80 Unca Eliza as Hybrid Colonizer

Katherine Whitcomb

The Female American is considered to be part of early American Literature. The story of a hybrid woman, Unca Eliza, who is half Native American and half European, reproduces the imperial discourse of postcolonial literature. The “hybridity” of Unca is what really drives the point home. She is meant to act as the physical representation of what happens when European countries colonize distant lands. Her appearance is exotic in Europe, as she looks like her Native mother with her “tawny” complexion and dark hair, but she was raised as white person would be within the setup of her home life and educational background. That being said, she also equally possesses the skill of shooting a bow which she learned from her Native American roots; this comes across as a party trick more than anything else. Unca displays traits associated with Natives like it’s a fun game at times, even placing wagers on her skill. This furthers the imperial agenda in that she is the show pony of colonization; “through the epic stages of colonialism, post-colonialism and enlightened hybridity” (RR 1186). She is the highlight of what hybridity is possible, the best of both worlds that combine when colonization occurs.

Beyond the mere representation of Unca Eliza’s physical traits and abilities that display both sides of her heritage, she also works to spread colonialism on her own terms. When she is thrown off a ship in the middle of the ocean, she washes up on an island that is not directly inhabited, but is being used for religious rituals by a group of natives. She must work to survive. Once she discovers that the Natives travel from their island to the one she finds herself on she forms a plan. And not a normal one, mind you. Instead of asking for help up front and hoping for the best, Unca decides to impersonate one of their gods to be received as a person of power in the community. Through this manipulation, we learn that she just happens to speak the same language as these natives. It’s not English, but some Native American language that she learned from her mom. This gives off the message that it doesn’t matter where in the world you are, the natives are all going to be the same. It reduces the cultures of different people to such a simplistic view that the reader cannot differentiate one culture from the next. Nor does it matter to the story what the culture of the natives is. The only thing that matters is Unca’s power and ability to manipulate her way to the highest point in the society in which she inhabits. This relates to postcolonial studies in that the term effectively blurs the identities of those taken over by (typically) European entities; “how seldom the term is used to denote mulitplicity” (RR 1187). Grouping every type of Native together works to create the homogeneous group of “others” in colonial encounters. The term “native” also effectively blurs the identities of every native and different cultures even within continents in this story, creating a single story which leads to “generic abstractions voided of political nuance” (RR 1187).

Unca Eliza also created an agenda to further European tendencies, specifically religious practices. She works to further imperialism by colonizing the natives to fit Christian beliefs. Unca describes the tribe as backwards, in that they serve and pray to multiple gods, rather than just the one God, and believes they have to be fixed. She assigns her way of life to these people, and uses it to further her own life of power while on the islands.

Overall, The Female American works to further the imperialist agenda by showcasing the protagonist as a future thinker and leader through European powers and life choices. She is the embodiment of what an imperialist society wants people to believe about it: that it’s progressive and better for furthering society in every aspect.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

The Student Theorist: An Open Handbook of Collective College Theory Copyright © 2018 by Katherine Whitcomb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book