Colonialism and South Pacific
From its opening scene, South Pacific presents problematic images of colonialism that indicate a Western cultural hegemony over the indigenous island peoples and suggests the subsequent influence of postwar capitalism in the region. The character of Bloody Mary simultaneously represents an attempt at assimilation and a carefully enforced outsider status. Although her economic acumen gives Mary a degree of power within the imposed culture, her ethnic difference prevents her assimilation into it. This friction plays an important role in the subplot of Mary, her daughter, and Joe Cable, who cannot reconcile himself to loving an Other. Further, this chapter examines Nellie’s presence at the end of the play as an indicator of the increased postwar American presence in the South Pacific and reinforces a discussion of Nellie as an autonomous character with more power, cultural as well as emotional, than she is generally credited for. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the cultural power of popular song and how popular song topics pervade the musical.
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