The Counter-Narrative of Imperialism in Following the Equator

Proceedings of The 3rd International Conference on Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts

Year: 2022



The Counter-Narrative of Imperialism in Following the Equator

Hsin-yun Ou



Although nineteenth-century American imperialism often affirmed the cultural superiority of the West to other parts of the world, the imperialist representation cannot be regarded as a monolithic discourse of Western hegemony, as exemplified by Mark Twain’s anti-imperial writings. In Following the Equator, A Journey around the World (1897), Mark Twain attacks the imperial ventures of Great Britain in South Africa, the U.S. schemes in Cuba and the Philippines, and Western powers’ projects in China, disparaging whites’ disdain for native traditions and accentuating the similarity between slavery and colonization. By using ironic literary language, twain criticizes the Anglo-American global “manifest destiny” and British colonial policies and demonstrates the superiority of aboriginal customs to those of the colonists. Discussing native peoples’ rights, twain denounces colonial land theft from Aborigines because a colonial landowner has little right to the land he claims. The humorist also argues that Americans should learn from New Zealanders, who have granted women the right to vote for members of the legislature. Twain wrote Following the Equator not only in defiance of imperialism but also against prejudice in general, which had a great influence on Twain’s later writings and activities. Drawing on Shelley Fisher Fishkin’s theory relating to Mark Twain’s historical view, this article investigates how twain delivers his satire as a counter-narrative, acting as both an outrageous joker and a voice of the civic conscience.

keywords: Imperialism, Mark Twain, Australia, New Zealand, India, Following the Equator.