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Analysis of The Female Combatants (1776)
The Female Combatants, or, Who Shall, was created in England in 1776. Little is known
about the creator of the image as well as the individual or organization that commissioned it. The
Female Combatants was acquired from the Alfred Bowditch by the Lewis Walpole Library, Yale
University in 1966. Its intended audience are people at every knowledge level.
The image depicts a physical brawl between two women. Great Britain, embodied as a
regally dressed Britannia with a high sense of fashion, threatens to force her rebellious colonial
offspring to obedience saying: “I’ll force you to obedience, you rebellious slut” (Gibbs 55).
America, who is depicted as a half-naked Indian decorated in tattoos as well as a feathered skirt
and headdress, defies her “mother” with a cry for liberty saying “Liberty, Liberty forever,
Mother, while I exist” (Gibbs 55). Overall, therefore, Britain is embodied as a fashionable lady
while America, her rebellious daughter, is embodied as an Indian princess. This depiction of
America serves as a representation of the common anthropomorphic image of the colonies of
North America as a hostile but virgin, beautiful but vulnerable princess of Native American in a
“state of nature.” Further, the braw features a right hook to the breast, as the Britannia appears to
be hitting the Native American’s right naked breast with her right hand. This, combined with the
saucy language, makes the image titillating and helps grab the attention of the audience.
The likely purpose of the image was to serve as a portrayal of the contending
understandings of liberty. Britons, just like the rebelling North American colonists, often
portrayed America as Native American. Nonetheless, their goal for doing this was to reject the
colonist’s claims for independence since they believed they had a “natural right” to liberty
(Gibbs 55). The message conveyed by the image is that the British and the American colonists
had differing ideological premises. Notably, the brawl and verbal exchange between Mother
England and Daughter America help the audience understand that Great Britain focused on
authority and submission while America conceptualized the government as, unlike the
relationship between a parent and a child, based upon consent and free choice (McKellop para.
3). In the image, the artist utilizes different symbols to help convey its message. Beside America
is a blossoming...
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