Illuminations from 'This Thing of Darkness'
The Evolutionary Review 1 (2010): 138-40.
2 Pages Posted: 5 Feb 2014
Date Written: 2010
"This Thing of Darkness", a phrase describing the half-human creature Caliban in Shakespeare's "The Tempest", is the British title of Harry Thompson's novel titled "To the Edge of the World" in the USA. It deals with Darwin's Beagle voyage and the European encounter with primitive civilizations, with the figure of the Beagle's captain FitzRoy taking center focus. This paper reviews Thompson's novel as a portrait of the impact of evolutionary theory on traditional world-views, with FitzRoy's experiences embodying an old order of values and beliefs which is displaced by modern imperial bureaucracy and by the new understanding of mankind ushered in by Darwin. In the meantime, we find a portrait of the Western world order, both political, economic and conceptual, displacing and driving to extinction the primitive societies of "the edges of the world". Darwin's science is thus both a symptom and a diagnosis of the struggle for existence in human cultures.
Keywords: Evolutionary theory, Darwin, Darwinism, Historical novel, English literature, English novel
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