Questioning the Binaries between the Civilized and Uncivilized

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Abstract

The article studies, from a feminist standpoint, the justification of the alleged notions of binary oppositions set between the civilized (European) and uncivilized (non-European) worlds based on Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891) and Ngugi Wa Thiong’o’s Petals of Blood (1977). Britain colonized many countries in Africa as well as Asia with the apparent mission to enlighten the uncivilized community with education, religion, modernity, technology, and so on. This discriminatory attitude of Britain put Africa at a polar distance and placed its binary opposition. However, Britain resembled Africa in many cases, especially when it is looked at from a feminist standpoint. In both the East and West, women exposed in literary works received the same discriminatory treatment by the male members of families and society. The resonance between the two is so strong that it paves the way to study whether a binary opposition exists between them. To do so, we have chosen two novels, one from Europe and one from Africa: Tess of the d’Urbervilles by English novelist Thomas Hardy and Petals of Blood by Kenyan novelist Ngugi Wa Thiong’o. The sufferings of two female characters, Tess and Wanja, depicted in the novels prove that women’s predicament is ubiquitous. Our study aims to analyze how binary opposition becomes ambiguous in feminist perspectives and to show the omnipresence of female subjugation.