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H. Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines - Book Report/Review Example

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Book Review: King Solomon's Mines H. Rider Haggard wrote sixty-four pieces of literature, fiction and non-fiction, in his life (Berresford Ellis, 2) but the one for which he is most remembered is the 1885 novel King Solomon's Mines. Although the idea of the 'Lost World' in literature can be traced much further back than Haggard's work, King Solomon's Mines is often hailed as the first “lost world adventure” (Foxwell, 295) and as such has always been extremely popular – not only has it never been out of print, but it ran to thirteen editions in the United States in its first year alone (Kaufman, 163)…
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H. Rider Haggards King Solomons Mines
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H. Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines

Download file to see previous pages... Rider Haggard's most famous work to analyse its relevancy to a modern audience. One of the overarching themes of King Solomon's Mines is, in fitting with its brash and larger-then-life nature, the struggle of good against evil. Although it may be difficult for the twenty-first century reader to unquestioningly accept Quatermain's 'team' as good (the reasons for which will be expounded upon below), we are induced to support the older and bumbling hunter on his reluctant quest as he faces natural adversity and savage adversaries. Their first challenge is the desert – Quatermain acknowledges that the natives' warning that they would “perish of thirst” there “seemed probable” (Ch. V), and indeed in chapter VI it is only the slave Ventvogel's suggestion that a pond may be nearby which saves the group from death. In a comically drastic turn of events, they soon thereafter have to experience the fatal cold of the mountain, which is so bad as to kill Ventvogel. Once having crossed the mountain, Quatermain and his friends have to face the vicious Kukuanas, among whom “no strangers may live” (Ch. VII). The rest of the book details their time in this land: their attempts to convince the war-mongering people that they are “children of the Stars” (Ch. VII) and as such should not be killed; their interactions with the evil “old witch” (Ch. X) Gagool; the revelation that Umbopa is the real Kukuana king and the civil war which follows it (Ch. XII-XIV); Good's illness (Ch. XV); and the suspense-filled discovery of the treasure chamber, filled with “millions of pounds' worth of diamonds, and thousands of pounds' worth of gold and ivory” (Ch. XVII). Packed with climactic scenes and hundreds of deaths, King Solomon's Mines is an exciting read, aptly dedicated “to all the big boys and little boys who read it” (Dedication). Or is this dedication so apt? Haggard's assumption that only men would be interested in his story, in which there is “not a petticoat” (Ch. I), has been disproved by scholars Heidi Kaufman, Margaret Foxwell, Carolyn Hamilton, Wendy Chapkis, Barbara Harlow, Mia Carter, Cherryl Walker and Anne McClintock, amongst many other female readers (Jessica Amanda Salmonson, for one, who has already been cited in this paper) over the last one hundred and thirty six years. Like its evolution into Indiana Jones, which has been accused of “breathtaking … sexism” (Chapkis, 51), King Solomon's Mines purposely excludes women and girls, much to its own detriment. In a case of dramatic irony, the characters sexualize the very landscape around them, referring to the twin mountains as “Sheba's Breasts” and their peaks as the “nipples” (Ch. II). The map drawn by Jose Silvestre clearly represents an upside-down female body, although “only those parts are drawn that explicitly denote female sexuality” (McClintock, “Maidens” 114). In a similar vein, Haggard notes that “Women are women, all the world over, whatever their colour” (Ch. XV). As a novel in which women are rare, sexually objectified, and treated as a monolith, its popularity to supposedly post-feminist modern ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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