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A comparison between Jean Rhys and Una Marson

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Introduction

Voyage into the Metropolis: Exile in the Works of Jean Rhys and Una Marson. In Jonathan Miller's 1970 production of Shakespeare's "The Tempest" the character of Caliban was cast as black, therefore reigniting the link between the Prospero/Caliban paradigm as the colonizer/colonized. It was not a new idea, indeed Shakespeare himself envisaged the play set on an island in the Antilles and the play would have had great appeal at the time when new territories were being discovered, conquered, plundered and providing seemingly inexhaustible revenue for the colonisers. What is particularly interesting, however, is how powerful the play later becomes for discourse on colonialism. This trope of Caliban is used by George Lamming in "The Pleasures of Exile" where he likens Prospero in his relationship with Caliban, to the first slave-traders who used physical force and then their culture to subjugate the African and the Carib, overcoming any rebellion with a self righteous determinism. In "The Pleasures of Exile" Lamming sees Caliban as: "Man and other than man. Caliban is his convert, colonized by language, and excluded by language. It is precisely this gift of language, this attempt at transformation which has brought about the pleasure and the paradox of Caliban's exile. Exiled from his gods, exiled from his nature, exiled from his own name! Yet Prospero is afraid of Caliban. He is afraid because he knows that his encounter with Caliban is, largely, his encounter with himself." 1 The Prospero/Caliban paradigm is a very relevant symbol for the colonizer/colonized situation of the West Indies but it nevertheless remains a paternalistic position. Where does that leave women of the Caribbean? It could be argued that the Caribbean woman has been even further marginalized. That in making Caliban the model of the Caribbean man it is therefore providing him with a voice. Yet nowhere in the Tempest is there a female counterpart, rendering the Caribbean woman invisible as well as silent and ignoring an essential part of their historical culture. ...read more.

Middle

Like Rhys, Marson fought with these feelings throughout her life, resulting in long periods of depression. Her belief in women's need for pride in their cultural heritage established Marson as 'the earliest female poet of significance to emerge in West Indian literature'.42 She not only 'challenged received notions of women's place in society' but also raised questions about 'the relationship of the colonized subject to "the mother country"'43 There was a considerable amount of poetry emerging out of the West Indies around this time but most of it was dismissed as being 'not truly West Indian',44 the reason for this being partly because many of the writers were English but also because many of the styles used by these writers mimicked colonial forms. Many of Marson's early poetry reflects this mimicry showing a reliance upon the Romantics of the English poetic tradition, particularly Shelley, Wordsworth and Byron. The poem Spring in England reveals this indebtedness to the Romantics, including as it does a stanza where, having observed the arrival of Spring in London, the poet asks: 'And what are daffodils, daffodils Daffodils that Wordsworth praised?' I asked. 'Wait for Spring, Wait for the Spring,' the birds replied. I waited for Spring, and lo they came, 'A host of shining daffodils Beside the lake beneath the trees' (The Moth p6)45 Clearly there are echoes of Wordsworth's Daffodils throughout the stanza, reflecting the drive by colonialism through education to eradicate the West Indian selfhood. Yet for Marson this harnessing of English culture not only posed few problems but indeed was, I would argue, a necessary step in her voyage of self discovery. As seen with Rhys, mimicry was a subversive threat to colonial ideology, especially through language. Homi Bhabha's notion of mimicry seeks to explore those ambivalences of such destabilizing colonial and post-colonial exchanges. "The menace of mimicry is its double vision which in disclosing the ambivalence of colonial discourse also disrupts its authority. ...read more.

Conclusion

Teresa O'Connor The Meaning of the West Indian Experience for Jean Rhys (PhD dissertation, New York University, 1985)cited in Caribbean Woman Writers; Essays from the first International Conference. p19 40 Taken from Rhys's non fictional analysis of Gender Politics. Veronica Gregg, Jean Rhys's Historical Imagination p47 41 Helen Carr Jean Rhys, (Plymouth: Northcote House Publishers Ltd, 1996) p 77 42 Lloyd W. Brown, West Indian Poetry (London: Heineman, 1978) p 38 43 Denise deCaires Contemporary Caribbean Women's Poetry: Making style (London: Routledge, 2002) p 2 44 Ibid p4 45 Una Marson The Moth and the Star, (Kingston, Jamaica: Published by the Author, 1937) p24 46 Homi Bhabha The Location of Culture, (London: Routledge, 1994) pp85-92 47 Delia Jarrett-MaCauley The Life of Una Marson pp 49, 50 48 The Routledge Reader in Caribbean Literature ed. Alison Donnell and Sarah Lawson Welsh (London: Routledge, 1996) p140-141 49 Ibid 50 Homi Bhabha Location of Culture p 320 51 Jarrett-MaCauley The Life of Una Marson p51 52 Ibid p51 53 Ibid p54 54 Una Marson 'Little Brown Girl', The Moth and the Star. (Jamaica: The Gleaner. 1937) p11 55 Ibid 56 Ibid p13 57 deCaires Narain puts forward an interesting link between Marson and Sam Selvon's The Lonely Londoners highlighting external identity in her book Contemporary Caribbean Women's Poetry p 21 58 Baudelaire The Painter and the Modern Life cited in Keith Tester The Flaneur (New York: Routledge, 1994), p 2 59 Ibid p3 60 Jarrett-MaCauley, p53 61 Ibid p50 62 Laurence A. Brainer An Introduction to West Indian Poetry (Cambridge: CUP, 1998), p154 63 Una Marson 'Cinema Eyes' The Moth and the Star. (Jamaica: The Gleaner.1937) p87 64 Franz Fanon Black Skins, White Masks (London: Pluto, 1986), p4 65 Una Marson 'Black is Fancy' The Moth and the Star p75 66 Ibid p76 67 Una Marson 'Kinky Hair Blues' The Moth and the Star p91 68 Jarret MaCauley pvii 69 Kenneth Ramchard The West Indian Novel and its Background (London: Faber, 1870), p225 ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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