Sunday, April 17, 2011

The African Tribe Meets The Outside World

“Their officer, chosen, it would seem, as much for the size of their bottoms as anything, marched beside them playing long –stemmed, brass trumpets and little hand drums and these female soldiers were aggressively armed with duck-guns, blunderbusses, muskets and razor-like knives, a museum of ancient weapons.” (Carter 156)

This passage from the novel hints that the African tribe that Desiderio, the Count, and Lafleur encounter has had previous contact with the outside world. Because of this we can see that this represents post-colonialism in the novel. For one, the mentioning of the brass trumpets stick out as not belonging within this tribe. I am aware that African tribes had and still do have trumpets among them, but because the trumpets are brass (and not wood or bone) it seems that they were possibly acquired from Europeans. In fact, the chapter from which this passage comes also mentions that this tribe is cannibalistic. It can be assumed that their victims are most likely going to be outsiders, or explorers, that found themselves amongst the tribe for whatever reason, whether it be on accident or with intent to subjugate. This is another point that agrees with the post colonialism present in the novel. As if that is not enough, the mentioning of the weaponry being used by the soldiers in this passage also hints to the tribes contact with the outside world. The fact that these weapons are referred to as “ancient weapons” asserts the issue that the tribe is not as advanced as the world that Desiderio is from. Therefore they most likely came in contact with foreigners a while back, and now used their weaponry. The use of the brass trumpets and the weapons expresses that the tribe, though portrayed as barbaric to our standards, have adapted some things from outside cultures.

Carter, Angela. The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman. Penguin Books: New York, 1972.


  1. This is a very interesting insight, Tarriq; I completely overlooked this passage. This quote is definitely relevant to the majority of the novel because the story takes place in several "underdeveloped" or colonized continents such as Africa and South America. We also see a cannibalistic tribe in the River People. Through the River People's example, we can see a conflict in rituals - they want to eat Desiderio to gain knowledge, something that we perceive as absurd with our Western education.

  2. This passage is interesting when you consider that the "black pimp" leads the tribe. He has obviously had contact with the outside world and has actually traveled there, pursuing the count after the strangulation of the prostitute in Louisiana. The black pimp is dressed in normal clothing and even rides a motorcycle when we first encounter him. The tribal nature and embrace of "ancient weapons" could be a conscious decision, because if the king has the means to travel to the Americas and travel throughout them, he must have some form of wealth backing him. Such wealth would make them able to progress in the normal means, or at least afford up-to-date weapons, clothing, and homes. It might also suggest that the king is dominating his own people by forcing them into a primitive lifestyle, which has connotations of inter-racial sabotage and oppression. I think this passage can be taken as post-colonialism, but there are also elements which suggest a racial commentary, or possibly just on people's tendency to take advantage of one another in general.