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3 - Consumption on the Frontier: Food and Sacrament in Mason & Dixon

from Consumption Then and Now

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 September 2012

Colin A. Clarke
Affiliation:
Suffolk County Community College
Elizabeth Jane Wall Hinds
Affiliation:
SUNY Brockport
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Summary

STATIONED IN CAPE TOWN to observe the Transit of Venus, Charles Mason finds himself bemoaning the lack of variety to be found in Dutch Cape kitchens, a lack which has driven his partner Jeremiah Dixon to sample every available ketjap and Malay delicacy in hopes of avoiding “[t]he smell … of Mutton-fat vaporiz'd and recondens'd, again and again, working its way insidiously, over the years of cooking, into all walls, furniture, draperies …” (86). Just as this scent of cooked sheep seeps into the walls and so becomes a constant underlying presence in the Vroom household, so too does food continually reappear in Mason & Dixon as a subtle reminder of the political and social forces governing the lives of the main characters, and as suggestions of the overlap between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries. In The Empire Writes Back, Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin place language at the center of colonialism, claiming that “[o]ne of the main features of imperial oppression is the control over language” (7). For Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin, language becomes one of the primary sites of colonial struggle, as the restriction of language allows control over the processes of communication, granting colonists a permeating power over nearly every aspect of life in the colonies. As such, language becomes a key figure in any postcolonial expression, as the re-emergence of native voices, or the appropriation and subtle repositioning of the colonial voice, suggests the ways in which the colonized come to exercise some control over that which had been one of the primary means of their oppression, and signify difference from the colonial center (43).

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Chapter
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The Multiple Worlds of Pynchon's 'Mason and Dixon'
Eighteenth-Century Contexts, Postmodern Observations
, pp. 77 - 98
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2005

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