A Different Mirror: Takaki's Use of the Tempest

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A Different Mirror: Takaki’s use of the Tempest

In the first chapter of “A Different Mirror” by Ronald Takaki, he explains stereotypes and biases of white, Eurocentric attitudes that have been with us since the earliest days of the colonies and settlements here. Beginning with the early colonists and their treatment of the natives, there is a pattern of ruthless acquisition of land and goods. According to Takaki, the early settlers judged native americans as lacking everything identifiable in a civilized society. It never occurred to them that the natives had never been exposed to their european “civilized” ways and did not have knowledge of sophisticated weaponry as their culture did not need such devices of destruction. They did have tools and means of hunting and gathering food but it was all quite unsophisticated compared to european advancements. Shakespeare introduced the character Caliban in “The Tempest” and depicted him as a barbarian and a savage incapable of nurture (37). This can be interpreted as an indirect depiction of what was then believed about native americans. According to Takaki, the Caliban character could have just as easily represented Africans that had began migrating to the new land. Like the natives, African people had an unfamiliar color to their skin and were thought to be unintelligent and savage by the Europeans. Caliban’s skin was dark which allegedly made him the devils incarnate (50). The English perception was that Caliban represented africans and/or native americans who were uncivilized and only capable of manual labor.

Prospero is another interesting character from Shakespeare’s Tempest that is found in Takaki’s book. Prospero decared that he had been thrust forth from Milan and had landed on the shore of Caliban’s island “to be the lord on’t” (36). By nothing more than self-righteousness, Prospero dispossessed Caliban’s land and pronounced himself as the rightful owner of the land. Early English settlers in Virginia...
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