Free Essay. The Roles of Language and Literature in the Process of Colonization-Robinson Crusoe

Published: 2023-02-12
Free Essay. The Roles of Language and Literature in the Process of Colonization-Robinson Crusoe
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Languages Writers World literature
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1178 words
10 min read

Many writers view postcolonial literature as a form of cultural translation, and language, in particular, has become a central interest in postcolonial studies. During colonization, many foreign languages were imposed by the colonizers onto the people they colonized and even barred them from speaking their mother tongues. Colonial representation of the significance of language during colonization relies on political images which are developed to portray the ideas of power and domination over the natives. This form of representation often creates false ideology since it is a man-made portrayal created by the power-hungry colonizers to deceive the locals. Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe is one of the postcolonial literature which is contextually linked to the European discovery of and expansion of colonial empires. Although the novel is a great example of an adventure story, it is also an excellent representation of language as a prototype of a culture, a religion, and an ideology in the process of colonization.

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Robinson Crusoe is more than just an adventurous fiction. It is a story about a European man who would love to expand his country's territory as well as its autonomy (Vandermeersche & Soetaert 9). It describes how an Englishman interacts and extends his control over a huge, indifferent, and relatively unfriendly environment. The protagonist stands for English capitalism, imperialism and in particular the European colonialism. He leaves his motherland and sets on a distance Caribbean island in quest of fortune, and to establish his own civilization and colony. The author portrays Crusoe's character as an imperialistic attitude of a colonizer whose main goal is to be in a superior position to authorize or dominate others. As a colonizer, he saved his slave Friday from savages, and their relationship clearly depicts the use of language and naming practices as an act of subversion.

According to the author, when Crusoe first saved his slave, he refused to ask the boy his name, but instead, offered to name him after the day he was saved; Friday (McInelly 7). Due to the language barrier, it was important that Crusoe chose a name for his new servant, however, it is quite interesting that he decided to name him after a day of the week, which is the Western culture. He ignored the fact that the only native of the story might have had a name of his own, and the fact that people indigenous to the island did not plan their lives corresponding to the seven-day week schedule used back in England. This naming concept from Crusoe indicates how much he wanted to rid Friday of his native culture and to impose his own culture and language to the locals. In the text, Crusoe seemingly names Friday for "the Day I sav'd his Life" (Defoe 149), which reflects his eagerness to develop a new identity for his colony as an English-speaking civilization. Additionally, he names his servant after a thing and not a real person which indicates the overall European colonizers' attitude towards the islanders and other natives. As a matter of fact, his tendency to visualize and design his own reality through language depicts the nature of the colonial masters which is to impose their own culture and habits on the simple living people (Loar 11).

The author also tries to reveal the colonial ethnocentrism in a scene in which Crusoe tries to affright Friday off his cannibalistic proclivity. Instead of gradually ridding Friday off his cultural values, he becomes extremely quick to impose his western tendencies and beliefs onto his servant. He quickly objects and even become violent when Friday tries to dig and feast on corpses. In the book, Crusoe "appear'd very angry, express'd my Abhorrence of it, made as if I would vomit at the Thought of it" (Defoe 149). The specific terms such as "Abhorrence" in this passage reveals how the colonizers used their languages to affright others into relinquishing their own mindset, culture, and behaviors (Armstrong 211). The use of these words by the author also portrays the attitude of the true colonizers who had immense hatred for the practices and culture of the indigenous people. Essentially, Crusoe's mindset makes him oblivious to the customs of the native islanders except that of the European colonizers. His behavior demonstrates just how imposing the colonizers can actually become; even the diet of the indigenous people becomes an issue.

Another colonial mentality of Crusoe is revealed when he made clothes for Friday. He describes the native islanders as savages and by making clothes for his new servant, he compares himself to a benevolent father who is converting the natives into civilized people. Although Friday had difficulties in adapting to his new attire, Crusoe believed that his servant was having the best time of his life as he was dressed exactly like his master. Little did he know that Friday was feeling pain and discomfort wearing western fabrics. In the novel, Crusoe notes that his servant "was mighty pleas'd to see himself almost as well cloath'd as his master" (Defoe 150). According to McInelly, this passage serves as a valuable example of how colonizers stripped the colonized of their individuality, identity as well as culture (9). Crusoe only believes that dressing like a typical civilized English people would be exotic and of great interest to the islanders. To Friday, this transition is not only painful emotionally but also excruciating in a physical way. The author narrates that to Crusoe's servant, the new fabrics are "very awkward and hurting, but he took to them very well" (Defore 150).

Crusoe also uses hateful language against his servant's religion when he tries to convert Friday to Christianity. He describes the native islanders as pagans who worship no true God when he realizes that Friday is deeply committed to his own religious practices. According to the author, Crusoe describes Friday and his fellow islanders as "the most blinded ignorant Pagans in the World" (Defoe 157). His word choices when describing his servant's religion are condescending and horrid at the same time. It shows just how much the true European colonizers viewed their subjects and their cultures as compared to the European way of life.

In conclusion, Robinson Crusoe is more than just an adventure story as it represents language as a prototype of a culture, a religion, and an ideology in the process of colonization. It describes how an Englishman interacts and extends his control over a huge, indifferent, and relatively unfriendly environment. Its use of language to undermine the culture of the islanders and to impose their own "superior" customs shows just how much language acted as a tool for colonization.

Works Cited

Armstrong, Dianne. "The Myth of Cronus: Cannibal and Sign in Robinson Crusoe." Eighteenth-Century Fiction 4.3 (1992): 207-220.

Defoe, Daniel. Robinson Crusoe. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1994. Print.

Loar, Christopher F. "How to Say Things with Guns: Military Technology and the Politics of Robinson Crusoe." Eighteenth-Century Fiction 19, no. 1 (2006): 1-20.

McInelly, Brett C. "Expanding empires, expanding selves: Colonialism, the novel, and "Robinson Crusoe"." Studies in the Novel 35, no. 1 (2003): 1-21.

Vandermeersche, Geert, and Ronald Soetaert. "Landscape, culture, and education in Defoe's Robinson Crusoe." CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture 14.3 (2012): 9.

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