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Post Colonial Encounters In The Early 20th Century

1567 words - 7 pages

Alfred Noyes wrote The Empire Builders at the turn of the twentieth century. Despite the time at which it was written in, there are various post-colonial themes regarding the hierarchy of difference. The tone of the poem is pessimistic which is understandable since Noyes is writing during the Naturalist period of English literature. Noyes is speaking to the middle class of England; those who “fulfill their duties as they come” (Noyes, 45). He uses the first person plural article to create a unification between the readers and the narrator. Noyes, in his poem, addresses two postcolonial themes of Christianity as a vehicle of colonization, and the fallacies of European philosophy. In this essay, I argue that the themes and structure that have been connoted in Alfred Noyes’ The Empire Builders are essential in constructing the notion of the hierarchy of difference. The hierarchy of difference helped create a colonial state and since postcolonial theory primarily analyzes the legacies of the colonial period, it is essential to know the hierarchy of difference. I will divide my essay in three parts: in stage one I discuss the structure of the poem and how it creates a hierarchy of difference. In stage two I discuss the two themes mentioned above and how they establish a fragmented world between the occident and the orient. Finally in stage three I discuss the conception of time that is discussed in the poem and its relationship to postcolonial theory.
The structure of the poem shows the hierarchy of difference in itself. The poem consists of six stanzas, all of which are eight lines each. The poem is divided into two sections: the first three stanzas describe the effects of the empire- builder and the last three stanzas describe the discourse of the empire- builder himself. Noyes is creating a distinction between the self and the action. These actions that are narrated in the first three stanzas discuss the implications on the soldier and the native. In terms of quantitative measurement, the soldier and the native share three stanzas of description while the empire-builder, alone gets three stanzas to himself. Since the empire- builder has more lines of description, he is situated in a higher category of social stratification.
Another instrument that allows the empire-builder to situate himself in higher categories of hierarchy is Christianity. Noyes gives Christianity a large amount of agency in the discourse of colonialism. Christianity was composite in producing Africa as backward. Christianity has two roles: firstly, it is a method by which the white man created an inferiority complex amongst the natives and secondly it created a clear distinction between colonizer and native. At the beginning of the poem, he mentions the superiority of the white man and describes them as the “Lord God of battles…” (Noyes, 5). By saying this, he is not only amplifying the inequality between the white man and the native but also introducing Christianity as a...

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