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Robinson Crusoe/Castle of my Skin At first, it appears that there is no much in common between Daniels Dafoe's Robinson Crusoe and George Lamming's In the Castle of my Skin. However, if we examine these two books more closely, it will appear that they both revolve around the same theme a civilizing mission of White man and its different effects. We need to keep in mind that Robinson Crusoe was written in 18 th century, when there was no political-correctness, which allowed European writers and scientists to pursue their professional goals without a fear of being labeled racist. White people were exploring new lands and colonizing them. Very often, they would encounter scenes of primitive savagery. Therefore, it was quite natural for them to express their vision of savage lands in very honest and logical way.
Without the doubt, there are imperialist undertones can be found in Dafoe's book, but we need to keep in mind that there was no such term in existence, at the time when Dafoe wrote his masterpiece. Crusoe is being presented to us as typical White colonist. Basically, we can describe his story in few sentences. Crusoe managed to survive the naval catastrophe, when his ship struck rocks and everybody else died. He was able not to just survive but also to build a civilization infrastructure on deserted island, while depending solely on his own ingenuity. After a while, he met Friday and turned him into his servant.
As time went on, he began to think of himself as superior being: I thought myself very rich in subjects... I was absolute Lord and lawgiver; they all owed their Lives to me (Dafoe, p 57). Thus, we can see that Crusoe was no stranger top the idea of white mans burden. He really believed that it his mission to spread the civilization over his island.
Crusoe was convinced that it was God himself who entrusted him with this mission. Sometimes Dafoe's character sounds like a true preacher: Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Dafoe). In his own mind, Crusoe had the authority to impose his ideas on others. We know well from the history that European colonial expansion was always accompanied by the religious rhetoric. White Protestants considered themselves as chosen people, who had a duty of establishing a true Christian state in the New World. This is why we can say that Robinson Crusoe is an imperialist in making.
He thinks of his superiority towards Friday as something absolutely natural. At the same time we cannot say that Crusoes colonial project was clearly contributing to his own undoing. It is quite obvious that Friday benefited a lot from becoming Crusoes servant. From being a savage cannibal he transformed into the person who was capable of an abstract thought. Today we hear a lot about historical guilt of White people, whose colonizing practices were often brutal. But there is no single example of former European colonies becoming economically and politically successful, after White colonizers had left.
Black people in Africa, for example, now recall the time of European colonization as the best period in history of their nations, because back then, trains used to arrive on schedule, Medicare was provided equally to all and there were no mass rapes taking place, as it happens in South Africa nowadays. Nevertheless, as we can see today, Western countries are beginning to pay a price for their colonial practices. They are being flooded by illegal immigrants from countries that used to be colonies once. These immigrants do not assimilate into the host nation but form their own society within the society, while demanding more and more special privileges. Character G from Lamming's In the Castle of my Skin is described as potential immigrant. He thinks that it is the color of his skin that prevents him from getting out of poverty.
G continuously complains about his bad lack: It was my ninth celebration of the gift of life, my ninth celebration of the consistent lack of an occasion for celebration (Lamming, p. 9). He relates his inability to advance in life to the fact that White people were mercilessly exploiting his native island. G observes that White Englishmen live in better houses and eat better food. He considers it to be a great injustice.
G grows to almost hate White people; nevertheless, at the end of the novel, he travels to America to fulfill his dream of becoming rich. Despite a very banal novels storyline, author strives to make a political statement. According to him, the root of all evils in Barbados is the fact that this island remained a British colony for a long period of time. G complains about the fact that time in Barbados seem to be passing very slow: No one seemed to notice how the noon had passed to evening, the evening to night; nor to worry that the weather had played me false. Nothing mattered but the showers of blessing and the eternal will of the water's source (Lamming, p. 10).
Somehow G relates it to colonial oppression, even though that time used to pass even slower for native Barbadians, before the arrival of White people, because technological and cultural progress was virtually unknown for them. Lamming tries very hard to win readers sympathy towards G. There is an episode in his novel, where G picks up a penny off the floor and looks at it with amazement, because he had never seen so much money before. We are supposed to cry, while reading about it. Yet, anyone who can think logically understands that, even while being oppressed, G could still use the spoils of Western civilization. If it was not up to White colonizers, he could still be running around with the spear in his hand in search of food, as countless generations of his ancestors used to do.
Lamming's novel is filled with cheep sentimentalism, but author can never succeed in convincing White readers to feel a historical guilt, as it is required by the promoters of political-correctness. Barbados is an independent country now. However, the political independence does not prevent it from slowly sinking back into the savagery, as more and more White people leave this island. Lamming had immigrated to Britain, not because he could not achieve his professional goals in Barbados, but because the living standards in Britain are much higher. Therefore, people will a hard time believing that he was genuinely concerned about his native Barbados.
Every city in Britain and America has now its own areas of Third World where White people do not even risk setting foot. These areas are being traditionally referred to as ghettos. They are populated predominantly by representatives of ethnic minorities. Garbage on the streets, drug dealers openly selling cocaine, almost total unemployment this is the normal way of life for the people who were supposed to enrich Western civilization. The multiculturalism is actually a reversed colonialism. We now have to pay for our ancestors being too greedy.
It is the ultimate result of Western countries engaging in colonial expansion, back in the history. In our time, the legacy of colonialism is being discussed in negative terms. It has been suggested that colonial period in worlds history is marked with massive violations of aboriginal peoples rights. Also, contemporary historians point out to the fact that natural recourses in underdeveloped countries were being exploited in the most shameless manner.
Yet, even now there is a lot of injustice happening in the world and it would be naive to think that there can be any moral obligations, when it comes to extracting economical profit. Even now, former British colonies try to maintain close contacts with Britain by being members of Commonwealth. This, of course, benefits them more than Britain, as theyre heavily dependent on British financial aid. If there is any historical guilt on the part of Brits, they had redeemed it long ago. Therefore, the ideas of white mans burden cannot be considered as imperialist myth. Dafoe and Lamming express different opinions about colonialism, but neither of these two authors describes colonial oppression as something utterly unnatural.
In fact, G clearly associates it with the social order. Robinson Crusoe and G have opposite agendas; nevertheless, they are organically integrated into the set of circumstances that revolve around them. This is why these two novels only contain indirect evidence that colonial project undermines it own effectiveness.
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