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Postcolonial Theory in Literary Works

Postcolonial literary theory is a broadly related theory of the struggles and consequences of colonial rule in European countries. The theory implements literature techniques to describe effects of colonialism and the struggle for independence. Nonetheless, the concept of this theory does not solely imply struggle for freedom and life in colonialism. Numerous European countries presented their stories about colonialism and its consequences. The main idea revealed in the postcolonial theory is a psychological understanding of the inferiority of society in comparison with other organizations. In addition, it reveals the struggle for cultural and political freedom, and an increased awareness of cultural mixing. Yet, literary works created long before the colonial and post-colonial periods also paid attention on these ideologies.

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When it comes to viewing the world through postcolonial lenses, it can be seen how different social groups react to various situations. It also allows for tracing how human beings changed their perspectives and shaped new way of thinking. The Epic of Gilgamesh and Shakespeare’s The Tempest are examples of literary works with valid ideas about postcolonial literary theory, although they have nothing to do with this theory.

In The Epic of Gilgamesh, a reader may trace the embodiment of the postcolonial ideas into the everyday life. The epic primarily deals with the concepts of social oppression and cruelty. The main character Gilgamesh, who is considered to have both human and God traits, rules with oppression and extreme savagery. He fiercely abuses and rapes women regardless of their status and barely cares about people’s thoughts and feeling. Gilgamesh’s subjects were aware of their inferiority and initially accepted their status; hence, made it clear they can be abused. There is a constant struggle between his human and God nature. Yet, he presents himself as a developing character after making friends with Enkidu. According to the text, “becoming aware of himself, he sought a friend” (George, 2002, p. 63). Gilgamesh realizes there are many more beautiful things in the words part form his needs and want. Losing his friends became an obstacle to him and forced him to learn about the world through pain and suffering.

In Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the same concepts of inferiority, oppression, language, and imperialism are revealed. Prospero, a powerful former King of Milan, is saved from a potential attack that could claim his throne. He uses his status to neglect people and put himself in a higher position. He resides on the island where he wants people to speak his language and forget about theirs. Even though he is a refugee on the island, he makes everyone do what he wants and learn his customs. When Prospero is dissatisfied with something, he blames and curses other people: “thou shalt have cramps” (Seely, 2000, p. 31). All the residents accept his position he is determined to own the island alongside with Miranda. Yet, owning the island does not satisfy him and he ardently desires to return to Milan and rule there.

In conclusion, colonialism has significantly impacted many countries which had to recover for centuries to become strong nations. The past social, cultural, and political peculiarities were revealed in numerous stories including The Epic of Gilgamesh and Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Notably, a reader can trace all human’s vices disappearing or instead gaining momentum and revealing the worst traits of a human being.


George, A. (Ed.). (2002). The epic of Gilgamesh. Penguin Books.

Seely, J. (Ed.). (2000). The tempest. Pearson Education.

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