British Identity and Literature Essay

1312 Words 6 Pages
British Identity and Literature


What does it mean to be British? Britain's national identity has evolved and transformed over the years. Through the works of Phyllis Wheatley, Aphra Ben, William Shakespeare, Daniel DeFoe, Coetzee and Caryl Phillips we have explored the different meanings and aspects of British identity. Britishness is not just confined to England (or the United Kingdom in recent times), Britishness extends far beyond the nation. Britishness is not a simple concept and is complicated by the existence of many British colonies all over the world. The colonized people of the British colonies also have claims on Britishness. So what determines if an individual is British or not? Is it one's religion? Is it the way one
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The only way the narrator of Cambridge could communicated with Stella and become attached to her was because of Stella's ability to communicate. Though Stella may not be British by birth and she may speak funny, she has a claim on British Identity. Her understanding of British culture is evident in the way she sets the table, the food she cooks, the way she knows when to talk and when to be quiet. When she demands Stella to inform her about the relationship between Mr. Brown and Christiania, Stella is quiet and refused to discuss it with her mistress; this situation demonstrates her understanding of British social norms.

Language gave the colonized people a voice and a way to get their opinions heard. Oronooko only learned more about British culture through his "master" and with interactions with all the friends of his "master." His interaction with the British people allowed them to see and understand his point of view, it also made them realize the immense potential within the people that they were so ruthlessly colonizing. Cambridge is educated by a kind nun who taught him how to read and write. Cambridge could only get his ideas through to the British colonizers because of his ability to speak articulately in the English language. His ability to convey his ideas about slavery was all dependent on his ability to speak the language of the colonizers. Cambridge has a very…