Thursday, March 15, 2012

King Solomon's Mines

  King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard

First things first.  This book was written by an English author in 1885.  The edition I read was 236 pages long - and it is an easy and exciting read.  There are even a few pictures!  It is fiction, and has been made into several movies.

King Solomon's mines is an adventure story written by it's main character Allan Quatermain.  It tells of his search for King Solomon's Mines, and the diamond horde that is rumored to be still stored within.  He has two main companions in this search, Sir Henry and Captain John Good.  Sir Henry is in search of his brother who was last known to be in search of these mines two years ago. The adventures along the way keep the reader entranced and the story is delivered in such a manner that you can take as much, or as little, away as you wish.

Criticism of the book includes it's potential sexist and racist views which I did not find as disturbing as many readers seem to.  First of all the book starts with the following dedication:
This faithful but unpretending record
of a remarkable adventure
is hereby respectfully dedicated 
by the narrator,
Allan Quatermain,
to all the big and little boys who read it.
It comes as no surprise that many a big and little girl felt left out when reading this.  And in fact felt all the more excluded when the book itself has only 2 female characters both in very minor supporting roles.  Can I please remind the offended that at the time when this was written the audience Haggard appealed to was predominately male?  Can I also point out that adding female roles to most of the story would have only ended in adding more corpses.  And that the addition of female characters by the various movie studios did nothing to increase the value of the movies.  At any rate  I felt the sexist point of view could be easily forgiven.

As for the racist perspective, the story takes place in southern Africa.  Much of the geography is created by the author for the purposes of the story, so no particular accuracy was necessary.  Very smart move by Haggard.  However the relationships of the English to their African servants is taken from history.  Were their racial prejudices at that time, absolutely!  So how can you fault the book for showing you a viewpoint that existed?  Isn't this half of the fun of reading a book?  Let's take a closer look at this as well.  The general viewpoint is a bit racist, but if you look past the language to the actions of the characters it is easy to see that there is a love that develops surpassing the racism.  I would in fact argue that the racism displayed in fact shows the dichotomy involved in those racist thoughts.  

If there was anything in the book that I found offensive it was the hunting for sport done by the Englishmen.  But again, this is something that is unfortunately true in mankind's history.    Society's changes can perhaps be measured by the amount we are offended in being reminded of our past.

Long story short I loved the book and I am sorry to have to return it to the library.  I recommend you check this one out for your next vacation read!

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