’s Mines Essay, Research Paper
Analysis of King Solomon’s Mines’ undertone of Sexism
During the nineteenth century, women were viewed as inferior to men. Men also saw women as prizes as well as possessions. We can see this undertone in the book King Solomon’s Mines by H.Rider Haggard. Here, the writer uses Lyn Pykett’s essay “Gender, Degeneration, Renovation: Some Contexts of the Modern” as the backbone for the comparison and discussion.
As Allen Quartermain and company gets closer and closer to the diamonds, the description of the scenery is very feministic: “For the nipple of the mountain did not rise out of its exact center.”(Haggard 101) As someone had pointed out that the map included in the book also has a hint of a female body, if turned upside down. The Sheba’s breasts resemble the breasts of a female, and the location of the diamonds and treasures, which is further down the map, signifies the private of a female. “Woman is a wholly sexual creature, to be defined entirely in terms of sexual relations and the reproductive function.”(Pykett 23) When a man meets a woman, his ultimate goal is to get, as Haggard implied in the book, the treasures of the woman; therefore, one can also relate to the scene where Allen Quartermain and company makes a great effort to reach Sheba’s breasts. During that phase of the trip, they face many hardships, such as starvation and dehydration. This part of the book could be interpreted as the time when a woman tells her man to slow down because she is not ready to be intimate, yet man, like the characters in the book would continue to strive to their ultimate goal. It is also important to note that after the characters reached Sheba’s breasts; they found a stream, killed an inco and had a big feast. Here is a quote from Allen Quartermain after the treat, complementing the view of Sheba’s breasts: “I know not how to describe the glorious panorama which unfolded itself to our enraptured gaze. I have never seen anything like it before, nor shall, I suppose, again.”(Haggard 104) Another point that should be observed is the fact that the road to the treasure becomes wide and smooth: “It was a very different business traveling along down hill on that magnificent pathway?. Every mile we walked the atmosphere grew softer and balmier, and the country before us shone with a yet more luminous beauty”(Haggard 107). This part of the literature signifies men’s thoughts when they get to that first stage of intimacy. Men rejoice, which is equivalent to having a big feast. Men also think that the road to the next stage of intimacy would be smooth sailing after he has broken the first barrier. During the later part of the story, when Quartermain Company are close to finding the Solomon’s treasure, they encounter more difficulties. For example, they were in the middle of the war facing the wrath of Twala’s army, and also witch doctress Gagool’s trap, to which encounter almost cost them their lives. Again, these obstacles portray the idea of how a woman does not want to give, while the man would, even at the risk of dying, attempt to acquire it. Eventually, Allen Quartermain, Sir Henry Curtis, and Captain Good, get what they sought after. They had conquered the obstacles and attained the diamonds. One is safe to say that, men ultimately conquers women and gets what they desire according to the hidden connotation of the story.
At the conclusion of the story one can add that, only men had survived. Both evil Gagool and fair Foulata perishes over the course of searching for the treasures, which, brings up the theme of survival of the fittest, where, only the strong continue to exist.
“How woman or women should be represented was clearly very closely linked to the question of who represents woman/women.” (Pykett 20) In Haggard’s book, the way he wanted to represent women was clear and evident. Notice how he describes the women when Allen Quartermain and company first entered the village:
These women are, exceedingly handsome. They are tall and graceful, and their figures are wonderfully fine. Their hair, though short, is rather curly than woolly. Their features are frequently aquiline. What struck me the most was their exceedingly quiet dignified air? They allowed no rude expressions of wonder or savage criticism to pass their lips. (129)
Haggard thinks that women should be tall, fine figured, graceful and, their manner should be subtle and refined.
Haggard chose the evil Gagool and the fairest Foulata to represent the female gender. Many speculate that the role of the witch doctress really symbolizes women of high status in society. Gagool is depicted as the old but terrible woman: “Monkey like figure, shrunken in size due to age. Her face was made up of a collection of deep yellow wrinkles”(Haggard 147). The subtext of this quote is evident that no woman should be in the high place of society for her appearance would be unsightly, as well as her heart. One can see that, Gagool’s character resembles that a few British queens. They were women with merciless reigns and undoubtedly made people miserable. Which leaves a deep imprint in the minds of the people in the Victorian era.
As for Foulata, she gives a picture of what a woman should resemble. Allen Quartermain describes Foulata as exceedingly beautiful, person of good service, tremendously thoughtful, but most of all, her obedient and loyal to the characters. One can see that by the narrative of Allen Quartermain while she watched over Captain Good “performing all the merciful errands of the sick-room as swiftly, gently, and with as fine instinct as a trained hospital nurse. Day and night she watched and tended him.”(Haggard 246) Also, Pykett’s essay stated that during that time of the century, women’s movement was fighting for the political and social position of women. “The developing scientific culture of the nineteenth century provided a range of very authoritative discourses which claimed to speak about woman and by extension, about and for women.”(Pykett 20) This movement is surely against “man” and the norm during that time period. It seems like Haggard does not fully agree with this movement. Therefore, one can certainly identify the where about, the birth of this untainted character Foulata.
In all, one can get an impression of anti-feminism from Haggard. For he believes the old traditional way. Where, men dominate. Such believe can be interpreted through his story and characters in King Solomon’s Mines.
Haggard, H. Rider. “King Solomon’s Mines.” 1989. Oxford, New York: Oxford World Classics 1998
Pykett, Lyn. “Gender. Degeneration, Renovation: Some Contexts of the Modern.” In Engendering Fiction (London: Arnold, 1995): 14-