Colonising "The Coral Island": A Postcolonial Reading of R.M. Ballantyne's Children's "Classic"
Being written during the rise of the British Empire in the 1850sm R.M. Ballantyne's boys' adventure story "The Coral Island" is in many ways a product of its time, conveying imperial ideas and Victorian values to the young reader. Through his portrayal of the native inhabitants in relation to his descriptions of the three British protagonists, the author creates a stereotyped image of the natives as primitive savages. Due to the further use of a first person narrator and realist pretensions, the dated racist ideas become influential upon the reader. In spite of the fact that the novel has been considered as an entertaining children's classic by generations since its first publication, "The Coral Island" should not be classified as good children's literature today but should rather be historicised as a result of its controversial contents. By adopting a postcolonial approach and applying postcolonial theory in my analysis of R.M. Ballantyne's "The Coral Island", I have in this essay endeavoured to demonstrate in what ways the novel would prove problematic as a children's book today. In my first chapter I present the imperial ideas and Victorian values that are conveyed, whereas in my second chapter I discuss Ballantyne's stereotyping of the natives. As a result of my study of this novel, I have exemplified how the author portrays the three British boys as representative of the Victorian ideals of the time. I have also illustrated their assumed superiority over nature and their roles as colonisers. Furthermore, my analysis of "The Coral Island" has revealed how Ballantyne communicates both white superiority as well as the Western "oblibation" to civilise primitive people throug Christian conversion. Consequently, the novel promotes the ideology of its time. As a result of my findings, I would like to argue that "The Coral Island" should today be viewed as a text conveying historical ideas and values rather than as an exciting children's classic.