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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Postcolonial Reading of Angela Carter's "River People" in "The Infernal Desire Machines of Dr. Hoffman"

“But when the Indians had completed the churches and had gazed at them for a while with round-eyed self-congratulation, they wandered away again to sit in the sun and play tritonic melodies on primitive music instruments. Then the Jesuits decided the Indians had not a single soul among them all and that wrote a definitive finis to the story of their regeneration.”(69)

The presence of the Jesuits on the island was a one sided deal. The Indians were “sweet-natured and eager to please” and this would only lead to one thing, oppressor and the oppressed relationship between the natives and the Jesuits. A common term in postcolonial studies is “the other”, which refers to the unfamiliar or unexplainable. In this quote, Carter writes “the Jesuits decided the Indians had not a single soul…” The word that stands out in this excerpt is “decided”. The Jesuits had no idea of the native’s beliefs or ideals about live or the after-life. They simply “decided” the Indians were soul-less beings and as a result killed off many of them. The Jesuits looked at the Indians as a group of unfamiliar beings, the simple dichotomy in the names Jesuits and Indians shows the separation between the two groups and this separation between the two lead to the demise of the original river people and the begin of a hybrid group of people whose entire beings are built upon European presence.

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