Cannibalism in Literature and Film by Jennifer Brown (auth.)

By Jennifer Brown (auth.)

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However, if the land is a mother figure to the natives, to the invaders it 38 Mr Cannibal I Presume? The Colonial Cannibal is a cannibalistic monster, with fiendish, cannibalistic offspring. Marlow describes the jungle as looking at you with a ‘vengeful aspect’ (48–49). As with the natives, the country itself is a place he cannot understand or fully penetrate. The woods are closed to him, ‘like the closed door of a prison’ (81). While Africa was a continent to go to and prove your heroism, it remained full of mystery and threatening Otherness.

He further argues that since the ‘mass’ is an ‘imaginary construct, displacing the unknowable multiplicity of human life, it can be reshaped at will, in accordance with the wishes of the imaginer’ (23). In colonial fiction the mass was often configured as the savage cannibal, threatening to consume all that was held dear to Victorian England. Colonial fiction served an important purpose in presenting the supposed refinement of the colonizers in complete contrast to the savagery of the colonized. The English colonial novel has as its primary motivation the justification of the colonial mission of the nineteenth century and the elevation of English ethnic superiority over the cultures it encountered overseas.

There the men could ‘get back to basics’ without the troubling presence of women or government. There they could battle wild animals, inhospitable deserts and swamps, their desires for ‘undesirable’ women, and warring natives. King Solomon’s Mines (1885) and She (1887) were part of the fiction that ‘equipped the metropolitan subject with an imaginary model of the territories that were added to the British empire’ (Daly 53). The adventure quest was not only a genre for celebrating manly virtues but it was also a genre that appealed to a sense of spatial mastery, highlighted by the motif of the treasure map.

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