REPRESENTATION OF THE PAST: DICKENSIAN ORPHANHOOD AS A METAPHOR OF BRITISH COLONIALISM IN RICHARD FLANAGAN’S "WANTING"
Keywords:Orphanhood, Post-colonial, Richard Flangan, Wanting, Mathinna, Charles Dickens, the Franklins
During the process of colonial expansion and conquering new territories together with their people, the British Empire never took full responsibility for the citizens of its new overseas possessions. By forcing the colonised nations to accept European standards, British colonialism aimed at expunging their indigenous traditions in a process of acculturation. If colonial power dynamics can be metaphorically seen as parent-child relations, the dissemination of racist ideas eulogising the superior value of the white man over the colonised Other exposes British colonial parenthood as a fiasco. In this paper I will discuss Richard Flanagan’s novel Wanting (2008), presenting it as an illustration of the Empire’s lack of responsibility towards its overseas progeny. I will use the Dickensian motif of orphanhood which, when transferred into a colonial reality, can be construed as a metaphor of the colonial condition of the subaltern exploited by British hegemony. I will present the orphaned Aboriginal girl Mathinna who is separated from her community and coercively subjected to the social process of acculturation. In Homi Bhabha’s terms, by adapting the coloniser’s culture, Mathinna emerges as a hybrid, who, by mimicking the hegemonic culture, becomes a threat to the certitude of the colonial authority. In the end she is without any protective affiliation and abandoned by her adoptive parents, and thus falls into the pattern of the orphan as depicted in Dickens’s fiction.
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