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Memoirs Of A Sleep-Walker Explicatory Essay


The paper traces the meanings of associated with the word savage by analyzing the book by Edgar Huntly, Memoirs Of A Sleep-Walker by Brown. The paper recognizes that the different nuances of the word savage have been brought into use to justify the attitude in colonialism.

In this paper Conrad’s work the Heart of Darkness is used to illustrate the attitude of colonialism towards African societies that are seen as savage. The paper cites information from colonialism informed materials that have taken to support the savage attitude as the lowest form of a human society.

The paper ends with a note that colonialism was an attempt to raise the savage to civilized standards of the world that resulted to conflict.

Savage as a word has many connotations and meaning when used in the daily use of language. As a result therefore when uttered the obvious and most common meaning inferred is that of lacking complex or advanced culture. In this meaning the word savage is taken to refer to a people or a country that lies behind the normal standards as relatively measured by the civilized concepts.

Civilization is the opposite where a people or a nation are seen in terms of culture and practice as complex, sophisticated and modern. By this definition therefore, any culture whose practices, way of life as well as perspectives seem to differ than the standardized norms and to some extent viewed in a negative sense bear the mark ‘uncivilized’ and hence its inhabitants become savage.

By inferring to the other meanings of savage this paper seeks to understand the nuances of the word application in many uses. Savage has another entry in the language dictionary of one which has not been domesticated.

This has the sole meaning that the subject of talk is not under human control and therefore may be termed wild. To term the subject wild translates to the opinion that it is untamed and thus the principles of operation are based and understood from the animalistic point of view. This means that they are guided by animal instinct (Chidester 12).

The other entry meaning of savage refers to the lack of restraint which is observed by human beings. In this meaning the subject referred to as savage lacks the normal human control skills hence it is guided by this nature to become ferocious and fierce.

It may also take the form of uncultivated or wild as well as rude to mean of manners. This work will thus aim to evaluate the usage of the term savage in Brown’s work ‘Edgar Huntley Memoirs of a Sleep Walker’ as well as the colonial usage of the word (Page 45).

In his work Brown makes the main protagonist refer to his enemy in a particular view that denotes the different meanings of the word savage. One such use of the word is found in the line “…my condition, the savage rushed from his covert in order to complete his work” (Brown 4) is used in the sense that depicts the enemy who is the main protagonist.

In this story the protagonists relents his story that occurs to the reader as a battle requiring the participants to use every necessary techniques to defeat the enemy. As a result therefore, this reference to the enemy who happens to be an Indian as later the character reveals can only be taken to mean the ferocious enemy bent on killing another.

It is important on the other hand to note that the attitude of the main protagonist is skewed against his enemy based on the fact that he becomes the victorious participant of the ensuing charade despite his admission that he had been injured on the cheek. As a result therefore the reader finds pejorative attitude towards the character’s opponent which runs through the novel (Bain-Selbo 23).

In another instance he describes the last enemy of the five group gang against his survival in the following words “…He moved on all fours and presently came near enough to be distinguished. His disfigured limbs, pendants from his nose and ears and his shorn locks were indubitable indications of as savage, (Brown 23).”

This meaning is purely based on the definitions of savage that borders and translates to wild and uncultivated. To infer to this meaning this enemy is rendered beastly by the description of moving on ‘all fours’ which gives the impression of animal.

The main character creates the image of an animal which is further extended to ferocity based on the fact as explained by the character that his actions were meant to kill (Jauregui 15).

The description of the pendants hanging from his ears and nose clearly give the reader the impression of an ancient culture whose notoriety of using such ancient jewelry is on records. In the present image therefore the main character invokes the meaning of uncivilized being that lacks taste in the choice of usage beautifying elements.

As a result therefore the reader perceives this enemy as crude and unsophisticated. This image is further stretched by the narrator in the description of the loud shrieks that his enemy throws after receiving the bullet.

These ‘doleful’ shrieks at first convince the narrator to run away from the scene only to compel him later to end the necessary task of killing the enemy.

It is only worthy to note that the narrator at first attributes the movement of the enemy to that of a beast like a panther or a bear (Brown 21). Indeed he refers to his enemy as a wretch who needs to be relieved his present pain and pangs and thus this gives the narrator the excuse to eliminate him as an enemy now and in the future.

In this story the character is related to an English colonial man who is his uncle in the state country of India. His predicament follows from the fact that he is being chased for some particular reasons by the natives of India.

In his description of Queen Meb it becomes clear that the settler are unwanted in this country and hence the ensuing conflict between them and the natives lead to the apparent state of affairs that inform of his predicament (Meining 16).

By the description of the thicket and country side where he walks through it is clear that the country is in position that is explainable in savage terms. The country side lacks serious roads that depict countries at the time of colonialism.

Based on the fact that the English was far much advanced its colonies could only be referred to shabby shadows of itself and therefore they were by all terms uncivilized.

In his book, Conrad attributes the same character traits to the natives of the African lands. In their description Conrad using his major narrator a stem engine driver the reader is informed of savage attitude towards them.

This is clearly depicted by the dying scene at the station of black figures that the narrator does not first recognize as human beings. He observes that their presence in the station makes it move forward through their hard work.

In return they would get nothing except hunger that resulted to emaciated figures whose beautiful reward was to succumb to the bowels of the earth through untold suffering. In this work Conrad’s presentation of the natives is of the pure most savage attitude and meaning noting from the choice of his words.

The narrator refers to the place of as the heart of darkness which is only characterized by big buttressed forests that seems to stand and stare forever with no apparent movement (Conrad 81).

Indeed this is well confirmed back in England by the doctor whose experiment seeks to measure the impact of the experiences of the ‘heart of darkness’ upon seafarers and explorers. The narrators attempt to decline experimental measurements of the skull for his studies come to a futile effort when he explains the purpose and the impeding danger he is to face (Bird Rose 34).

As if to confirm this fact the narrator’s search for Mr. Kutz as the most famous and trusted explorer leads to confirm these truths as of the savage nature of the natives.

He narrates that the man responsible for repairing the engine of his steam boat is one who can not be trusted despite the fact that he had been trained very well. He therefore has to guide and watch his work to ensure that everything was right. In this attitude he makes the statement that the Africans are savage starting from their environment to themselves (Moses 13).

When he meets Mr. Kutz he gets disappointed by his state of affairs. Although he is the most famous explorer in the region he has turned to tendencies that reveal his inferior nature to the former self.

The narrator realizes that Mr. Kutz has been affected by his long stay in the heart of darkness and thus his mentor powers and brilliance no longer match or reflect his stock heritage. His efforts to save Mr. Kutz are fraught with instances that reveal his attitudes of the natives as savages who get frightened by the sound of a whistle (Conrad 90).

In their book Woodard and Minkley (32) observe that the origin of slavery appeared in the scientific quest for the state of nature of the infancy of mankind. The discussions sought to classify people into in relation to superior and inferior codes in the theory of political governance.

These discussions had been influenced by issues like the social contract which led to the question of the need for civil laws in civil societies. Enlightenment issues after indicated that the development of human societies started from the most basic forms, savagery to attain the highest levels of human form.

Therefore savage represents the lowest form of human being or society and hence colonialism would be justified as a form of practice that would help to change from this low form to a better more advanced form (Piomingo 3).

In these respect therefore, these historical thinking informed and guided the start and onset of colonialism in the world. As an example the Khokhoi and the San were seen as a society lacking the necessary ingredients to inform of a civilized society and therefore the British and the Dutch colonial practices were justified. This would only make the ‘savages’ better hence the need for colonialism (Brown et al. 24).

As a result therefore, the meaning of savagery in the colonial times was a means to move and in the countries in an attempt to raise the low human beings close the best society.

In this process the colonialist would take the position of a guide to new and civilized tastes of the human society already civilized. However, in this process conflict would arise as the savage sought to rid himself of the burden of mistreatment and oppression resulting to the states explained by Brown.

Works Cited

Bird Rose, D. Hidden histories: black stories from Victoria River Downs, Humbert River, and Wave Hill Stations. Sydney: Aboriginal Studies Press, 1991.Print.

Brown, Charles B. Edgar Huntly, or Memoirs of a sleep-walker. Oxford: Oxford University. 2006. Print.

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. London: Penguin Popular Classics, 1994. Print.

Chidester, David. Savage systems: colonialism and comparative religion in southern Africa, Studies in religion and culture. Virginia: University Press of Virginia, 1996. Print.

Dickason, Patricia, O. The Myth of Savage and the Beginnings of French Colonialism in the Americas. Alberta: University of Alberta Press. 1997. Print.

Jauregui, Carlos A., and Morana, Mabel. Revisiting the colonial question in Latin America. Madri:Iberoamericana Editorial, 2008. Print.

Meining, Sigrun. Witnessing the past: history and post-colonialism in Australian historical novels. Langeweisen: Gunter Narr Verlag, 2004. Print.

Moses, Dirk. Empire, colony, genocide: conquest, occupation, and subaltern resistance in world history. Oxfor:Berghahn Books, 2008. Print.

Page, Melvin E., Colonialism: an international social, cultural, and political encyclopedia. California: ABC-CLIO, 2003. Print.

Piomingo. The savage. New York: T.S. Manning. 2006. Print

Woodward and Gary Minkley. Deep histories: gender and colonialism in Southern Africa. Amsterdam:Rodopi. 2002. Print.

Bain-Selbo, E. Judge and be judged: moral reflection in an age of relativism and fundamentalism. Oxford: Lexington Books, 2006

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