How does Haggard portray the heroes and their motives? Are they ruthless predators or gentle men?
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On the surface these men are seen a heroic treasure hunters but Haggard does critique them as well.
Although subtle in his critique, Haggard does make it clear that the desire for the wealth of King Solomon’s diamond mines leads to danger, suffering, and sometimes death. Sir Henry Curtis is the only one of the explorers who is not motivated by desire for the diamonds, as he seeks his brother. Captain Good and Quatermain want the diamonds, but Quatermain at least attempts to put his desire in less selfish terms, as he seeks a solid financial situation for his son. The men follow the map of Jose da Silvestra, whom they learned barely escaped with his life after seeking the diamonds, and who eventually died on his way back home. His descendant, Jose Silvestre, also dies from exposure after seeking the lost Mines.
Sir Henry, Captain Good, and Quatermain nearly die in the treasure chamber. Gagool was able to elude them and trigger the door because the men were too preoccupied in wonder at the diamonds. Even as they seek escape, Captain Good renounces the diamonds as useless for survival; Quatermain, on the other hand, manages to pocket a handful before leaving the treasure chamber.
In a very telling exchange, Ignosi accuses the departing Quatermain of loving the “shining stones” more than his friends. Although Quatermain replies that he longs for his homeland, and Ignosi accepts the reply, the specter of greed as a motivating factor has yet again been raised; this time, Ignosi feels justified in accusing the white men of valuing precious stones or material wealth above true friendship.