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"Crossing the River": the complexity of colonialism and slavery
University of Gävle, Faculty of Education and Business Studies.
2011 (English)Independent thesis Basic level (degree of Bachelor), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Caryl Phillips’s novel Crossing the River deals with European colonialism and the consequences of it. Crossing the River is a novel which embraces characters from colonized cultures as well as characters from colonizing cultures. Following a timeline that begins in 1752 and ends in 1963, the novel shows slavery in progress as well as what transpires in the aftermath of slavery

       In this essay I will argue that Caryl Phillips demonstrates the complexity of colonialism and slavery in his novel Crossing the River; he approaches the two concepts from different perspectives and shows us that colonialism and slavery are complicated concepts. Caryl Phillips uses narrative to demonstrate the negative sides of colonialism and slavery, to show that the negative aspects of the two concepts can affect not only the colonized people but also the colonizing people.

       Colonialism, in its traditional sense, is present in some of the novel’s episodes but slavery, in different forms, appears in all episodes. Nevertheless, all episodes in Crossing the River have a common origin; which Phillips reminds us about by using the relationship between plot and story. Diversity is an important theme in the novel. From a narrative perspective, Crossing the River has a diversity of narrators who tell their stories as well as other persons’ stories. There are female narrators as well as male ones; some narrators are known while other narrators are unknown. The ways the episodes are told are diversified. Some of the episodes follow a chronological line (“The Pagan Coast” and “Crossing the River”) while other episodes jump back and forth in time (“West” and “Somewhere in England”). The forms of narration are diversified, not only between the individual episodes but also within some of the episodes. Crossing the River plays with diversity in several layers. The structure of the novel is as diversified as the number of narrators, a diversity of ways of dealing with the main themes results in a diversity of fates for Phillips’s characters. Caryl Phillips combines structure with content to demonstrate that colonialism and slavery are problematic concepts: the negative consequences of the two concepts can, in different ways and in different degrees, affect colonized people as well as those responsible for colonialism. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2011. , 23 p.
Keyword [en]
Caryl Phillips, Crossing the River, colonialism, slavery, diversity
URN: urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-8538Archive number: HEU:C11:14OAI: diva2:402202
Humanities, Theology
Available from: 2011-03-08 Created: 2011-03-07 Last updated: 2011-03-08Bibliographically approved

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