Bakhtin and Trooper Peter Halket of Mashonaland: Beyond Allegory and Realism

  • Matthew Blackman
Keywords: Olive Schreiner, Trooper Peter Halket of Mashonaland, Mikhail Bakhtin, dialogism, allegory, realism


Olive Schreiner’s novella Trooper Peter Halket of Mashonaland (1897) has been variously considered to be a political pamphlet, an allegory or at the very least a piece of moralising Victorian realism. Certainly at its centre there is the powerful proclamatory voice of the Christ figure, ventriloquized by both the Cape preacher and later Peter Halket himself. As most critics have acknowledged – from its early reviewer in the New York Tribune in 1897 to most recently Rajendra Chetty and Matthew Curr in 2016 – the figure of Christ expounds an ethic or ideology associated with the author herself. However, these critical approaches tend to ignore the conflicting ideas and ideological outlooks held in some of the other voices in the text. In this article, I consider whether these opposing voices are illustrations of Mikhail Bakhtin’s ontology of the dialogic novel with its centripetal and centrifugal ideological forces. If in fact these voices can be considered to be dialogical, then the sublation of the voice of the author/Christ cannot be complete and the novella’s allegorical nature can at the very least be questioned.


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eISSN: 0376-8902