Response #2: The Lacuna & Mumbo Jumbo

Sarah Jang

ENG 391W

Professor Alvarez

8 March 2011

Response #2: The Language of Colonized

Within The Lacuna written by Barbara Kingsolver and Mumbo Jumbo written by Ishmael Reed, there is an interesting notion that rises out of the discourse of culture and heritage; it is the language of the colonized. Though there has been a rise of literature and voices that come from the injustice of colonialism, there are several other voices that have adapted a mentality and a persona of the culture of the colonizer.

In The Lacuna, Barbara Kingsolver creates an interesting contrast through the use of Harrison, in one of his journal entries. Harrison writes,  “[Leandro] says Isla Pixol is full of them. In ancient times God made the rocks melt and flow like water. It wasn’t God, it was volcanoes. Don Enrique has a book on them” (Kingsolver 35-36). There is an equation of the speaker, the story, the other story, and then the speaker. There is a tension where the two speakers are butting heads regarding their beliefs and claims on what God or science has done; this is the art of the language of the colonizer. It is an engaging contrast between religion and philosophy. The concept that stood out from this passage and that still plays a role in other literature, including Mumbo Jumbo, is the difference between mythology and heritage and the ever-changing culture of “the now.” Or in other words, this notion resides in the idea of the colonized vs. the colonizer. Leandro, is the colonized, declaring the ways of the world in the hands of God and in his , while Don Enrique, who can also be seen as the colonizer of William and Salome, argues for science and technology. Don Enrique “demystifies” the culture of the colonized.

The same approach occurs in Ishmael Reed’s Mumbo Jumbo. Abdul states, “Some of these people with degrees going around here shouting that they are New Negroes are really serving the Man who awarded them their degrees, who has initiated them into his slang and found them ‘qualified,’ which means loyal” (Reed 37). Abdul points out the pseudo-choice we have in education and in gaining knowledge. He states that “the Man” is really the one who defines the standards and the one to claim who is qualified to be a certain identity or being. There is also the language of the colonizer, as Abdul claims it is the Man, “who has initiated them into his slang” (Reed 37). It is an intriguing embodiment of language; the colonized gurgling forth from his mouth the blood of the colonizer. Though it may sound extreme, even as we sit here in discourse on a lost heritage and on colonialism, we are using the language of the colonizer. It makes one rethink Aime Cesaire’s claim of “dismantling the master’s house using the master’s tools,” given that hegemony and power still weigh unfairly and we, as the original bearers of culture, are yet under the influence of the Man. Just as Don Enrique shaped and gave selected texts to Harrison for his education, so are we, subject under the same pseudo-choices.

Works Cited

Kingsolver, Barbara. The Lacuna. New York: HarperCollins Books, 2009. Print.

Reed, Ishmael. Mumbo Jumbo. New York: Scribner Paperback Fiction, 1972. Print.

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