4038PAPER - 15 November 2007 Professor Rangarajan ENG 4038...

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15 November 2007 Professor Rangarajan ENG 4038 Contact! In Imperial Eyes Travel Writing and Transculturation , Mary Louise Pratt coins the term “contact zone.” Pratt defines this zone as a “social space where disparate cultures meet, clash, and grapple with eachother, often in highly asymmetrical relations of domination and subordination – like colonialism, slavery, or their aftermaths…”(4). The characters in King Solomon’s Mines encounter the contact zone throughout the novel as the dominating colonial “adventurers” set off and meet the people presented as “savages” or natives. Ostensibly the characters remain unchanged from their encounters on both sides of the disparate spectrum, but this is decidedly not the case when the two cultures meet. Both the native and colonial characters exhibit signs of fundamental changes through their encounters in meeting a different culture. For Pratt’s “contact zone” to be properly executed, the contact must be established. It is through the two cultures “grappling” and playing out dominating ideologies of subordination that the “contact zone” is fully put into action. H. Rider Haggard begins King Solomon’s Mines with the narrator, Alan Quartermain explaining his position for writing about his adventures north of South Africa. Immediately Quartermain establishes himself as a man who is familiar with colonial areas of Africa when he tells the reader, “At an age when other boys are at school, I was earning my living as a trader in the old Colony. I have been trading, hunting, fighting, or mining ever since”(9). He does an adequate job separating himself from his colleagues and presenting
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his character as a robust and man of experience. Quartermain conveys himself in this fashion to associate him with the more primal and practical application of life and distinguishes himself as a hunter, but not a writer. In writing his narrative of his experiences traveling to King Solomon’s Mines, Alan does not reflect on the life- changing effects of his travels and the influence the people he met along the way on his character. He depicts his story as if he is barely affected at all, and tells the reader that he is writing more out of a competition. If the competition had not been presented to him, he probably would not have written at all as he apologizes for his writing before beginning his story. He says, “I can only say in excuse for it that I am more accustomed to handle a rifle than a pen”(8). So, instead of a piece of personal reflection, Quartermain writes for three other reasons: first, because his two travel companions asked him to write about their adventure, second, because he is “laid up” and has an injured left leg that would not allow him to do anything more productive with his time, and finally because he wants his son to have something else to occupy his time at medical school (9). As Quartermain frames his adventure narrative, it appears to the reader that his objectives are
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4038PAPER - 15 November 2007 Professor Rangarajan ENG 4038...

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