Postcolonialism in Friday

Topics: Colonialism, Europe, Robinson Crusoe Pages: 12 (3248 words) Published: June 11, 2014

“I would say colonialism is a wonderful thing. It spread civilization to Africa. Before it they had no written language, no wheel as we know it, no schools, no hospitals, not even normal clothing.” -Ian Smith

The above quote by Ian Douglas Smith, a Rhodesian politician of British heritage who led the mostly white minority government that unilaterally declared independence from Great Britain in 1965, aptly captures the distorted view that colonizers held towards the native cultures of colonized lands. Although Smith led the movement for Rhodesian independence, he did so under a government that represented the interests of people of European descent in the country and disregarded the native cultures as primitive, uncivilized insignificances. Europeans used a similar Euro-centric perspective, or the belief in the centrality and superiority of European culture, to legitimize nearly all of their imperial colonization efforts. European Imperialism began in the 16th century and continued until the mid-20th century. This period is defined by European countries utilizing non-European, or Oriental, countries with low capital but abundant labor to meet the growing demands of the Industrial Revolution and the developing capitalist economy. Thus, imperialism establishes a particular stage in capitalist development, and capitalism proves the distinguishing feature between colonialism and imperialism because “direct colonial rule is not necessary for imperialism in this sense because the economic (and social) relations of dependency and control ensure both captive labour as well as markets for European industry” (Loomba, 12). In contrast to imperialism, colonialism “can be described as a relationship characterized by the unequal distribution of social, political, and generally, physical power” (King). In colonial situations, a dominant metropolitan center implants settlements in a distant territory, but

‘colonialism’ has developed a much broader connotation that extends beyond its denotation of a political structure since modern uses of the word also entail a prejudiced mindset towards nonEuropean people. In order to justify their complete economic exploitation of native peoples, Europeans developed highly stereotyped, negative views of non-Europeans, labeling them as exotic, hyper-sexualized, dishonest thieves in accordance with a mentality that has gained the title Orientalism, and they devalued all native customs, knowledge, and culture to the point of triviality. In what as become known as a Manichean relationship, everything associated with European civilization was considered good, and all aspects of native culture and nature in general was believed to be inferior.

As independence movements gained sway and colonies gained independence from their former colonizers, a new genre of literature emerged to capture the former colonies’ opinions of their once-colonizers and colonialism as a whole. People call this style of literature postcolonial because it both chronologically follows colonialism and proves oppositional to it. Postcolonial literature is writing that emerged from former colonies after decolonization and focuses on the social, economic, political, cultural, and psychological repercussions of colonization. One such novel is Friday by Michel Tournier, a retelling of the Robinson Crusoe story from a postcolonial perspective.

As with the traditional Robinson Crusoe story, the novel chronicles the exploits of a British man named Robinson Crusoe who gets stranded on an island after the Virginia, a ship bound for Chile, crashes in a storm. Besides the ship’s dog, Tenn, Crusoe is the only survivor of the crash, and his body washes up on an island that he initially names the Island of Desolation. Crusoe spends an uncounted length of time wallowing in the solitariness of his imprisonment on

the island, frequently passing entire days hiding in a marshland that he calls the mire, before a hallucination of...

Cited: Anthony D. King. "Colonialism." Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University
Press. Web.14 Mar. 2014. .
Loomba, Ania. Colonialism/Postcolonialism. revised. New York: Routledge, 2007. Print.
Said, Edward W. "Orientalism." The Georgia Review 31.1 (1977): 162-206. JSTOR. Web. 13
Mar. 2014.
"The Napoleonic Expedition and the growth of collecting (1798-1836)." The British Museum.
Trustees of the British Museum, Web. 13 Mar. 2014.
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