Free site book and epub digitized and proofread by Project Gutenberg. The Coral Island: A Tale of the Pacific Ocean. Preface. I was a boy when I went through the wonderful adventures herein set down. With the memory of my. With little more than a telescope and a broken knife, the youths must find food and shelter and learn to survive. But though the coral island is a.
|Language:||English, Indonesian, German|
|ePub File Size:||26.80 MB|
|PDF File Size:||14.61 MB|
|Distribution:||Free* [*Sign up for free]|
Three boys, Ralph, Peterkin and Jack, are stranded on an island - not a for free download in a number of formats - including epub, pdf, azw, mobi and more. The Coral Island A Tale of the Pacific Ocean BY ROBERT MICHAEL BALLANTYNE, WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY DALZIEL. Preface I w. Three boys, Ralph (the narrator), Jack and Peterkin, are the sole survivors of a shipwreck on the coral reef of a large but uninhabited Polynesian island. At.
As a result, The Coral Island is a highly self-conscious text that fragments a perceived reality by implementing a retrospective narrative gaze.
Ballantyne's novel is not, as Rose and other critics—including Susan Naramore Maher—claim, a simple reflection of western truth defeating native falsity.
Rather, it is an extremely complex engagement with such ideology that creates interstices of instability and tension throughout the novel. This textual ambiguity occurs both within and without the novel.
For example, The Coral Island describes itself as being viewed through a misrepresentative narrative gaze, referred to as "the broken telescope" Coral Island Moreover, when researching for his text, Ballantyne himself relied upon books, not first-hand experience, which creates textual ambiguity.
What I would like to contest in the following, then, is the idea that by constructing a story that simply reflects ideology in a representation of alleged fact, Ballantyne's novel supports dominant Victorian discourses on both colonialism and childhood. Rather, in my view, The Coral Island constitutes a text that intervenes in these debates by providing its own ironic perspective. Whereupon Jack remarked that if he Peterkin were changed into a fish, he would certainly turn into nothing better or bigger than a shrimp.
Poor Peterkin did not envy us our delightful excursions under water — except, indeed, when Jack would dive down to the bottom of the Water Garden, sit down on a rock, and look up and make faces at him.
Peterkin did feel envious then, and often said he would give anything to be able to do that. Now, while we were engaged with these occupations and amusements, an event occurred one day which was as unexpected as it was exceedingly alarming and very horrible. Jack and I were sitting, as we were often wont to do, on the rocks at Spouting Cliff, and Peterkin was wringing the water from his garments, having recently fallen by accident into the sea — a thing he was constantly doing — when our attention was suddenly arrested by two objects which appeared on the horizon.
The Coral Island
At last he sprang to his feet. We must hide if they land here, which I earnestly hope they will not do. We each selected a stout club according to our several tastes and lay down behind a rock, whence we could see the canoes approach without ourselves being seen.
At first we made an occasional remark on their appearance; but after they entered the lagoon and drew near the beach, we ceased to speak, and gazed with intense interest at the scene before us.
We now observed that the foremost canoe was being chased by the other, and that it contained a few women and children as well as men — perhaps forty souls altogether — while the canoe which pursued it contained only men.
They seemed to be about the same in number, but were better armed, and had the appearance of being a war-party.
Both crews were paddling with all their might, and it seemed as if the pursuers exerted themselves to overtake the fugitives ere they could land. In this, however, they failed. The foremost canoe made for the beach close beneath the rocks behind which we were concealed.
Their short paddles flashed like meteors in the water, and sent up a constant shower of spray. The foam curled from the prow, and the eyes of the rowers glistened in their black faces as they strained every muscle of their naked bodies.
Nor did they relax their efforts till the canoe struck the beach with a violent shock; then, with a shout of defiance, the whole party sprang, as if by magic, from the canoe to the shore. The distance between the two canoes had been about half-a-mile, and at the great speed they were going, this was soon passed. As the pursuers neared the shore, no sign of fear or hesitation was noticeable.
The Coral Island, by R. M. Ballantyne
On they came, like a wild charger — received, but recked not of, a shower of stones. The canoe struck, and with a yell that seemed to issue from the throats of incarnate fiends, they leaped into the water and drove their enemies up the beach. The battle that immediately ensued was frightful to behold. As they were almost entirely naked, and had to bound, stoop, leap, and run in their terrible hand-to-hand encounters, they looked more like demons than human beings.
I felt my heart grow sick at the sight of this bloody battle, and would fain have turned away; but a species of fascination seemed to hold me down and glue my eyes upon the combatants. I observed that the attacking party was led by a most extraordinary being, who, from his size and peculiarity, I concluded was a chief. His hair was frizzed out to an enormous extent, so that it resembled a large turban.
He was tattooed from head to foot; and his face, besides being tattooed, was besmeared with red paint and streaked with white. Altogether, with his yellow turban-like hair, his Herculean black frame, his glittering eyes, and white teeth, he seemed the most terrible monster I ever beheld.
He was very active in the fight, and had already killed four men. Suddenly the yellow-haired chief was attacked by a man quite as strong and large as himself. For a second or two these giants eyed each other warily, moving round and round, as if to catch each other at a disadvantage; but seeing that nothing was to be gained by this caution, and that the loss of time might effectually turn the tide of battle either way, they apparently made up their minds to attack at the same instant, for, with a wild shout and simultaneous spring, they swung their heavy clubs, which met with a loud report.
This was the turning-point in the battle.
However, Rose's stress on "truth" and an "undistorted registering of the surrounding world" in her reading of The Coral Island appears to me to ignore a fundamental point: Ballantyne's novel is wrought with a plethora of destabilizing ironies.
As a result, The Coral Island is a highly self-conscious text that fragments a perceived reality by implementing a retrospective narrative gaze. Ballantyne's novel is not, as Rose and other critics—including Susan Naramore Maher—claim, a simple reflection of western truth defeating native falsity. Rather, it is an extremely complex engagement with such ideology that creates interstices of instability and tension throughout the novel.
This textual ambiguity occurs both within and without the novel. For example, The Coral Island describes itself as being viewed through a misrepresentative narrative gaze, referred to as "the broken telescope" Coral Island Moreover, when researching for his text, Ballantyne himself relied upon books, not first-hand experience, which creates textual ambiguity.
What I would like to contest in the following, then, is the idea that by constructing a story that simply reflects ideology in a representation of alleged fact, Ballantyne's novel supports dominant Victorian discourses on both colonialism and childhood. Rather, in my view, The Coral Island constitutes a text that intervenes in these debates by providing its own ironic perspective.
The text is not a mirror image of absolute authority, but is a shattered textual lens that self-consciously probes the verisimilitude of narrative within the realms of an escapist fiction layered with sailors' yarns. As Joseph Bristow points out in Empire Boys, "The Coral Island often invites an interpretation that runs against the values it sets out to uphold" I would like to take Bristow's comment a step further by providing a detailed analysis of the novel.
I concede that much of the ambiguity I detect in The Coral Island will undoubtedly have been unconscious on Ballantyne's part, but I believe that to fully appreciate his novel's contradictory impetus, one must acknowledge that the text itself incorporates a fragmentary and distorted narrative gaze, one that views the entire adventure through a "broken telescope" Coral Island It is this pivotal detail that reinforces the ambiguity inherent in Ballantyne's own comment quoted at the beginning of my essay.
By suggesting an indelible affinity between "fact" and his "wildest flights of fancy," Ballantyne hints at language's intrinsic unreliability and inveterate tendency to subvert the allegedly transparent signifiers of realism. As a result, The Coral Island represents more than a straightforward childhood adventure. The text opens up complex tensions between adult narrator and child character, within which the latter must inevitably appear as an imaginative projection and performative misrepresentation.
Thus, Ralph can be viewed as the persona of an adult masquerading as a child in one of the author's wild flights of fancy. Not only is colonial representation problematized in the novel; childhood itself emerges as a fiction of adult construction. This slippage from seemingly factual discourse to fictional dis play is revealed with the aid of the aforementioned shattered telescopic lens through which the subject is perceived and constructed by the narrator, so the text signals a distortive rather than a mimetic mode of representation.
Toward the latter half of the nineteenth century, one strategy of distracting attention from Victorian domestic difficulties was to promote the sense of a unified national identity. Similar to childhood's portrayal as a homogenous encapsulation of innocence, the individual subject was subsumed under an incorporating signifier of Britishness. As noted, Ballantyne's novel was published one year prior to Darwin's Origin of Species and, significantly, it employs aspects of evolutionary theory, which formed part of the fundamental basis of British identity.
The Coral Island, by R. M. Ballantyne
According to Stuart Hannabuss in his essay "Moral Islands": "the popularity of works of popular exploration, and spin-offs for young people, was a hint of the deeper debate going on at the time among scientists about evolution.
Darwin's rival, Alfred Russel Wallace , had written books which Ballantyne had used" Similarly, Peter Raby argues in Bright Paradise that in the popular imagination, the central message which could be extracted was that man was descended from the animals, and the idea of man as primitive, savage, became dominant. If all men were savage, then it was necessary for the more civilised to control the rest, or put another way, it was natural for the strongest and most cunning to rule….
The capitalist base of British imperialism lies at the heart of British society, and of the fiction which reflects that society.
Significantly, Ballantyne was Scottish and, like many Scots, played an integral role in the British imperial enterprise as a trader for the Hudson's Bay Company in Canada, where "their first objective [was] the complete subjection of the Indian tribes [which] … quickly yielded results and valuable furs and other goods … [that] were soon being despatched to London in ever increasing quantities" Quayle However, to what extent, one wonders, did a sense of Britishness outweigh Ballantyne's own colonized identity as a Scot or, more immediately, how far can areas of colonial tension be detected within his novel, be they employed consciously or unconsciously?
Whereas Raby sees Victorian adventure fiction as simply a reflection of colonial ideology, in my view, The Coral Island is far more complex than this.
The rubric "children's literature" may have suggested at the time a textually transparent purity. However, out of this alleged purity arises linguistic ruptures that render fixed meanings problematically unstable. True, Ballantyne's novel contains some moments of practical accuracy while its truths about savages are invariably embedded in colonial discourses legitimizing western domination. This, according to Raby, would identify Ballantyne's work clearly as a part of the hegemonic imperial process.
I would argue, however, that in The Coral Island instabilities between fact and fiction pervade its surface truisms, thus undercutting the hegemony of "fact" and disclosing discomfort and distortion through instances of patent misrepresentation.
The boys bring with them the so-called light of British civilization.
Evidently, children's fiction provides an ideal medium for relaying expectations of truth and reliability, making it an excellent propaganda tool. Moreover, in children's fiction, the emergent discourse of Empire is often authorized by dint of a residual discourse of chivalry, a dominant discourse of Christianity and an emerging Social Darwinism.
Part of the connotation of innocent genre is that it will be a vehicle for simply telling the truth rather than a tale of ideological embellishment. Throughout Ballantyne's novel, the narrator, Ralph Rover, reiterates this claim: "O reader, this is no fiction…. It was witnessed. It is true" Part of the novel's aim, therefore, is to educate the child reader, and instruction itself becomes another dimension of truth. In The Coral Island Jack is the principal educator, continually explaining native life and customs.
For example, "Jack told us that this tree is one of the most valuable … and that it constitutes the principal food of many of the islanders" Jack imparts knowledge that he, in turn, has acquired from reading western books of "travel and adventure" about natives, just like the book he appears in, which is read by children as well He enables Peterkin to quench his thirst by informing him of "lemonade" from cocoa-nuts, having "once read that the green nuts contain that stuff, and you see it is true!
Jack's knowledge, learned through western discourse, enables him to take charge of situations and so hold colonial power. Textual authority apparently belongs to the three British boys who construct a colonial discourse to overpower or "save" the savage from himself. Underpinned with Chris- tianity, however, that discourse is itself reversed and destabilized at points in the text. Educational accounts of the island's resources enhance the novel's false sense of factual security.
The boys look at objects and provide practical details in an attempt to reduce the relational gap between sign and unknown material referent, the gaze focusing directly upon its linguistic vignette. This reflects the influences of the Robinsonade a genre instigated by Defoe's Robinson Crusoe  and Rousseau's recommendation of a direct language for children in Emile while categorically occluding the fact that language itself is inherently contradictory and problematic.
The Coral Island abounds with discussions of natural history, as an emergent Social Darwinism becomes an extremely important hegemonic discourse in explaining the evolutionary superiority and right of the westerner to take over colonial territories for the good of global education and civilization. Thus, in order to gain knowledge of marine life, Ralph constructs a "miniature Pacific" , which is his laboratory to explore inferiorly evolved species.
Indeed the island itself becomes a laboratory space where knowledge and power are exercised over the primitive native. However, it always remains evident that the exotic is viewed through a distorted western textual lens—a circumstance which ultimately undermines, and introduces irony to, the surface display of absolute authority.
Another strategy employed by the novel to reinforce the claim of western superiority is to incorporate the residual elements of chivalric discourse, thus introducing an aspect of gender politics, for, not only is the native Avatea allegedly being educated to civilized standards, but she also embodies the archetypal damsel in distress: "She was a woman in distress, and that was enough to secure to her the aid of a Christian man" As such, she is saved from the sexually demonized savage male, who is also feminized or emasculated, but native women are doubly subordinated.
The natives are introduced as being "giants" of seemingly superhuman power, who are nevertheless defeated and "awe-struck by the sweeping fury of Jack" Significantly, by saving Avatea from the savages, the British boys preserve not only her life, but also her soul.
She is liberated from the constraints of a barbaric native wedding to marry her lover, who has converted to Christianity, thus conveniently signalling the link between colonialism and Christianity as salvationist discourses of redemption. When the English boys first land on the island, it is likened to "ancient Paradise" 28 ; "we had often wondered whether Adam and Eve found Eden more sweet" The island immediately becomes a British, Christian paradise in which the native is perceived as an alien invader: "we had seen the quiet solitudes of our paradise suddenly broke in upon by ferocious savages" Indigenous inhabitants transmogrify into foreign intruders, menacingly closing in upon the fringe of western innocence.
The conjunction of children and island as icons of "civilized" nature conjures the sense of an interdependent purity which must be safeguarded from corruption. The native is dehumanized in the Empire's endeavor to present itself as a taming of the beast or ejection of the serpent from a westernized Christian Eden.
Significantly, the native gods are described as child-consuming eels, evoking images of the biblical serpent. An array of distorted images instills in the reader a sense of horror toward this Other, including: "incarnate fiends," "they looked more like demons than human beings" , "the most terrible monster I ever beheld" , "a wild shout" , and "the monsters cut slices of flesh from his body, and, after roasting them slightly over the fire, devoured them" The native acquires the role of bogeyman, a sexualized Other created by the adult narrator to fill the child reader's mind with fear and create a scapegoat for "normal" adult behavior toward Others.
As Bristow points out: "the thought of cannibalism … preyed on the Victorian mind. Eating human flesh was not part of the Fijian's everyday diet; it contributed to periodic rituals. In Ballantyne's adventure, the islander's consumption of flesh turns into an insatiable appetite" This gross distortion of native ritual practices is furthermore interlinked closely with the western view of the native's sexual appetite.
Significantly, such an indulgent, insatiable appetite might also be closely associated with childhood sexu- ality, thereby creating a slippage beneath the text's superficial fixity of innocence. It is highly threatening that the cannibalistic appetite is perceived to feed on a sense of sheer pleasure, connoting an almost erotic satisfaction. In order to be able to authenticate this prejudiced presentation, the narrator must claim it as factual data. However, ironically, it is not the upstanding English boys who educate us on this perversity of consumption, but the murderous pirate, Bloody Bill: there's thousands o' people in England who are sich born drivellin' won't believers that they think the black fellows hereaways at the worst eat an enemy only now an' then, out o' spite; whereas I know for certain … that the Feejee islanders eat not only their enemies but one another; and they do it not for spite, but for pleasure.
It's a fact that they prefer human flesh to any other. At the same time, Bloody Bill's words retain the safe assurance that such atrocities can only occur in dark continents, and not be endorsed by even our blackest criminals, thus establishing an additional moral detachment from the native.
Indeed Ralph, as adult narrator, admits that reading such "facts" had fuelled the boys' imaginations, having "heard or read of … savages, torturings at the stake, roastings alive, and such like horrible things" Bill goes on to say that "these blackguards eat men an' women just as readily as they eat pigs; and, as baked pigs and baked men are very like each other in appearance, they call men long pigs" Here human and pig assume a virtually indistinguishable identity, as the boys themselves indulge in eating numerous animal pigs as opposed to human pigs, the savage delicacy.
The textual framework threatens to rupture at this point, for narrative authority is lost amidst an interplay of signifiers that slide along an insecure chain of reference, disrupting the fixity of identity between human and animal.
Similarly, Lewis Carroll 's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland features a human to pig metamorphosis, with the pig-baby trotting off beyond its textual boundaries and, as a result, its subjectivity fluidly spilling out of control. Oral consumption within children's fiction, such as is witnessed in Ballantyne's novel, is very much associated with Freud's theory of the child's polymorphously perverse sexuality. The presence of this orality further disrupts notions about the innocence of both the child and the children's novel as a literary genre.
Ralph, Jack, and Peterkin indulge in this consumption throughout the text: "having thus cut off the two hind-legs [of the pig], he made several deep gashes in them, thrust a sharp-pointed stick through each, and stuck them up before the blaze to roast.
The Coral Island (Meghalaya Edition) Book-VIII
The woodpigeon was then split open" The language employed here is highly eroticized. Through such terminology as "cut," "deep gashes," "thrust a sharp-pointed stick through," and "split open" the adult narrator is carried away on a symbolic feast of frenzy. This "luxurious supper" 90 progresses to "a feast of hot rolls … roast pig, roast duck, boiled and roasted yams, cocoa-nuts, taro, and sweet potatoes, … plums, apples, and plantains" This voraciousness is also, I would argue, metonymic of the appetite of Empire, where the island as well as its produce are claimed by the boys: "We've got an island all to ourselves.
We'll take possession in the name of the king; we'll go and enter the service of its black inhabitants. Of course we'll rise, naturally, to the top of affairs. White men always do in savage countries" Like the unstable signifiers of human and pig, the concept of cannibalism is rendered insecure, implicating western consumerism in its own condemnation of the savage appetite.
The language suggests a Social Darwinism of survival and subjection, where ownership and control are aligned with a belief in the British child subject as culturally superior to the infantilized savage. It really is a case of dog-eat-dog, tapping into a mood of nationhood and reflecting a particular British Victorian psychological representation of supremacy.
Significantly, Edward Said argues in Culture and Imperialism that scarcely a corner of life was untouched by the facts of empire; the economies were hungry for overseas markets, raw materials, cheap labour, and hugely profitable land…. But there is more than that to imperialism and colonialism. There was a commitment to them over and above profit … which, on the one hand, allowed decent men and women to accept the notion that distant territories and their native peoples should be subjugated, and, on the other, replenished metropolitan energies so that these decent people could think of the imperium as a protracted, almost metaphysical obligation to rule subordinate, inferior, or less advanced peoples.
He also raises a crucial point concerning colonial discourse in The Coral Island, namely that westerners are led to believe that they are enlightening the native.
Bloody Bill insists that those back in England must know the "facts" about savages, rendering Ballantyne's novel part of an act of cultural persuasion that Britain is colonizing in a bid to civilize savage nations and so advance evolution. As a boys' adventure, the novel is particularly powerful because it is teaching the next generation to dominate others—mainly natives and women—in the name of innocence and truth.
When the boys first arrive on the island, Ralph identifies it as the work of "my Creator" 22 , thus both Anglicizing and Christianizing it as a legitimate imperial possession.
The novel literally evangelizes the missionary of British nationhood, conveniently by employing that other claim for absolute truth and authority: the Christian Bible. The native missionary is heard to proclaim: "that if you ever return to England, you will tell your Christian friends that the horrors which they hear in regard to these islands are literally true….
You may also tell them … of the blessings that the Gospel has wrought here! To legitimize British intervention further, this dialogue is placed in the mouth of the converted Other who is portrayed as grateful to his saviors. Not only is his country appropriated, so too is his own native voice, which mimics western discourse and is incorporated within Ralph's authorial narrative.
Again, however, this strategy also questions the authority of colonial discourse because these self-effacing words are clearly force-fed to the native by Ralph's overall narrative manipulation.
And, since this narrative tends to blur the ideological outline of transparent representation, it suggests that the native, like his language, offers an ironic perspective, showing western authority to be little more than an act of performative masquerade in which every occurrence is viewed through distorted retrospection. Behind the converted savage's genuflection to the greatness of Christianity, sceptical ears may hear the desperately persuasive voice of an English narrator, rendering the native voice a crude mouthpiece of western opinion: "We, who live in these islands of the sea, know that the true Christians always act thus.
Their religion is one of love and kindness. We thank God that so many Christians have been sent here; we hope many more will come" It may seem safe to legitimize one's own actions by introducing a grateful convert.
However, the language used here does not allow for one fixed interpretation but continues to oscillate between representation and subversive irony. Since the words are formulated by a western narrator, the enunciated "we" becomes blurred and the subject behind the utterance is obscured.
More important perhaps, is the tone suggesting Christian hypocrisy between theology and practice. Action becomes an "act" as "true Christians" behave in a manner that contradicts their doctrine "of love and kindness. The pirate Bloody Bill recognizes that "the only place among the southern islands where a ship can put in and get what she wants in comfort is where the Gospel has been sent to….
For my part, I don't know and I don't care what the Gospel does to them, but I know that when any o' the islands chance to get it, trade goes all smooth and easy" In explanation, Bristow argues that: "missionaries and traders settled on the islands, spreading Methodism among the tribes and carrying off plentiful supplies of sandalwood….
The arrival of British warships frightened the Fijians into converting to Christianity. The date of their conversion, , roughly coincides with the composition and publication of Ballantyne's adventure" Bristow, however, does not consider that by being conscious of and overtly disclosing this link between colonial trade and evangelical Christianity, The Coral Island is at least potentially subverting dominant discourses rather than merely reflecting them.
Indeed, there are numerous occasions when the novel opens up areas of tension or contestation, thus alluding to alternative views of nationhood and Empire. By employing a pirate to discuss the links between trade and Christianity, for example, the text tends to undermine its own surface authority. It is not simply the case that, as a pirate, Bloody Bill's comments are untrustworthy and ultimately unreliable, but also that the truth claimed by colonialism is rendered dubious when undersigned by piracy.
When Bloody Bill states that he "don't care what the Gospel does" for the native but that he is glad it promotes easy trade, the text signals that colonialism uses Christianity as a "civilizing" discourse only in order to obtain goods Much of the spoken language in The Coral Island owns this ironic ring, subverting its own narrative authority of Gospel Truth by demonstrating that part of its plot involves the use of the Bible to mask exploitation.Had Mummy not abandoned him, would Ralph's government of the island have succeeded?
What Roger is unable to disobey is not the express prohibition of civil society against violence, but an internalized restraint—that is, civility.
I observed that the attacking party was led by a most extraordinary being, who, from his size and peculiarity, I concluded was a chief. Beyond realism's mirror and the glassy surface calm of tropical waters lurks an unfathomable oceanic depth of textual undercurrents. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. The shattered glass is a metaphor of textual instability. Like the native, the child is appropriated or colonized by western discourse.
Having taken the plunge, we should remember the novel's subtitle: it is A Tale of the Pacific Ocean. I concede that much of the ambiguity I detect in The Coral Island will undoubtedly have been unconscious on Ballantyne's part, but I believe that to fully appreciate his novel's contradictory impetus, one must acknowledge that the text itself incorporates a fragmentary and distorted narrative gaze, one that views the entire adventure through a "broken telescope" Coral Island After all, Ralph is no longer seeing directly as a child, but in retrospect, as an adult.