Damning the Colossus: Olive Schreiner’s Imperialist Critique in Trooper Peter Halket of Mashonaland

Jitender Gill


Olive Schreiner’s relatively neglected text, Trooper Peter Halket of Mashonaland, is ambiguous in its representation of contemporary British colonial policies. While it is clearly a stringent critique of the political, militaristic, and economic ramifications of imperialism, it takes the form of an overt Christian allegory to point to the rapaciousness of men like Cecil Rhodes, arguably the wealthiest man in the world at that time, previously celebrated, though recently much reviled British colonial administrator. Schreiner’s important representation written towards the end of the nineteenth century continues to face neglect even as the colonial policies of Rhodes are being studied and castigated today. This paper closely reads the allegorical structure of the novella to argue that Schreiner’s critical reputation as a feminist and anti-racist can be nuanced with a re-examination of Trooper. As Rhodes’s colonial legacy is under intense scrutiny at present, a critical revaluation of this work is long overdue.


Victorian literature, Olive Schreiner, Trooper Peter Halket of Mashonaland, Cecil Rhodes, South African literature, late nineteenth century literature, British Empire, colonials

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