Felicia Dorothea Hemans Indian Woman's Death Song

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In line with their attitude about most countries outside the island, nineteenth century England had little idea of what cultures truly resided within their expansive empire. They may have known about India and the Americas, but not their cultures. In order to compensate for their lack of cultural knowledge, the British imagined these cultures to be inferior and in need of guidance, especially the Native Americans in the Americas. Since the world existed for England through such exotic lenses, poems such as Felicia Dorothea Hemans’ Indian Woman’s Death Song came to be. Hemans falls prey to the standard of her time – viewing the Native Americans within the confines on the “noble savage” stereotype. This stereotype is that the Native American…show more content…
The first is in stanza 3, line 23, when Hemans translates the woman’s song as, “He flings away the broken reed.” (cite) In this metaphor, the woman is not even human, but a now useless object, as she may actually feel. Nevertheless, she is still a mere object to both herself and to Hemans. In this way, the woman is both objectified and pitied. She is nothing more than a broken thing, and in that, deserves sympathy. The second metaphor lies in stanza seven, line 39, when the woman speaks to her child, saying, “Thy mother bears thee far, young Fawn!” (cite). The woman compares her child to a helpless animal that requires aid (cite). Hemans depicts the woman in this metaphor as caring for a young animal, saving it from a sad life. This is a prideful translation of what most likely is extreme pain. The woman is not saving her child, but is killing them both in utter grief. This adds again to the “noble savage” idea. The double killing is not associated with civilization, but the intention is honorable in Hemans’ eyes. However, the metaphor negates the grief the woman must be in, translating it as an act of sacrifice rather than desperation, thus being noble. In this way, the “noble savage” indicators also give the woman some agency in her own
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