The Female American

The Female American

The Female American; or, The Adventures of Unca Eliza Winkfield, is a novel, originally published in 1767, under the pseudonym of the main character/narrator, Unca Eliza Winkfield and edited in recent editions by Michelle Burnham. The novel describes the adventures of a half-Native American, half-English woman, who is shipwrecked on a deserted isle. The protagonist uses her knowledge of Christianity to convert the indigenous inhabitants on the island as part of her survival mode.

This work belongs to the literary genre of the Robinsonade, in that - like other works of its era - it emulates Daniel Defoe's 1719 novel Robinson Crusoe. Although there are many similarities to Defoe's novel, the differences are what make The Female American distinctive. For instance, the narrator is not only a woman but is also biracial, as the daughter of a Native American princess and an English settler who resided in Virginia. The protagonist is also multilingual. Although Defoe's protagonist (Robinson Crusoe) chooses to leave his home and set out into an unexplored and dangerous life abroad, Winkfield's protagonist's (Unca Eliza Winkfield) trials and adventures are forced upon her. It is only in the latter part of the narrative that the female protagonist finds a living condition on the island that is more favorable than her American or European origins. In addition, the novel engages with the theme of finding one's home away from the native land, which can be identified in a range of fiction of 18th-century England. While Defoe's protagonist remains condescending towards the native people that he encounters and easily deserts his companions for personal salvation, Winkfield's protagonist is compassionate and benevolent towards the indigenous community, embracing its practices. Similarly, the native people that Unca Eliza discovers easily accept Christianity unlike Man Friday in Michael Tournier's modern revision of the Robinson Crusoe narrative, Friday.

Historical references to colonial America and eighteenth-century England, the fantasy of a feminist utopia, and the woman's role in colonialism and religious conversion are just a few of the components of this narrative. One of the criticisms that accompanied its publication in 1767 was that female readers might possibly partake in similar adventures, thus questioning their lives and limitations. The fear was that the virtue of the women of this period would be potentially endangered. In order to assuage such concerns, the introduction emphasizes that the story is not only "pleasing and instructive" but "fit to be perused by the youth of both sexes, as a rational, moral entertainment."

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