrates, the Scotchman were not a total force for good. Bita’s assault forces the reader to confront the problematic and paradoxical impact of colonialism.
This point is reinforced when Crazy Bow is actually punished (against the wishes of Bita’s dad, who wanted the assault hushed up). He is arrested, tried in a court of a law, and then “sent to the madhouse.” This detail might upend expectations about colonialism. It indicates that colonizers could not get away with anything. Colonizers could be brought to justice.
The contradictory components of colonialism are pointed out further with Bita’s education. In a certain light, Priscilla and Malcolm Craig help Bita. They remove her from her somewhat precarious surroundings and give her an education. Without their patronage, Bita might have been like the other girls, who have as many as five children “without the benefit of a steady mate.” At the same time, it’s possible to conclude that Priscilla and Malcolm dehumanize her. They treat her like an object. Priscilla refers to training her “as an exhibit.” It’s like they’re taking away Bita’s personhood and turning her into a receptacle for British ideology.
In the end, it’s safe to say that Bita does not become a mere vessel for the Craigs. She doesn’t marry the man the Craigs want her to marry. She marries Jubban, a man from the village. This turn of events continues to drive home the point that colonialism can produce situations and results that are not always easy to unpack.