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Durham E-Theses

Sexual/textual marginalities of Caribbean inspirationand origin a thesis on two texts by two women writersof Caribbean origin upon the theme of marginality

Lee, Yu-Mei

How to cite:

Lee, Yu-Mei (1990) Sexual/textual marginalities of Caribbean inspiration and origin a thesis on two textsby two women writers of Caribbean origin upon the theme of marginality, Durham theses, DurhamUniversity. Available at Durham E-Theses Online: http://etheses.dur.ac.uk/5872/

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2

SEXUAL/TEXTUAL MARGINALITIES OF CARIBBEAN INSPIRATION AND ORIGIN a t h e s i s on two t e x t s by two women w r i t e r s of Caribbean o r i g i n

upon the theme of m a r g i n a l i t y WIDE SARGASSO SEA by Jean Rhys ANNIE JOHN by Jamaica Kincaid

by YU-MEI LEE

B.A.Hons. (Dunelm) 1990

The copyright of this thesis rests with the author.

No quotation from it should be published without

his prior written consent and information derived

from it should be acknowledged.

NOV

Sexual/textual m a r g i n a l i t i e s of Caribbean i n s p i r a t i o n and o r i g i n ...two t e x t s by women w r i t e r s : Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

and Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid M.A.Thesis by Yu-Mei LEE, B.A.Hons. Dunelm

Submitted October 1990

Abstract

This t h e s i s i s an e x p l o r a t i o n of the theme of Ma r g i n a l i t y i n Writing by women of Caribbean o r i g i n .

My work condensed i t s e l f i n t o a s p e c i f i c analysis of two t e x t s . Taken together, these t e x t s focus the i n s i g h t s I researched i n t o a s i g n i f i c a n t whole. Each t e x t was w r i t t e n by a woman of Caribbean o r i g i n , and t h e i r backgrounds are a symbolic p o l a r i t y from each other. Jean Rhys was a white Creole born i n Dominica i n 1894 and who spent her adult l i f e i n England; Jamaica Kincaid i s black, n a t i v e t o Antigua and now a j o u r n a l i s t i n New York.

The p r o t a g o n i s t s of each t e x t - Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid, and Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys - are both young g i r l s influenced by the image of t h e i r mothers. S i g n i f i c a n t l y , they share almost the same name (Annie/Antoinette) which i s also t h a t of t h e i r mothers. Thus they become a symbolic f u s i o n of a heroine of Caribbean o r i g i n .

I n the course of extensive and e c l e c t i c reading, I discovered the theme of M a r g i n a l i t y t o be entwined w i t h the concept of I n t e r t e x t u a l i t y . I n separate chapters, I have discussed m a r g i n a l i t y w i t h reference to n a r r a t i v e s t r u c t u r e and n a r r a t i v e time, image and metaphor, c u l t u r e (which involves c o l o n i a l i s m i n the Caribbean), race r e l a t i o n s and gender ( s p e c i f i c a l l y f e m i n i s t ) , and u l t i m a t e l y according to Susan Sontag's observation of the marginal l i t e r a r y subject:

an unimportant 'work' ... could be a marvellous ' t e x t ' . Considering something as a ' t e x t ' means...precisely to suspend conventional evaluations. ... notions of ' t e x t ' and ' t e x t u a l i t y ' charges the c r i t i c w i t h the task of discarding worn-out meanings f o r fresh ones. °

I hope t h a t i n the course of my t h e s i s , I have succeeded i n the enlightenment of f r e s h meanings i n W r i t i n g by women of Caribbean o r i g i n . I conclude that an understanding of the s i g n i f i c a n c e of these t e x t s l i e s i n the f a c t t h a t t h e i r marginal q u a l i t y i s part of a t o t a l i n t e r t e x t u a l i t y .

Yu-Mei LEE 28/9/90

0Susan Sontag. A Susan Sontag Reader. Random House. New York. 1983. p428

CONTENTS

I . INTRODUCTION: Ma r g i n a l i t y & I n t e r t e x t u a l i t y

I I . The M a r g i n a l i t y of Time; NARRATIVE STRUCTURE & NARRATIVE TIME

( i ) Annie John 8

( i i ) Wide Sargasso Sea 16

I I I . T h e M a r g i n a l i t y of Image: THE IMAGING OF THE MOTHER-MIRROR

( i ) Wide Sargasso Sea 35

( i i ) Annie John 43

( i i i ) The Speculation of I d e n t i t y 51

( i v ) The Fabrication of I d e n t i t y 57

IV. The M a r g i n a l i t y of Metaphor: THE METAPHOR OF FLUIDS 66

V. The M a r g i n a l i t y of Culture: THE COLONIZATION OF LANGUAGE 91

VI . Footnotes 120

V I I . B i b l i o g r a p h y 124

THE REAL EXCITEMENT IN CRITICISM IS TO FIND A CERTAIN WAVE, AND WAVELETS WITHIN THE WAVE, AND HOW THINGS MOVE AND MOVE BACK - THE ENTIRE WEATHER-MAP OF INTELLECTUAL AFFAIRS.

Geoffrey Hartman

I . INTRODUCTION: MARGINALITY & INTERTEXTUALITY

I t i s the theme of m a r g i n a l i t y i n W r i t i n g by women of Caribbean O r i g i n

t h a t I wish t o explore. The theme condensed i t s e l f i n t o research on the

w r i t i n g of two women of d i f f e r e n t generations, c o l o u r i n g and background,

but from the same region of i s l a n d s . Therefore they possess the same

c o l o n i a l experience and c u l t u r a l i n h e r i t a n c e . Jean Rhys was born on the

i s l a n d of Dominica i n 1894, came to England when she was sixteen and

created a sensation when Wide Sargasso Sea surfaced a f t e r a l i t e r a r y

absence of many years. Jamaica Kincaid was born i n Antigua and i s now a

j o u r n a l i s t i n New York. They are both native to the Caribbean but have

become l i t e r a r y e x i l e s i n separate dominant cu l t u r e s - B r i t i s h and

American. Their places of e x i l e i n e f f e c t represent an acknowledgement of

the c e n t r a l r o l e played by c o l o n i s i n g powers - one past, and the other

being the more i n s i d i o u s presence of economic c o l o n i a l i s m i n the influence

of l i v e s .

This became a p o l a r i t y s u i t a b l e f o r the confines of an M.A. Thesis.

The body of w r i t i n g by these two women was f u r t h e r honed down i n t o two

ch i e f t e x t s . Both t e x t s describe a young female protagonist, one c a l l e d

A n t o i n e t t e and the other Annie. I t i s an apt and s i g n i f i c a n t coincidence,

e s p e c i a l l y as A n t o i n e t t e c a l l s h e r s e l f a f t e r her mother Annette, and Annie

i s named a f t e r her mother Annie. An t o i n e t t e i s a white creole g i r l , and

Annie i s black - both are n a t i v e t o t h e i r i s l a n d s . However because of

t h e i r c o l o u r i n g , they experience l i t e r a l l y d i f f e r e n t coloured views of l i f e

on t h e i r i s l a n d . Each g i r l also experiences an ambivalent r e l a t i o n s h i p

w i t h her mother, being both a m i r r o r i n g of her mother and a separate

being. I t could be said t h a t Wide Sargasso Sea i s the mistresspiece of

Jean Rhys, and Annie John t h a t of Jamaica Kincaid. ^ /

These t e x t s are l i n k e d by Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. Indeed,

Wide Sargasso Sea i s o s t e n s i b l y the story of the f i r s t Mrs. Rochester,

silenced and hidden from view i n the t h i r d storey of T h o r n f i e l d H a l l . Mrs.

Rochester i s presented by Bronte as a mad Creole heiress who regressed

i n t o b e a s t - l i k e Bertha. I n Annie John, Annie John c a l l s i t "my f a v o u r i t e

novel, Jane Eyre" (AJp92). Charlotte Bronte i s her heroine to the extent

t h a t Annie's childhood daydream i s of i m i t a t i n g Bronte's l i f e i n Belgium

down to the l a s t d e t a i l of "wearing a s k i r t that came down to my ankles and

c a r r y i n g a bag f i l l e d w i t h books th a t at l a s t I could understand". (AJ p92)

A n t o i n e t t e mentions "my f a v o u r i t e p i c t u r e , 'The M i l l e r ' s Daughter', a

l o v e l y English g i r l w i t h brown c u r l s and blue eyes..." (WSSp30). In the

Colonies, the teaching of English centred around f o r e i g n , but English,

d e t a i l s l i k e Wordsworth's d a f f o d i l s i n vales. I n the Caribbean, a young

g i r l dreams of becoming a bluestocking l i k e the one she has read about i n a

c o l d c l i m a t e . Another g i r l ' s v i s i o n of hope f o r a happy f u t u r e i s focussed

on a blooming English g i r l l i t e r a l l y as p r e t t y as a p i c t u r e . But the

v i s i o n which remains imprinted i n Antoinette's memory i s not that of the

m i l l e r ' s daughter. I t i s instead t h a t of Tia the black g i r l and her only

f r i e n d , throwing a stone at her and s h a t t e r i n g any i l l u s i o n of f r i e n d s h i p .

Her longest l a s t i n g impression i s formed:

We stared at each other, blood on my face, tears on hers. I t was as i f I saw myself. Like i n a looking-glass. (WSS p38)

I s the Colony such a mirror-image of i t s Imperial Centre? The

education system seems geared towards the formation of such an i l l u s i o n .

Yet Wide Sargasso Sea i s not a mirror-image of Jane Eyre. However both

t e x t s are a h i s t o r y of and l i t e r a l l y , a prelude to each other. I n

n a r r a t i v e time. Wide Sargasso Sea predates Jane Eyre. The figment of one

imagination seeks t o explain one fragment of another. And without a doubt,

Jane Eyre i s the i n s p i r a t i o n behind Wide Sargasso Sea. States Jean

Rhys:

I've read and re-read "Jane Eyre" of course, and I am sure t h a t the character must be " b u i l t up". ...The Creole i n Charlotte Bronte's novel i s ... necessary to the p l o t , but always she shrieks...OFFSTAGE. For me...she must be r i g h t ON STAGE. She must be at least p l a u s i b l e w i t h a past, the REASON why Mr Rochester t r e a t s her so abominably and fe e l s j u s t i f i e d , the REASON why he th i n k s she i s mad and why of course she goes mad, even the REASON why she t r i e s to set everything on f i r e . . . (Personally, I t h i n k THAT one i s simple. She i s cold - and f i r e i s the only warmth she knows i n England.) 2

Many margins are crossed and confused by the i n t e r s e c t i o n s of

d i f f e r e n t imaginations. The question which must be asked of t h i s abstract

concept of i n t e r s e c t i o n i s - do the margins of a t e x t influence and focus

i t s centre, or i s i t the centre of a t e x t which influences and forms i t s

margins? The t e x t i s thus an extension of the i n t e r s e c t i n g complications

i n r e l a t i o n s h i p s between an Imperi a l power and her colonies. White and

Black people. Men and Women, and the very s t r u c t u r e of the language which

describes and defines a l l these. These i n t e r s e c t i o n s of the imagination

are summed up i n one word - i n t e r t e x t u a l i t y . I n t e r t e x t u a l i t y i s the

interweaving of imaginations sewn i n and shown by t h e i r t e x t s , where the

thread of each t e x t woven i n has equal t e x t u r e . By contrast,

c o n t e x t u a l i t y i s the frame, the f i x t u r e upon which the f a b r i c of the text

i s founded.

Exploring the n a r r a t i v e t e x t s of Antoinette and Annie i s one step i n

the discovery of new and profound depths i n the meanings of margins, and

the margins of meaning i n the w r i t i n g of two exceptional but exemplary

women of Caribbean o r i g i n . The i n t e r t e x t u a l i t y between Annie John,

Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea i s a deepening of t h e i r i n d i v i d u a l and

c o l l e c t i v e meanings, whereby the imaginative o r i g i n i n the Caribbean i s the

context. M a r g i n a l i t y i s entwined w i t h the concept of i n t e r t e x t u a l i t y . I n

separate chapters, I w i l l discuss m a r g i n a l i t y w i t h reference to n a r r a t i v e

s t r u c t u r e and n a r r a t i v e time, image and metaphor, c u l t u r e (which involves

c o l o n i a l i s m i n the Caribbean), race r e l a t i o n s and gender ( s p e c i f i c a l l y

f e m i n i s t ) . U l t i m a t e l y , I hope to succeed according to Susan Sontag's

observation t h a t

an unimportant work ... could be a marvellous " t e x t " . Considering something as a ' t e x t ' means...precisely to suspend conventional evaluations. ... notions of ' t e x t ' and ' t e x t u a l i t y ' charges the c r i t i c w i t h the task of di s c a r d i n g worn-out meanings f o r fresh ones. ^

I I . NARRATIVE STRUCTURE & NARRATIVE TIME

Describing the n a r r a t i v e s t r u c t u r e of both chosen t e x t s i s a s t a r t i n

the search of the meaning of m a r g i n a l i t y i n W r i t i n g by women of Caribbean

o r i g i n . I t may be the beginning of the conclusion t h a t m a r g i n a l i t y i s the

very d e f i n i t i o n of such w r i t i n g .

( i ) Annie John

The chronology of the passage of n a r r a t i v e time i n Annie John i s

o v e r a l l a s t r a i g h t f o r w a r d progression. Kincaid t i t l e s every chapter and

these t i t l e s herald s i g n i f i c a n t consecutive developments i n Annie John's

l i f e . The t e x t i s w r i t t e n i n the voice of a s i n g l e n a r r a t o r , Annie John

h e r s e l f who l i k e Jane Eyre, i s the t i t u l a r voice of her n a r r a t i v e . She

speaks w i t h a u t h o r i t y on the d i f f e r e n t stages of time i n her l i f e . Certain

key paragraphs are the focusses of n a r r a t i v e momentum. They are marked by

'framed time' as weighty as the mythical and immemorial phrase "Once upon a

time...". For example, the t e x t begins:

For a short while during the year I was ten, I thought only people I d i d not know died.

(AJ, p3)

I t leads i n t o a d e s c r i p t i o n of Annie John's childhood, a pastoral

i d y l l of f a m i l i a r i t y , farmyard animals and f r i e n d l y neighbours. However,

"From our yard, I could see the cemetery. ... U n t i l then, I had not known

t h a t c h i l d r e n died." (AJ, p4) Even i n childhood Arcadia l u r k s the

8

beginning of the knowledge of Death, and more a w f u l l y , t h a t Knowledge i s an

i n s u f f i c i e n t talisman against Death. The tone set i n the f i r s t sentence i s

t h a t of the t e m p o r a l i t y of time w i t h a f i n i t e end. This i s h i g h l i g h t e d by

the present tense of the f i r s t person which yet embraces the past. The

conclusion i s already death. Present and past, l i f e and death, are

summarized i n a paradox of knowing the end i n the beginning. Already the

v o l a t i l e and ambivalent r e l a t i o n s h i p between n a r r a t i v e and time i s

telescoped i n t o an immediate sense of f i n i t e , physical and temporal, spaces

and distances.

In the second chapter a paragraph begins "The summer of the year I

turned twelve..." This age marks Annie's p o r t i o n of perfect happiness,

wrapt w i t h her mother i n the r i t u a l of unpacking the trunk which contained

her mother's new and i n d i v i d u a l l i f e separate from the l i f e of her parents.

This wooden womb now encloses Annie's e n t i r e l i f e as l i v e d so f a r , and i s a

vessel of love as w e l l as voyage. The trunk embodies Annie's childhood

Paradise and i s simultaneously her mother's assertion of s o l i t u d e i n

independence and i n t r e p i d i t y . The trunk i s thus a paradox by being both a

symbol of extreme union, and of the divisiveness of separation. I t was

painted by her mother's own hands, w i t h i n i t n e s t l e clothes her mother

fashioned and embroidered f o r her, i t i s as i f the whole of Annie was

molded by her mother's hands. I t contains l i t e r a l l y a l l the remnants of a

mother's love, and i s as much t h e i r emotional u m b i l i c a l cord as the f a c t

t h a t t h e i r clothes are cut out of the same c l o t h . Without the trunk l i e

the b i t s and pieces of Annie's l i f e created by her father's hands - the

f u r n i t u r e , and the house i n which they are contained.

Kincaid's focus on Annie's years of age i s a s i g n a l of the continuous

and consequential passing of the time of her n a r r a t i v e . The years of

Annie's age are memory markers. The apparent s u p e r f i c i a l s i m p l i c i t y of t h i s

technique i s q u a l i f i e d by a p a r a l l e l marking of Annie's mother's age. I t

implies that her coming of age i n her past i s i n l i n e and l i n k e d with her

daughter's f u t u r e :

When my mother, at s i x t e e n , a f t e r q u a r r e l i n g with her f a t h e r , l e f t h i s house i n Dominica and came to Antigua, she packed a l l her things i n an enormous wooden trunk t h a t she had bought...

(AJ, pl9)

This i n t e r j e c t i o n occurs i n the second chapter e n t i t l e d "The C i r c l i n g

Hand", and marks the beginning of her mother's voyage i n t o f u l l r e a l i s a t i o n

of the separateness of her being. The boat she i s on i s almost wrecked,

but she a r r i v e s s a f e l y w i t h her trunk on the new i s l a n d of her l i f e .

Annie describes her mother s t a r t i n g out at an age she herself reaches

at the end of her n a r r a t i v e when she describes her own walk to the j e t t y .

Hence, t h i s e a r l y i n t e r j e c t i o n of her young mother's l i f e i n the otherwise

smooth chronology of Annie's own passage of time, implies r e p e t i t i o n . Her

memory of her mother's l i f e i s woven i n t o her own l i f e , and her own

memories. Does her l i f e u l t i m a t e l y become a r e p e t i t i o n , a mirror-image,

of her mother's? The heading of the f i r s t chapter, "Figures i n the

Distance" was an apprehension of the u n f a m i l i a r and strange; t h i s

u l t i m a t e l y stretches i n t o Annie's f i n a l walk which she shares with her

parents:

We must have made a strange s i g h t : a grown g i r l a l l dressed up i n the middle of the morning, i n the middle of the week, walking i n step i n the middle between her two parents, f o r people we didn't know stared at us.

(AJ, pl38)

10

They are not f i g u r e s i n the distance, but f i g u r e s dearly f a m i l i a r to her,

walking i n the here and now. I n the end, Annie's emphasis i s on her own

known centredness i n time and place, paced at an even tempo of f a m i l i a r i t y ,

f o r as she walks to the j e t t y of her departure, the spectrum of her past

l i f e passes by i n a rhythm i n i t i a t e d by her parents, j u s t as they had

created everything else i n her l i f e . Beyond l i e s more strangeness and

s t a r e s , anonymity and the unknown. I t i s her l a s t time of being the

t a n g i b l e focus of her parents, l i t e r a l l y centred between them. She no

longer even looks l i k e a mirror-image of her mother f o r she towers above

her.

S i g n i f i c a n t l y , the f i n a l time Annie's age i s mentioned i s i n the s i x t h

chapter e n t i t l e d "Somewhere, Belgium" which begins dramatically and

d e c i s i v e l y :

I n the year I turned f i f t e e n , I f e l t more unhappy than I had ever imagined anyone could be.

(AJ, p85)

This chapter heading signals 'somewhereness' and u n c e r t a i n t y , which i s

developed i n t o a r e v e l a t i o n of anxiety to be alone, and more

s i g n i f i c a n t l y , removed from her mother. The three years between twelve and

f i f t e e n have chartered a voyage across a turbu l e n t ocean of emotion. The

ensuing chapter i s a d e s c r i p t i o n of estrangement, f a r o f f from the i d y l l of

Paradise she had once shared w i t h her mother. Annie r e l i s h e s the

imaginative prospect of communicating w i t h her mother only by a l e t t e r

vaguely addressed to a place where her mother would know nothing about

her. The choice of Belgium i s i n s p i r e d by her heroine Charlotte Bronte.

The r i f t which now e x i s t s between mother and daughter seems as decisive as

11

the q u a r r e l between her mother and her mother's f a t h e r . Although Annie's

wish to move t o a d i f f e r e n t geographical l o c a t i o n only remains i n her head,

her departure from her parent i s as profound a wound as her mother's was.

By the separateness she w i l l s h e r s e l f to f e e l as w e l l as f e e l i n g anyway,

Annie wishes t o d e f l e c t any i l l u s i o n about being her mother's r e f l e c t i o n .

She had once desired above anything else t o be the mirror-image of her

mother, but her mother refused i t by saying;

"Oh no. You are g e t t i n g too o l d f o r t h a t . I t ' s time you had your own clothes. You j u s t cannot go around the re s t of your l i f e l ooking l i k e a l i t t l e me."

(AJ, p26)

Now Annie's wish to be separate and d i f f e r e n t l y defined i s e n t i r e l y her

own.

Thus Kincaid's seemingly s i m p l i s t i c device of a l i n e a r c h r o n i c l i n g of

passing time marked by Annie's various comings of age contains a c r u c i a l

i n t e r r u p t i o n - Annie's mother's own coming of age and the implied

comparison of Annie's status at a s i m i l a r time. This imaginative hiccup i n

a s t r a i g h t f o r w a r d n a r r a t i v e s t r u c t u r e imbues the tex t with much more

s i g n i f i c a n c e . Annie's walk to the j e t t y i s the continuation of her

mother's imaginative and emotional voyage - and yet i s her own i n d i v i d u a l

r i t e of passage as d i s t i n c t from her mother's.

There i s f u r t h e r emphasis i n the development of Annie from young g i r l

i n t o young lady by b i o l o g i c a l and educational reminders s i g n a l l i n g the

expansion of body and mind. The repeated mentioning of school and

menstruation, both cautionary f i r s t steps i n t o the mentality and

12

p h y s i c a l i t y of young womanhood, emphasises the s i g n i f i c a n c e of these

events. The s i g n i f i c a n t event i s mentioned twice, and the overlap signals

not only the passage of time but the changes i n Annie's l i f e w i t h i n that

time which has passed. For example, the f i n a l paragraph of the t h i r d

chapter begins w i t h her f i r s t mention of menstruation (AJ p51), and the

f i n a l paragraph of the next chapter also begins with a mention of

menstruation, which s u b t l y summarizes Annie's achievements i n between;

Soon a f t e r , I s t a r t e d to menstruate, and I stopped p l a y i n g marbles.

(AJ, p70)

The onslaught of menstruation i s the onset of ma t u r i t y , and the end of

c h i l d i s h and tomboyish behaviour. Marbles, to Annie, were a world of

contention between h e r s e l f and her mother. They were l i t e r a l embodiments

of the metaphorical l i t t l e black b a l l , a sphere of hatred t i g h t l y knotted

i n t o her insides which she also describes her mother as possessing. They

share the same black b a l l . These marbles were symbols of r e b e l l i o n , l i e s ,

d e ceit and t h i e v e r y , a l l the q u a l i t i e s her mother brought her up not to

have, and which were the forbidden f r u i t s of a f r i e n d s h i p shared with the

Red G i r l , a w i l d and f i l t h y c h i l d spiced w i t h l i f e . That menstruation and

marbles are l i n k e d i s the conclusion from such a d e f i n i t i v e statement.

Kincaid thus implies Annie's b o d i l y maturity w i t h emotional maturity, and

her g i r l h o o d expands i n t o a gl o b a l sensation f a r greater, and more

im a g i n a t i v e l y i r i d e s c e n t , than mere marbles.

Kincaid's chapter headings i n c u l c a t e a sense of drama. Each t i t l e i s

an i n t r o d u c t i o n , summary and conclusion t o a phase of l i f e , an i n f l u e n t i a l

p e r s o n a l i t y , a s i g n i f i c a n t moment. For example, two chapters are headed by

two d i f f e r e n t g i r l s , Gwen and the Red G i r l . They are descriptions of the

13

d i f f e r e n t p o l a r i t i e s of Annie's p e r s o n a l i t y . Gwen i s good and clean, whose

dream of p e r f e c t i o n i s Annie marrying her brother so that they w i l l remain

s i s t e r s e t e r n a l l y . Gwen i s the f r i e n d Annie brings home. The Red G i r l i s

Gwen's a n t i t h e s i s . I t i s s i g n i f i c a n t that the other character honoured by a

chapter heading i s none other than the man who 'discovered' Annie's i s l a n d

and became i t s white h i s t o r i c a l f a t h e r - Christopher Columbus. I n t h i s

t e x t h i s existence i s s i n g u l a r l y q u a l i f i e d by a mater i a l appendage and an

unexpected stance - he i s bowed down by chains. These successive t i t l e s

"Gwen", "The Red G i r l " , Columbus i n Chains", are suggestions of d i f f e r e n t

stages of Annie's growing consciousness of her i d e n t i t y as influenced by

c r u c i a l f i g u r e s i n her l i f e , i n the present and i n h i s t o r y . Columbus i s

the embodiment of her c o l o n i a l i n h e r i t a n c e , but i n the reversed r o l e of

h u m i l i a t i o n as opposed to triumph.

The other t i t l e s are ab s t r a c t i o n s , keys to stages of Annie's

awareness. The f i r s t chapter, "Figures i n the Distance", i s followed by

"The C i r c l i n g Hand". Her i n i t i a l childhood frame of anonymous persons i n

the s t i l l remote perspective of l i f e , gradually zooms i n t o the focus of

her mother's hand upon her fa t h e r ' s back i n a most secret, i n t i m a t e

gesture. The f i r s t heading symbolises Death, the Unknown; the second i s a

r e v e l a t i o n t h a t Death - i n the sense of the catastrophic collapse of a l l

th a t i s cherished - l u r k s even at home, w i t h i n and between the people she

knows best of a l l , t r u s t s and loves most of a l l . I t i s a l l the more deadly

because i t hides i n the bosom of the f a m i l i a r . I t i s Annie's f i r s t

described moment of pure conciousness of her separate i d e n t i t y , what Lacan

c a l l s the t r i a n g u l a t i o n of the mirror-stage when the f a t h e r - f i g u r e

i n t e r r u p t s the dyadic u n i t y between mother and c h i l d . ^

14

I looked at them f o r I don't know how long. (AJ, p31)

Her parents seem not t o see, l e t alone r e f l e c t upon her. Later on, Annie i s

convinced her mother had seen her. She then stares at her mother " d i r e c t l y

i n the eyes" and " t a l k e d back t o her", r e s u l t i n g i n

She looked at me, and then, instead of saying some squelching t h i n g t h a t would put me back i n my place, she dropped her eyes and walked away. From the back, she looked small and funny.

(AJ, p31)

Annie's speech and gaze are d i s t i n c t and d e f i a n t gestures of the knowledge

of her separateness and the new marks of her i d e n t i t y . Her mother's motions

are symptoms of defeat, but i t i s a p y r r h i c v i c t o r y f o r Annie f o r i t marks

the beginning of a new and profound pain deep w i t h i n h e r s e l f .

The next, and f i n a l series of three t i t l e s , begins w i t h a d e s c r i p t i o n

of 'address unknown' i n "Somewhere, Belgium". I t describes Annie's

f e e l i n g s of and desire f o r displacement. The next chapter leads from

geographical d i s l o c a t i o n i n t o atmospheric chaos. I t i s the mysterious

"Long Rain", and Annie draws the same strange kind of r a t i o n a l conclusion

from i t as she had previously done w i t h her menstruation and the playing of

marbles.

I t rained every day f o r three and a h a l f months, and f o r a l l those days I was s i c k i n bed. I knew qu i t e w e l l t h a t I d i d not have the power to make the atmosphere f e e l as s i c k as I f e l t , but s t i l l I couldn't help p u t t i n g the two together.

(AJ, pl26)

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The t i t l e speaks f o r i t s e l f , the Long Rain e x i s t s i n i t s e l f w i t h no

explanation nor j u s t i f i c a t i o n f o r i t s being. I t l i t e r a l l y permeates every

pore of m a t e r i a l existence, raises the sea l e v e l and reduces the landmass,

and has a profound e f f e c t upon the imagination of the people. More

s i g n i f i c a n t l y , i t i s an expression of the r e c o n c i l i a t i o n Annie has wi t h her

mother f o r she i s once again i n the weak and vulnerable state of a c h i l d ,

embraced by her mother and her mother's mother Ma Chess who practices the

nat i v e medicine of healing obeah. They are a l l surrounded by mystical

waters. I t i s the reenactment of recovery w i t h i n the womb.

Chapter t i t l e s are thus a n a r r a t i v e technique which provokes a

response. They are signs, markers, boundaries, and Kincaid u t i l i s e s them

to create an o v e r a l l l i n e a r sense of progression where n a r r a t i v e i s

predominantly simultaneous w i t h time.

ft* A *

( i i ) Wide Sargasso Sea

This contrasts w i t h Jean Rhys's p a r t i t i o n i n g of Wide Sargasso Sea.

There are no chapter headings, no obvious markers as to the content of

each fragment. There are only three numbered p a r t s , with subdivisions of

major paragraphs as i n Annie John. These parts f o l l o w the basic succession

of A n toinette's l i f e - as a young g i r l , a married woman, and a mad woman

on the b r i n k of death. Fluc t u a t i o n s i n n a r r a t i v e time and timbre are

s i g n a l l e d by gaps, brackets and i t a l i c s . Xaviere Gauthier makes a t e l l i n g

comment about

gaps, borders, spaces and silences, holes i n discourse.. I f the reader f e e l s a b i t d i s o r i e n t e d i n t h i s new space,...it proves, perhaps, i t i s woman's space. 2

16

Jean Rhys comments on her s t r u c t u r i n g of n a r r a t i v e and her motives behind

i t - i t i s to create a p l a u s i b l e experience of Antoinette's space as

opposed t o the space of Bronte's Bertha;

I t can be done three ways. (1) S t r a i g h t . Childhood, Marriage, Finale t o l d i n 1st person. Or i t can be done (2) Man's poi n t of view (3) Woman's d i t t o both 1st person. Or i t can be t o l d i n the t h i r d person w i t h the w r i t e r as the Almighty.

I am doing ( 2 ) . ̂

However, Rhys's p a r t i t i o n i n g i s not the simple summary as described

above. Her t e x t i s emphatically complicated by the imaginative

c o n f i g u r a t i o n of each p a r t . Many voices i n t e r l a c e the thoughts of

A n t o i n e t t e the young g i r l , and her l i f e also expresses and i s expressed by

her mother, Annette. A n t o i n e t t e thus becomes Antoinette/Annette who

i n h e r i t s the nominal appendage Mason nee Cosway. The l i f e of Antoinette

Rochester i s predominantly chronicled by her husband, who c a l l s her

Antoinette/Marionette and gradually i n s i s t s on using her ' r e a l ' name,

Bertha. And f i n a l l y , A n t o i n e t t e becomes the mad woman i n the a t t i c of

T h o r n f i e l d H a l l - Bertha Mason Rochester. Antoinette has undergone many

enforced transformations t o the point of not knowing who she i s anymore.

As A n t o i n e t t e once sai d , "naming i s a form of obeah too" (WSS, p i l l ) and

t h a t "names matter" (WSS, p l 4 7 ) .

What sense of chronology e x i s t s i n the n a r r a t i v e s t r u c t u r i n g of

Wide Sargasso Sea? The chronology of Wide Sargasso Sea i s complicated by

the inherent acknowledgment of i t s n a r r a t i v e to i t s "mother t e x t "

Jane Eyre. I t can be shown th a t Wide Sargasso Sea i s both postlogue and

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prologue t o Jane Eyre, woven on the loom of Caribbean imagination which i n

Jane Eyre hung upon the barest, most e x o t i c , and h y p e r b o l i c a l thread.

V. Turner i n C r i t i c a l I n q u i r y defines n a r r a t i v e as such:

"Narrate" i s from the L a t i n NARRARE ("to t e l l " ) , a kin t o the L a t i n GNARUS ("knowing")... the Greek GIGNOSKEIN, whence GNOSIS, and the Old English past p r i n c i p l e GEENAWAN, whence the Modern English "know". N a r r a t i v e , i t would seem, i s rather an appropriate term f o r a r e f l e x i v e a c t i v i t y which seeks t o "know" antecedent events and the meaning of those events...

The n a r r a t i v e of Wide Sargasso Sea describes a r e f l e x i v e a c t i v i t y seeking

to 'know' the antecedent events of Jane Eyre and t h e i r meaning. Robert

Scholes i n h i s essay "Afterthoughts" comments upon the concept of

n a r r a t i o n :

A n a r r a t i o n i s a t e x t which r e f e r s , or seems to r e f e r , to some set of events outside of i t s e l f . '

This i s i n e f f e c t a paradox. While seeming to r e f e r to events without, the

t e x t embraces the events and makes them i t s own substance. This paradox

e x i s t s i n the r e l a t i o n s h i p of Wide Sargasso Sea to Jane Eyre. Scholes

continues;

n a r r a t i v e i s past, always past. To speak of the f u t u r e i s t o prophecy or p r e d i c t or speculate - never to nar r a t e . ̂

Wide Sargasso Sea i s o s t e n s i b l y a r e w r i t i n g of the past of Jane Eyre; i t s

t e x t contains a 'prophecy' of the crux of the p l o t w i t h i n Jane Eyre - that

18

of the burning of T h o r n f i e l d H a l l . Yet i t i s Bronte's t e x t which i s a

fundamental and o r i g i n a r y i n f l u e n c e on the n a r r a t i v e of Wide Sargasso Sea.

I n c h r o n o l o g i c a l terms of r e a l time, Jane Eyre was w r i t t e n before

Wide Sargasso Sea and therefore i s w i t h i n , and forms, the l a t t e r ' s

h i s t o r i c a l past. Thus, i n r e a l time, Jane Eyre i s the "mother-text" of

Wide Sargasso Sea.

In terms of f i c t i o n a l chronology as opposed to h i s t o r i c a l chronology.

Wide Sargasso Sea enacts the paradox of being both the past and f u t u r e of

Jane Eyre. For Rhys's s t o r y i s the imagined past of Bronte's, but was

w r i t t e n a f t e r . Thus, Jane Eyre i s Wide Sargasso Sea's f u t u r e i n imagined

time, and metamorphoses i n t o becoming the "daughter-text".

So which time sequence, which concept of time, i s Rhys's te x t

contained w i t h i n ? Rhy's n a r r a t i v e strategy i s the interweaving of these

two notions of time. This marriage of r e a l and imagined time i s a neat

n a r r a t i v e t w i s t . There are profound symbolic repercussions, f o r the

concept of time i s of tantamount importance i n n a r r a t i v e .

I can ... t e l l a s t o r y without s p e c i f y i n g the place where i t happens...nevertheless, i t i s almost impossible f o r me not to locate the s t o r y i n time w i t h respect to my n a r r a t i n g act since I must necessarily t e l l the story i n a present, past or f u t u r e tense. This i s why the temporal determinations of the n a r r a t i n g instance are m a n i f e s t l y more important than i t s s p a t i a l determination. ''

Both t e x t s are l i n k e d by shared key names and events i n d i f f e r e n t sequences

of Time. States Paul Ricoeur:

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Dechronolization implies the l o g i c a l a b o l i t i o n of time; r e p e t i t i o n , i t s e x i s t e n t i a l deepening. «

The i n t e r t e x t u a l confusion of chronology i n Bronte's and Rhys's te x t s i s

the r e s u l t of the r e p e t i t i o n of c r u c i a l motifs (Mr. Rochester, the creole

heiress, the burning of T h o r n f i e l d H a l l ) . This creates the e x i s t e n t i a l

deepening of the meaning of both t e x t s , although the c h a r a c t e r i z a t i o n of

each person and event i s separate and d i f f e r e n t . For example although the

Creole heiress f i g u r e s i n both Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea, Antoinette

does not e x i s t i n Bronte's t e x t although she metamorphoses i n t o Bertha i n

Rhys's. But Jean Rhys states c a t e g o r i c a l l y , "Mine i s not Miss Bronte's." ^

The f i r s t t a n g i b l e h i n t of the previous t e x t occurs when Antoinette i s

greeted i n her f i r s t day at school by the l a b e l "You are Antoinette Mason,

ne Cosway", f o r the f i r s t part of Wide Sargasso Sea i s i n the Creole tones

of A ntoinette's voice f a r removed from the b e s t i a l grunts of Bertha Mason.

Wide Sargasso Sea begins i n the f i r s t person, the voice of Antoinette.

There are i n t e r j e c t i o n s of the reported speech of others, but conveyed i n

such a way t h a t t h e i r voices become her own. The f i r s t , and most

s i g n i f i c a n t i n t e r r u p t i o n i s Christophine's voice i n d i a l e c t .

Christophine's status as a Caribbean Everywoman i s emphasised by the f a c t

she i s equally comfortably conversant i n both patois and English. I t i s

s i g n i f i c a n t t h a t she predominantly chooses to speak pa t o i s , f o r patois

embodies a more i n t i m a t e communion w i t h her environment. The i n t e r j e c t i o n s

of maliciousness from the Jamaican ladies of society are a chorus of

comment. They depict Antoinette's e x t e r n a l sense of herself i n contact with

the society to which she belongs - or r a t h e r , does NOT belong. Although

20

these comments o s t e n s i b l y describe her mother Annette, Antoinette feels

t h e i r barbs l i k e her own wounds. For i n describing the mother, they

describe the daughter.

The second part of the t e x t i s i n the voice of a man who i s never

named. However he i s i d e n t i f i e d by c i r c u m s t a n t i a l d e t a i l as Mr. Rochester.

Jean Rhys comments, "Mr. R's name ought to be changed. Raworth? A

Yorkshire name, i s n ' t it?...Mr Rochester, I presume?" '° Rochester's part

of the t e x t i s almost h a l f the e n t i r e t e x t i n s p a t i a l terms. Could

Wide Sargasso Sea perhaps be more about Mr. Rochester than Antoinette?

However there i s a s i g n i f i c a n t d i f f e r e n c e i n Rhys's r e n d i t i o n of

Rochester's f i r s t - p e r s o n n a r r a t i v e . Many more i n t e r r u p t i o n s e x i s t , forming

major s i g n i f i c a n t i n t e r l u d e s , and t h e i r chronology has i t s own

s i g n i f i c a n c e .

The f i r s t i n t e r r u p t i o n i s Daniel Cosway's venomous l e t t e r . He i s the

snake i n Antoinette's new Paradise, Granbois. Confusion and suspicion

already e x i s t i n Rochester's mind because the overwhelming strangeness and

e x o t i c extremity of g i r l and place d i s o r i e n t a t e him, and he has no proper

framework by which t o place his thoughts i n perspective. Daniel Cosway's

l e t t e r i s the f i r s t decisive sowing of the seeds of doubt, and because i t

i s the f i r s t and echoes the doubts Rochester already holds w i t h i n himself,

i t seems a l l the more be l i e v a b l e . Rochester chooses the forked path Daniel

prepares f o r him out of the Gates of Paradise. I t i s Antoinette who i s the

s a c r i f i c i a l v i c t i m . I n the ensuing chronology of events, i t i s s i g n i f i c a n t

that the i n t e r r u p t i o n s which most p r e c i s e l y mark Rochester's developing

t r a i n of thought, come i n the t a n g i b l e form of l e t t e r s . They bring with

them the f a l s e aura of proof. W r i t i n g , e s p e c i a l l y English w r i t i n g w ith

l e g a l overtones i s something Rochester i s f a m i l i a r w i t h . Although Daniel's

21

p a t o i s s t y l e as w e l l as h i s v i t r i o l disconcert Rochester, i t i s the form i n

which h i s missive comes which reassures him. The f i r s t l e t t e r i s u n i n v i t e d

and i n s i d i o u s and concerns his w i f e . The next i s s o l i c i t e d by Rochester

from h i s l e g a l advisor Mr. Eraser and concerns Christophine. This l e t t e r

i s i n e f f e c t a l e g a l document by which Mr. Eraser sanctions Christophines's

a r r e s t . I t i s the embodiment of Imperial Power and i s the reassurance

Rochester needs to suppress Christophine's native power which disconcerts

him. Her obeah i s beyond the l i m i t s of h is knowledge, but he i s now armed

by his knowledge of English Law. Both the l e t t e r s Rochester receives

describe to him the supposedly 'black' elements of the Caribbean i n which

he desires t o b e l i e v e , thus j u s t i f y i n g h i s consequent actions

promiscuity, the p o s s i b i l i t y of incest h i n t e d at by Daniel Cosway, and

Christophine's black magic. For Rochester, each l e t t e r provokes a

c o n f r o n t a t i o n . One c o n f r o n t a t i o n i s w i t h e v i l , embodied by Daniel, and the

other c o n f r o n t a t i o n i s w i t h good p e r s o n i f i e d by Christophine. Her name

stems from C h r i s t , and her term of endearment, Pheena, used by Antoinette,

sounds l i k e Phoenix - the b i r d that never dies and r i s e s from the flames.

Her name reminds us of Antoinette's flame-coloured dress, resurrected by

her imagination before she l i g h t s the f i r e s which i g n i t e T h o r n f i e l d H a l l .

I n the flames Antoinette's memory r i s e s from the ashes of Bertha. I n t h i s

chronology of events, 'good' fo l l o w s ' e v i l ' - but only a f t e r the damage has

been done.

The longest, and most unusual i n t e r l u d e w i t h i n Rochester's voice i s

w r i t t e n i n the f i r s t person, i n the voice of A n t o i n e t t e . I t i s a desultory

and poignant i n t r o d u c t i o n of the theme of death, f o r as she rides i n

despair t o seek help from Christophine, she passes by the landmark - the

"Mounes Mors (the Dead Ones)" (WSS, p89). This passage marks Antoinette's

29

i s o l a t i o n i n her des o l a t i o n , p a r a l l e l l e d by the surrounding of her voice by

the r e s t of the t e x t which i s the voice of her husband. The f o i l to

Antoinette's voice i s Christophine's who acts as mother and healer.

Christophine's n a t u r a l power u l t i m a t e l y f a i l s because Rochester's white

power w i t h a l l the force of English Law behind him, proves stronger.

Two physi c a l i n t e r r u p t i o n s then f o l l o w . F i r s t i s Rochester's

encounter w i t h Daniel i n a room which seems prepared f o r r i t u a l s a c r i f i c e -

"A large t a b l e covered w i t h a red f r i n g e d c l o t h made the small room seem

h o t t e r ; the only window was shut." (WSS, plOO). I t i s an atmosphere of

oppression, equivalent to the red room i n which Jane Eyre i s imprisoned and

f a l l s i n t o a dead f a i n t . Daniel c a l l s himself Esau, who was cheated out of

h i s b i r t h r i g h t , as Daniel claims of himself. (However Antoinette

contemptuously denies h i s name i s r e a l l y Cosway, but i s instead Boyd -

Daniel Boyd s e l f - c h r i s t e n e d Esau Cosway.) The next and most physical

i n t e r r u p t i o n i s Rochester's adultery w i t h Antoinette's half-caste maid

Amelie, w i t h i n Antoinette's hearing as she l i e s on the other side of the

w a l l . I t i s an act of premeditated c r u e l t y , and with t h i s a c t i o n , Rhys's

Rochester evolves i n t o depths never plumbed by Bronte's. These encounters

mark i r r e v o c a b l e changes i n the r e l a t i o n s h i p between Rochester and

An t o i n e t t e , Rochester's condemnation of her begins with the c r u e l t y he

i n f l i c t s upon her. I t drives her mad with longing and hate. I t i s then

th a t he s t a r t s t o c a l l her Bertha. I t i s a d u l l and s t o l i d name, an i n s u l t

t o the l i g h t , almost f r i v o l o u s f e m i n i n i t y conjured by 'Antoinette'. When

Rochester does c a l l her A n t o i n e t t e , he couples i t with 'Marionette' i n a

mocking rhyme. I t i s Rochester who imposes a r t i f i c e upon her, and s p l i t s

her p e r s o n a l i t y , so that when she next looks i n the looking-glass her

r e f l e c t i o n i s not the same.

23

I t i s Rochester's c o n f r o n t a t i o n w i t h Christophine which i s the most

s i g n i f i c a n t i n t e r l u d e i n his n a r r a t i v e . Rhys uses the technique of

r e p e t i t i o n s i n i t a l i c s , and w i t h i n brackets. They are i n t e r r u p t i o n s or

i n t e r l u d e s depending on the voice echoed and i t s content, and the

accompanying memory evoked. The voices echoed are Christophine's,

A n t o i n e t t e ' s , and h i s own. They delineate his r e l a t i o n s h i p s , and

r e l a t i o n s h i p s which do not involve him. I t does not matter whose

r e l a t i o n s h i p s they are, f o r u l t i m a t e l y what matters to Rochester i s his

i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of them to s u i t h i s own purpose. The snatches of repeated

speech are e i t h e r of words said immediately before - which then impress

more cogently the s i g n i f i c a n c e of the statement; or words said much

f u r t h e r back i n time and emotional experience, and which are now weighted

by memory w i t h more meaning. These repeated fragments condense

Rochester's sense of himself, h i s surroundings, the past and the

consequences he must face. I t i s s i g n i f i c a n t that i n the most heated phase

of h i s argument w i t h Christophine, i t i s Christophine's condemnation of him

which r i n g s loud i n h i s ears. Her accusations metamorphose i n t o thoughts

and statements expressed by a voice that turns out to be his own - but

faded, d i s t a n t , and almost i n t a n g i b l e . I t i s as i f h i s w i l l i s no longer

h i s , and these echoes of h i s voice confirm the foundation of Christophine's

accusations. Yet - the penultimate bundle of words i n brackets i s

Antoinette's cry of misery, repeating her f i r s t words i n the i n t e r l u d e of

her voice enclosed by Rochester's:

( I l a y awake a l l n i g h t long a f t e r they were asleep, and as soon as i t was l i g h t I got up and dressed and saddled Preston. ...)

(WSS, pl27)

24

But the f i n a l i n t e r j e c t i o n i n t h i s series of echoes i s Daniel's poison. His

venom i s what l i n g e r s on i n Rochester's mind;

(Give my s i s t e r your wife a kiss from me. Love her as I di d - oh yes I d i d . How can I promise that?) I said nothing.

(WSS, pl30)

Within t h i s echo a confusion of voices e x i s t , which i n t e n s i f i e s i t s

insidiousness. Who speaks? The f i r s t two sentences are Daniel's mocking

t h r e a t s of insinuated deeds already done. The t h i r d sentence, however, has

an uncertain status - i s i t said by Daniel or by Rochester? This

ambivalence holds the promise of many s i g n i f i c a n t meanings, and i s the

summary of such promises. However the words beyond the brackets are

without doubt Rochester's. They express the a n n i h i l a t i o n of h i s speech and

emotion. This i s confirmed by h i s words concluding h i s part of the t e x t ,

ending i n nothing...

That s t u p i d boy followed us. ... Who would have thought t h a t any boy would cry l i k e t h a t . For nothing. Nothing...

(WSS, pl42)

Rochester cannot conceive of the s i m p l i c i t y of love which asks f o r nothing

but t o be w i t h the beloved, and which loves f o r nothing. Antoinette has

been reduced t o a blank-faced marionette, and Rochester sums up his own

outcome a p t l y by h i s l a s t words.

Why i s Rochester's f i r s t person n a r r a t i v e which i s the most

s u b s t a n t i a l part of the t e x t , also the most disembodied and fragmentary?

We are reminded of Xaviere Gauthiere's comment "gaps, borders, spaces and

sile n c e s , ... perhaps, i t i s woman's space".2 i s Rochester's n a r r a t i v e thus

a subtle embodiment of Antoinette's fragmented space and non-sense of se l f ?

I s i t t h a t Rochester speaks f o r everyone, and/or that everyone speaks f o r

25

Rochester? I t i s the part of the n a r r a t i v e which evokes the chaos of

c o n f l i c t i n g emotions and confusion of mind i n the r e l a t i o n s h i p between

Rochester and A n t o i n e t t e , and w i t h i n t h e i r i n d i v i d u a l selves. Rhys's

n a r r a t i v e techniques s u c c e s s f u l l y r e f l e c t t h i s .

The f i r s t and f i n a l parts of Wide Sargasso Sea which are i n

Antoinette's voice are more uniform although they chart the current of her

l i f e w i th a l l her emotional eddies. The c e n t r a l part of the tex t describes

her marriage and i t s i n e v i t a b l e d i s s o l u t i o n between persons who embody more

than themselves. Rochester stands f o r the l e g a l and r a t i o n a l mind of

English Law which i s only j u s t i c e f o r Englishmen. English Law, especially

i t s c o l o n i a l o f f s h o o t , casts out women and natives. Antoinette embodies -

to Rochester - a l l t h a t i s e x o t i c , emotional, and extreme.

The t h i r d part of Rhys's t e x t i s the most i n s u b s t a n t i a l i n terms of

s p a t i a l volume, i t i s almost a mere i n t e r l u d e i n i t s e l f . However i t bears

equal i f not more imaginative weight, and leads to a f i e r y conclusion.

Characters from Jane Eyre e x i s t , (Mrs. Eff f o r Mrs. Fa i r f a x , and Grace

Poole) and these abbreviated fragments from another past make up the

ma t e r i a l of the present. S i g n i f i c a n t l y , the f i r s t mention of the past i s

wi t h relevance to Rochester, "They knew that he was i n Jamaica when h i s

fa t h e r and his brother died, ... His stay i n the West Indies has changed

him out of a l l knowledge." (WSS pl45) This speech s i g n i f i e s that the

Caribbean has wrought a change i n his character, and the greater

i m p l i c a t i o n i s tha t Rhys's t e x t has also wrought a d i f f e r e n t man, although

the words des c r i b i n g him are almost l i f t e d verbatim from Bronte's t e x t .

I n the f i r s t sentence Grace Poole i s spoken of i n the t h i r d person, but

immediately a f t e r her voice metamorphoses i n t o the f i r s t person. She thus

26

l i n k s Rhys's t e x t more i n t i m a t e l y w i t h Bronte's. Gerard Genette comments

on the concept of ' f i r s t - p e r s o n ' and 'third-person' n a r r a t i v e ;

the terms ' f i r s t - p e r s o n ' - or 'third-person' n a r r a t i v e ...seem t o me inadequate, i n tha t they stress v a r i a t i o n i n the element of the n a r r a t i v e s i t u a t i o n that i s i n f a c t i n v a r i a n t , i e : the presence ( e x p l i c i t or i m p l i c i t ) of the 'person' of the n a r r a t o r . This presence i s i n v a r i a n t because the n a r r a t o r can be i n h i s n a r r a t i v e only i n the ' f i r s t - p e r s o n ' ; and st r e s s i n g 'person' leads one t o t h i n k that there e x i s t s a choice the nar r a t o r has to make - a purely grammatical and r h e t o r i c a l choice. But the n o v e l i s t ' s choice, u n l i k e the n a r r a t o r ' s , i s not between two grammatical forms, but between two n a r r a t i v e postures (whose grammatical forms are simply an automatic consequence)... The presence of f i r s t - p e r s o n verbs i n a n a r r a t i v e t e x t can thus r e f e r to two very d i f f e r e n t s i t u a t i o n s which grammar renders i d e n t i c a l but which analysis must d i s t i n g u i s h ; the narrat o r ' s own designation of himself as such, or else the i d e n t i t y of the person between the n a r r a t o r and one of the characters i n the s t o r y . ... Thus two types of n a r r a t i v e are d i s t i n g u i s h e d : one wi t h the na r r a t o r absent from the st o r y he t e l l s , the other w i t h the na r r a t o r present as a character i n the st o r y he t e l l s .

Annie John f i t s i n t o the l a t t e r category, Annie being the narrator

always present i n her s t o r y . Wide Sargasso Sea, as we have seen, possesses

a c o n f l i c t i n g continuum of f i r s t - p e r s o n and third-person n a r r a t i v e s ,

sometimes w i t h i n the same character as we have seen w i t h Grace's voice.

Genette confirms h i s p o i n t ;

Thus, i f a s t o r y i s t o l d from the point of view of a p a r t i c u l a r character, the question whether t h i s character i s also the n a r r a t o r , speaking i n the f i r s t person, or whether the na r r a t o r i s someone who speaks of him i n the t h i r d person, i s not a question of the point of view, but a question of voice. 1 2

I t i s these layers of voices which make up the in t e r f a c e s between

Wide Sargasso Sea and Jane Eyre. The l a y e r i n g of voices i n

27

Wide Sargasso Sea implies deeper m a r g i n a l i t i e s of meaning w i t h i n the t e x t .

The opening phrases of the f i n a l part of the t e x t contains such h i n t s :

'They knew tha t he was i n Jamaica...,' Grace Poole said. ...Next day Mrs. Eff wanted to see me and she complained about the gossip. I don't allow gossip. I t o l d you that when you came. Servants w i l l t a l k and you can't stop them, I said.

(WSS, pl45)

The f i r s t sentence may be Antoinette's voice describing what Grace Poole

said i n the t h i r d person, but i t may also be Rhys's a u t h o r i a l

acknowledgement of Bronte's t e x t . However, Rhys e f f e c t i v e l y transforms

the past i n t o the "present before our eyes", to use Wayne Booth's phrase:

the t h i r d - p e r s o n n a r r a t o r can be shown t e c h n i c a l l y i n the past tense but i n e f f e c t present before our eyes.

Grace Poole's s w i f t metamorphosis i n t o the present tense of the f i r s t -

person j u s t as r a p i d l y g l i d e s i n t o Mrs. Fairfax's f i r s t - p e r s o n statement,

and then back to Grace's voice. I t has an almost unreal dreamlike q u a l i t y ,

t h i s merging of past w i t h present, and b r i e f snatches of one person's voice

w i t h another. The leapfrogging of consciousness from one t e x t to another

also disconcerts. But by b l u r r i n g the margins of i d e n t i t y of voice and

t e x t , and thus any l i m i t i n g sense of boundary, Rhys succeeds i n r e - w r i t i n g

(and re-reading) the key fragments of Jane Eyre i n t o the f a b r i c of

Wide Sargasso Sea.

Only the f i r s t and s i n g l e i t a l i c i z e d paragraph of the t h i r d part of

the t e x t , i s i n a voice other than Antoinette's. I t describes thoughts

28

received by Grace. However Anto i n e t t e has received no grace and instead i s

immolated i n the cold h e l l of T h o r n f i e l d H a l l . She i s guarded by a cold,

d u l l Poole w i t h her only warmth provided by a flame-coloured dress. Her

s p i r i t s are damp. Rhys now evolves a sharper d e l i n e a t i o n of the contrary

concepts of past and present time i n the r e l a t i o n s h i p between

Wide Sargasso Sea and Jane Eyre, embodied by the s p l i t p e r s o n a l i t y

Bertha/Antoinette. A n t o i n e t t e vaguely apprehends her image of

d i s i l l u s i o n m e n t i n the now non-existent looking-glass;

There i s no looking-glass here and I don't know what I am l i k e now. ... The g i r l I saw was myself vet not q u i t e myself. ...who am I?

(WSS pl47)

Her surroundings now draw the conclusion she i s Bertha, f o r Rhys repeats

Bronte's s i g n i f i c a n t c i r c u m s t a n t i a l d e t a i l . However, her voice and

imaginative tones i n the f i r s t person, are Antoinette's. The climax i s an

astounding imaginative overlap, an i n t e r f a c e which seems to fuse, yet

separate, both t e x t s . Rhys uses the d e f t device of a dream which repeats

and prophecies Bronte's t e x t . Rhys's imaginative reconstruction of

Bertha's movements are barely mentioned but insinuated r e p e t i t i o n s of

snatches of Bronte's t e x t . Dreams are a s a t i s f a c t o r y device f u l f i l l i n g

Rhys's purpose of f u s i n g o r i g i n a l i t y and acknowledgment. For dreams take

place i n r e a l and imagined time; they b l u r any sense of boundary by being

an unconscious apprehension of the conscious. They have a chronology of

t h e i r own and a d i f f e r e n t , perhaps more potent s i g n i f i c a n c e . Dreams are one

d e f i n i t i o n of i n t e r t e x t u a l i t y - between the m a t e r i a l of consciousness, and

the f a b r i c of the unconconscious.

The end of Wide Sargasso Sea i s i t s own unique f l i c k e r of

29

p o t e n t i a l i t y . I t s journey down a dark passageway leads to i t s own

c o n f l a g r a t i o n of the imagination. But i t s end i s simultaneously the memory

of a p r e v i o u s l y read t e x t , and begins d i f f e r e n t imaginative consequences

f o r that t e x t . Echoes, by d e f i n i t i o n , usually come a f t e r . But because

Rhys i s manipulating two contrary concepts of time, r e a l and imagined,

t h i s echo looks forward. The End of Wide Sargasso Sea conjures the

p r o b a b i l i t y of an End Beyond... Physically Rhys's text ends here, but

i m a g i n a t i v e l y the candle does not die down here but goes on to i l l u m i n a t e

a new i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of Jane Evre. With a mistress-stroke, Rhys

acknowledges Jane Eyre i n the conclusion of her own t e x t , yet the

conclusion of Wide Sargasso Sea i s b r i l l i a n t l y o r i g i n a l .

Thus, the n a r r a t i v e s t r u c t u r e of Wide Sargasso Sea i s an apprehension

of i n t e r t e x t u a l i t y . I t s chronology u n l i k e Annie John's, i s not a l i n e of

progressing markers of age, but m u l t i p l e layers and i n t e r f a c e s of memories,

echoes, dreams, and superimposed voices. They are a l l techniques of

r e p e t i t i o n , and t h e r e f o r e of " e x i s t e n t i a l deepening". Wide Sargasso Sea's

own i n t e r i o r t e x t u a l i t y i s enriched by i t s r e l a t i o n s h i p of i n t e r t e x t u a l i t y

w i t h Jane Eyre. To quote Paul Ricoeur, the r e c o l l e c t i o n .of a story i s

"governed as a whole by i t s way of ending", and t h i s " c o n s t i t u t e s an

a l t e r n a t i v e . . . r e p r e s e n t a t i o n of time." Thus, instead of time being a

movement from the past forward i n t o the f u t u r e .

I t i s as though r e c o l l e c t i o n i n v e r t e d the so-called n a t u r a l order of time. By reading the end i n the beginning and the beginning i n the end, we learn to read time i t s e l f backward... I n t h i s way, a p l o t establishes human a c t i o n not only w i t h i n time, but w i t h i n memory. Memory... repeats the course of events.

The end of the s t o r y i s what equates the present with

30

the past, the actu a l w i t h the p o t e n t i a l . The hero i s who he was,

But at the end of Rhys's t e x t , i s Antoinette who she was, or i s she also

Bertha? S i m i l a r l y , does Bertha ever become Antoinette i n Jane Eyre, a f t e r

one has read Rhys's text? Also, does Annie John remain the same Annie

John? Kincaid's t e x t i s os t e n s i b l y the c h a r t i n g of Annie's development and

the separation of her i d e n t i t y from being a mirror-image of her mother.

Thus the end of the st o r y may equate the present w i t h the past, but the

heroine i s not necessarily who she was. The end of Wide Sargasso Sea leads

on i n t o the beginning of a new re-reading of Jane Eyre, and vice versa.

Rhys's t e x t has i t s beginning i n Bronte's, and also i t s end. To Edward

Said, beginnings are s i g n i f i c a n t and have t h e i r consequences:

Every w r i t e r knows that the choice of a beginning f o r what he w i l l w r i t e i s c r u c i a l not only because i t determines much of what f o l l o w s , but also because a work's beginning i s , p r a c t i c a l l y speaking, the main entrance t o what i t o f f e r s . I n retr o s p e c t , we can regard a beginning as the point which ... the w r i t e r departs from a l l other works; a beginning immediately establishes r e l a t i o n s h i p s w i t h works already e x i s t i n g

of e i t h e r c o n t i n u i t y or antagonism or some mixture of both. . . . I s the beginning the same as an o r i g i n ? I s the beginning of a given work i t s r e a l beginning, or i s there some other, secret p o i n t that more a u t h e n t i c a l l y s t a r t s the work o f f ?

S i m i l a r l y , i s the end of a work i t s r e a l end? I s the end of

Wide Sargasso Sea more a u t h e n t i c a l l y the one i t prophecies i n Jane Eyre?

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak confirms Said's musings about the relevance of

beginnings by d e f i n i n g the concept of a 'beginning before the beginning' -

the preface;

31

"PRAE-FATIO" i s "a saying before-hand". ... Hegelian AUFHEBUNG i s a r e l a t i o n s h i p between

two terms where the second one at once annuls the f i r s t and l i f t s i t up i n t o a higher sphere of existence... A successful preface i s AUFGEHOBEN i n t o the t e x t i t precedes... I t i s , to use Derrida's s t r u c t u r a l metaphor, the son or seed (preface or word), engendered by the f a t h e r , i s recovered by the f a t h e r and thus j u s t i f i e d .

The preface i s a necessary gesture of homage and p a r r i c i d e , f o r the book (the f a t h e r ) makes a claim of a u t h o r i t y or o r i g i n which i s both true and f a l s e . (As regards p a r r i c i d e , I speak t h e o r e t i c a l l y . The preface need make no overt claim...of destroying i t s p r e - t e x t . As a preface, i t i s already surrendered to that g e s t u r e . . . ) . Humankind's common desire i s f o r a stable center... And a book, w i t h i t s ponderable shape and beginning, middle, end, stands to j u s t i f y that desire. But... What, then, i s the book's i d e n t i t y ? ...two readings of the 'same' book show an i d e n t i t y that can only be defined as a d i f f e r e n c e . The book i s not repeatable i n i t s ' i d e n t i t y ' : each reading of the book produces a simulacrum of an ' o r i g i n a l ' . . . Any preface commemmorates the d i f f e r e n c e i n i d e n t i t y by i n s e r t i n g i t s e l f between two readings - my reading, rereading, rearranging of the t e x t - and your reading.

The preface, by daring t o repeat the book and r e c o n s t i t u t e i t i n another r e g i s t e r , merely enacts the book's r e p e t i t i o n s which are always other than the book. There i s , i n f a c t , no 'book' other than these ever-d i f f e r e n t r e p e t i t i o n s : the 'book' i n other words, i s always already a ' t e x t ' , c o n s t i t u t e d by the play of i d e n t i t y and d i f f e r e n c e .

I n deed, i t can be said that Wide Sargasso Sea i s a preface, even

aufgehoben t o Jane Eyre, and vice versa. I am tempted to replace " f a t h e r "

w i t h "mother" f o r i t i s more f i t t i n g w i t h regard to the texts concerned.

Rhys's t e x t i s both homage and matricide to Bronte's. An i s o l a t e d i d e n t i t y

of any t e x t i s an i m p o s s i b i l i t y . This analysis assumes a reading of Wide

Sargasso Sea coupled w i t h a reading of Jane Eyre, and such an assumption i s

not unreasonable. Most readers, e s p e c i a l l y female readers, have read

Jane Eyre. I t i s a formative t e x t f o r many young female readers. Gerald

Prince comments;

32

We must not confuse the narratee w i t h the reader ... actu a l readers may or may not coincide w i t h the person addressed by the n a r r a t o r . . . There are many 'signals', d i r e c t and i n d i r e c t , which c o n t r i b u t e to our knowledge of the narratee. The assumptions of the narratee may be attacked, supported, queried, or s o l i c i t e d by the n a r r a t o r . . .

Rhys s o l i c i t s the assumptions of the narratee by signals s t r e t c h i n g back

to Jane Eyre. Confirms Gerard Genette:

As soon as a s t o r y i s well-known ... r e t e l l i n g takes the place of t e l l i n g . Then f o l l o w i n g the story i s less important than apprehending the well-known end as impli e d i n the beginning and the well-known episodes as leading t o t h i s end.

I n e f f e c t , Wide Sargasso Sea c a r r i e s out the r e t e l l i n g of Jane Eyre

and apprehends the l a t t e r ' s well-known end i n both the beginning and the

end of Rhys's t e x t . This c r u c i a l i n t e r f a c e between Jane Eyre and

Wide Sargasso Sea i s s i g n i f i c a n t f o r one key l i n k between Wide Sargasso Sea

and Annie John i s t h a t of Jane Eyre, which i l l u m i n a t e s t h e i r shared

Caribbean and colonized l i t e r a r y experience. Reading and re-reading enacts

r e p e t i t i o n s "always other than the book" which b l u r s any conceivable margin

of d e f i n i t i o n . States Maurice Blanchot:

Words that are not meaningless, but focusless; ...and w i l l never stop; when they stop they go on; are never s i l e n t . . . 19

The meanings of words go on, even when they themselves have stopped - no

t e x t posesses a d e - f i n i t e margin of i n t e r p r e t a t i o n . I t p a r t i c i p a t e s i n an

i n t e r t e x t u a l i t y beyond i t s e l f and i t s i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s divulge i t s

m a r g i n a l i t i e s .

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IN ASIAN CULTURES THE MIRROR OFTEN FUNCTIONS AS THE VERY VOID OF SYMBOLS.

Trinh Minh-ha ̂

THE QUESTION PROMPTED BY THE FREUDIAN NOTION OF NARCISSISM WOULD...BE; WHAT IS THIS NARCISSISTIC IDENTITY? HOW STABLE ARE ITS BORDERS, ITS RELATIONS TO THE OTHER? DOES THE 'MIRROR STAGE' EMERGE OUT OF NOWHERE? ... NARCISSISM PROTECTS EMPTINESS, CAUSES IT

TO EXIST, LEST BORDERS DISSOLVE...AS LINING OF THAT EMPTINESS. ... THAT ZONE WHERE EMPTINESS AND NARCISSISM, THE ONE UPHOLDING THE OTHER, CONSTITUTE THE ZERO DEGREE OF IMAGINATION.

J u l i a Kristeva

34

I I I . THE IMAGING OF THE MOTHER-MIRROR: REVELATION AND CONCEALMENT

( i ) Wide Sargasso Sea

The r e l a t i o n s h i p between mother and daughter plays a key ro l e i n these

t e x t s by Jean Rhys and Jamaica Kincaid. There i s much mirror-imagery which

provokes marginal depths of meaning w i t h i n the t e x t . Ernest Becker

comments i n The Denial of Death:

each of us repeats the tragedy of Narcissus - we are hopelessly absorbed w i t h ourselves.

...Man l i v e s i n a world of symbols and dreams and not merely matter. His sense of s e l f - w o r t h i s c o n s t i t u t e d s y m b o l i c a l l y , h i s cherished narcissism feeds on symbols. ̂

The tragedy of Narcissus i s that of h i s consuming self-absorbed r e f l e c t i o n

of h i s own gracefulness i n the pool ( i t i s a symbolic r i p p l e that

Antoinette's j a i l e r i s c a l l e d Grace Poole). Like a pool, the looking

glass enables the r e f l e c t i o n of oneself and others. S e l f - r e f l e c t i o n

enables Woman - or, more s p e c i f i c a l l y a woman such as Annette - to l i v e i n

a world of symbols and dreams, to prolong and cherish her narcissism. For

Annette, l o o k i n g at a looking-glass i s an attempt to mat e r i a l i z e what

matters most t o her soul. The f i r s t mention of the looking-glass i n

Wide Sargasso Sea i s w i t h regard to Annette's beautul and lonely s e l f :

perhaps she had to hope every time she passed a looking glass.

{WSS, pl6)

Mr. Mason i s the m a t e r i a l i z a t i o n of her hope. This i s the legacy

Annette's daughter A n t o i n e t t e i n h e r i t s , as her mother's mirror-image. The

mi r r o r r e f l e c t s - and probes - the depths of the soul.

35

The m i r r o r r a p i d l y metamorphoses i n t o a metaphor of the soul. The

looking glass becomes a p a r t i c u l a r l y compelling symbol of the human soul i n

i t s e n t i r e t y . For even when the souls of women serve as mirrors of

themselves, the i l l u s i o n s and d i s i l l u s i o n m e n t t h e i r r e f l e c t i o n s harbour

contain a t e l l i n g r e f l e c t i o n the male psyche. As V i r g i n i a Woolf comments

wryly:

Women have served a l l these centuries as looking-glasses possessing the magic and d e l i c i o u s power of r e f l e c t i n g the f i g u r e of man at twice i t s n a t u r a l s i z e .

I r i g a r a y also makes an i n t e r e s t i n g a l l u s i o n i n a footnote;

I t should be noted that 'PSYCHE' i n French also means 'CHEVAL-GLASS'. 3 '

A cheval-glass i s a r e v o l v i n g r e f l e c t i n g glass t r a d i t i o n a l l y used

predominantly by women as an a i d i n the adornment of a r t i f i c e , and i n

o b j e c t i f y i n g themselves with ornamentation. This i s l a r g e l y a consequence

due to the i m p o s i t i o n of the male gaze. Further, Psyche embodied the

Soul i n Greek myth, coupled w i t h Love. The Oxford English Dictionary

describes Psyche as "Soul, s p i r i t , mind ( i n Gk. myth p e r s o n i f i e d as beloved

of Eros...)". I f a looking glass r e f l e c t s a l l these and i s also described

as being beloved by Love, Love's s e l f - l o v e , how apt the images of

narcissism and of the soul i n the metaphor of the mi r r o r . The daughter

m i r r o r r i n g the mother i n h e r s e l f , and the mother t r e a t i n g the daughter as

but an extension of her s e l f , i s an imaging of one's own narcissism and

the expressive i m p o s i t i o n of one's s e l f upon the other. I t i s a w i l f u l

t r a n s l a t i o n of r e l a t i o n to r e f l e c t i o n , and i s r e f l e c t e d i n these texts by

Rhys and Kincaid. M i r r o r r i n g i s also a metaphor of w r i t i n g :

W r i t i n g necessarily r e f e r s to w r i t i n g . The image i s

36

t h a t of a m i r r o r capturing only the r e f l e c t i o n s of other m i r r o r s . . . l i t e r a l l y a... r e f l e c t i n g r e f l e c t i o n that remains f r e e from the conditions of s u b j e c t i v i t y and o b j e c t i v i t y and yet reveals them both... I-YOU, not one, not two... Yet how d i f f i c u l t i t i s t o keep our m i r r o r s clean. We tend to cloud and s o i l them...for we love t o use them as instruments to behold ourselves, maintaining a n a r c i s s i s t i c r e l a t i o n of me to me... Considered an instrument of self-knowledge, one i n which I have t o t a l f a i t h , i t also bears a magical character t h a t has always transcended i t s f u n c t i o n a l nature. I n t h i s encounter of I w i t h I , the power of i d e n t i f i c a t i o n i s o f t e n such t h a t r e a l i t y and appearance merge while the t o o l i t s e l f becomes i n v i s i b l e . ... Trying to grasp i t amounts to stopping a mir r o r from m i r r o r r i n g . I t i s encountering the void. ̂

Tr i n h expresses t h a t the m i r r o r r e f l e c t s the dual r e l a t i o n s h i p I-YOU

instead of being simply the si n g u l a r focus of s e l f - r e f l e c t i o n ; I-EYE. I t

i s both the m i r r o r of one s e l f and the other, of oneself and the mother.

A mother's image forms her daughter's. To J.K.Gardiner, f o r one

c r u c i a l stage i n l i f e the mother mirrors the c h i l d - and she implies that

the m i r r o r r i n g i s more i n t i m a t e and l a s t i n g i f that c h i l d i s a daughter.

According to observational studies, mothers respond to t h e i r daughters more i n t e n s e l y than to t h e i r sons, ...The unmirrored c h i l d becomes the t y p i c a l twentieth century fragmented, a l i e n a t e d a d u l t .

This m i r r o r i n g i s necessary, because of

our need to experience psychological v i s i b i l i t y : to see ourselves i n and through the responses of another person, one w i t h whom we have important a f f i n i t i e s . . . i n e f f e c t , our need f o r a psychological m i r r o r . ̂

The psyche i s a m i r r o r . The e a r l i e s t and perhaps most important a f f i n i t y

experienced by the c h i l d at the i n i t i a l and c r u c i a l stage of i t s

development i s t h a t which i t shares with i t s mother. To Nancy Chodorow,

daughters are induced i n t o the n a r r a t i v e s t r u c t u r e of mothering by the

37

s i t u a t i o n i n which they grow up, being mothered i n t o the r e p e t i t i v e r o l e of

mothering. Mothering i s p s y c h o l o g i c a l l y enforced, i n t e r n a l i z e d , developed,

and the daughter's sense of s e l f - i d e n t i t y i s thus s t r i p p e d down and r e -

robed by s o c i a l and psychological pressure. Hence a daughter's fe e l i n g s

toward her mother are bound to be v o l a t i l e . Kincaid demonstrates Annie's

ambivalent r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h her namesake, and Rhys h i g h l i g h t s Rochester

dressing h i s wif e i n the borrowed r o l e of her mother - the mad woman -

which A n t o i n e t t e eventually becomes. I n terms of psychology, Nancy

Chodorow's essay "The Reproduction of Mothering" describes the tragedy of

motherhood - the murderous impulse every c h i l d f e e l s towards i t s beloved

mother, and the murderous impulse a mother may f e e l toward her beloved

c h i l d . This i s e s p e c i a l l y potent between mothers and daughters, because

mothers of daughters... tend t o experience them as...extensions of themselves. C l i n i c a l evidence... show th a t g i r l s simply do not, as Freud claimed, abandon t h e i r mothers as love objects at the inc e p t i o n of the Oedipus complex, nor do they perceive themselves as c a s t r a t e d .

Rather, they remain deeply i d e n t i f i e d w ith t h e i r mothers through adolescence, gaining t h e i r sense of femaleness f i r s t from t h i s i d e n t i f i c a t i o n and not, as Freud would have i t , from t u r n i n g to t h e i r f athers as heterosexual objects and wishing t o have babies from them. 9

Psychologists such as Jacques Lacan also speak of the c r u c i a l 'mirror-

stage' which every c h i l d undergoes. The Mi r r o r stage signals the

Imaginary phase and from i t evolves the gradual awareness of s e l f - i d e n t i t y .

T o r i l Moi e x plains;

The Imaginary corresponds to the pre-Oedipal period when the c h i l d believes i t s e l f to be a part of the mother, and perceives no separation between i t s e l f and the world. I n the Imaginary there i s no d i f f e r e n c e and no absence, only i d e n t i t y and presence.

38

...The Imaginary i s f o r Lacan inaugurated by the c h i l d ' s entry i n t o the M i r r o r stage between the ages of 6-8 months. The p r i n c i p l e f u n c t i o n of the Mi r r o r stage i s to endow the baby with a u n i t a r y body image... The c h i l d , when looking at i t s e l f i n the mirror...only perceives another human being w i t h whom i t merges and i d e n t i f i e s . The Mi r r o r stage thus only allows f o r dual r e l a t i o n s h i p s ,

This dual r e l a t i o n s h i p i s what the c h i l d possesses with i t s mother. T o r i l

Moi goes on to i n t e r p r e t Lacan:

I t i s only through the t r i a n g u l a t i o n of t h i s s t r u c t u r e , which occurs when the f a t h e r intervenes to break up the dyadic u n i t y between mother and c h i l d , that the c h i l d can take up i t s place i n the Symbolic order, and thus come to define i t s e l f as separate from the other.

An t o i n e t t e c a l l s h e r s e l f a f t e r her mother Annette. An-TOI-nette. Her

name i s her mother's enclosing the french word f o r the f a m i l i a r second

person - TOI. Although the name i s an attempt to i m i t a t e , i t implies

separateness. The f i r s t gesture Antoinette r e a l l y remembers her mother

demonstrating towards her i s one of f i r m , offhand r e j e c t i o n : "But she

pushed me away, ... without a word, as i f she had decided once and f o r a l l

th a t I was useless to her." (WSS, pl7) Antoinette turns instead to

Christophine. Christophine's domain i s the kitchen, perennial symbol of

nourishment, comfort and family embodied by the mother-figure.

Antoinette's mother-figure f i n d s her a f r i e n d , Tia, a l i t t l e black

g i r l . One shared moment develops i n t o mutual hatred and r a c i a l i n s u l t s .

Says Tia; "black nigger b e t t e r than white nigger" (WSS, p21) and she puts

on Antoinette's dress and leaves her her own. I t i s thus robed i n the

raiment of a "black nigger" that Antoinette f i r s t greets the r i c h white

39

f a m i l y t o whom she w i l l belong. Clothes are the adornment of i d e n t i t y .

Thus A n t o i n e t t e s y m b o l i c a l l y becomes a r e f l e c t i o n of Tia. I n a c l i m a c t i c

moment Anto i n e t t e leaves her home and her past, the burning shreds of her

old i d e n t i t y , never t o r e t u r n :

We stared at each other, blood on my face, tears on hers. I t was as i f I saw myself. Like i n a looking-glass. (WSS, p38)

Having been clothed by Tia, Antoinette now has to be s u i t a b l y robed

f o r her new r o l e i n a new l i f e - white and c i v i l i s e d . Her new vestments

are cut out of the same c l o t h as her mother's. I t i s the s t a r t of her new

i d e n t i t y as a young lady, Antoinette Mason. Unlike Antoinette, Annie's new

i d e n t i t y as a "young lady" i s marked by the time her clothes are no longer

of the same c l o t h as her mother's.

When An t o i n e t t e puts on yet another new i d e n t i t y , that of Antoinette <^

Rochester, she gradually loses her r i g h t f o r self-approbation and

adornment. Rochester i n s i s t s i n h i s d i s i l l u s i o n m e n t that Antoinette i s

the mirror-image of her mother:

Tied t o a l u n a t i c f o r l i f e - a drunken l y i n g l u n a t i c -gone her mother's way.

She'l l not dress up and smile at he r s e l f i n that damnable looking-glass. So pleased, so s a t i s f i e d .

Vain, s i l l y creature. Made f o r loving? Yes, but s h e ' l l have no lover , f o r I don't want her and s h e ' l l see no other. (WSS, pl35-6)

His expression of v i n d i c t i v e n e s s i s to take away her pleasures - l o v i n g ,

and l o v i n g h e r s e l f , her r e f l e c t i o n . To him, i t i s a "damnable looking-

glass" - the i n e x p l i c a b l e feminine t h i n g which he describes as h e l l i s h .

40

This i s h i s fear of h i s wife's p o t e n t i a l female power, and he succeeds i n

ensuring she never r e a l i s e s i t by l a b e l l i n g her 'mad'. He refuses to

comprehend the grace she receives through the narcissism of her r e f l e c t i o n .

A t e l l i n g exchange e x i s t s between husband and w i f e , when what Antoinette

describes as 'ornamented', Rochester corrects as being 'wrought'.

... the h a n d r a i l was ornamented i r o n . ' 'Wrought i r o n , ' I said. 'Yes, wrought i r o n , and at the end of the l a s t step i t

was curved l i k e a question mark and when I put my hand on i t , the i r o n was warm and I was comforted.'

(WSS, pl09)

This i s an attempt by Ant o i n e t t e to explain herself to him - but Rochester

does not l i s t e n to nor understands the inuendo of her no s t a l g i a . Ornament

connotates f r i v o l i t y , s o f t e n i n g hard i r o n by the graceful curving l i n e s of

f i l i g r e e work and other b e a u t i f y i n g decoration. She could derive happiness

from i t s hardness by her own touch of human warmth, and seeing that even

t h i s u n y i e l d i n g metal could curve i n t o an acquiescent question mark.

Rochester however remains r i g i d , and corrects her c u r t l y w ith 'wrought'

derived from 'work'. He works upon h i s w i f e , subtly changing her meanings

i n t o h i s . The r e s u l t of which i s that his desire t o impose harsh

s o l i t u d e upon her - no l o v i n g , no looking-glass, no softness nor

ornamentation, - succeeds i n her i n c a r c e r a t i o n i n h is cold lonely h e l l .

A ntoinette's face becomes "blank, no expression at a l l . " (WSS, pl37) She

has l o s t any r e f l e c t i o n of warmth and love, a l l expression of l i f e .

A n toinette's f i n a l comment about her looking-glass i s poignant and

profound:

There i s no looking-glass here and I don't know what I am l i k e now. ... The g i r l I saw was myself yet not q u i t e myself. Long ago when I was a c h i l d and very l o n e l y I t r i e d to kiss her. But the glass was between

41

us - hard, cold and misted over w i t h my breath. Now they have taken everything away. ...who am I?

(WSS, pl47)

Her looking-glass i s her psychological m i r r o r , reassuring her of her sense

of s e l f . I t i s a companion. Without i t , A ntoinette i s not allowed even

the luxury of being "not q u i t e myself". Now she does not even know who she

i s at a l l - there i s no h a l f measure of 'quite knowing'. Instead her face,

her l i f e i s now a blank. Rochester has turned her s e l f i n t o an echo of his

- "For nothing. Nothing ..." (WSS, pl42) He has also succeeded i n

transforming A n t o i n e t t e i n t o the image of her madwoman mother.

I took the red dress down and put i t against myself. 'Does i t make me look intemperate and unchaste?' I said. That man t o l d me so. ...'Infamous daughter of an infamous mother,' he said to me.

'Oh put i t away,' Grace Poole said... (WSS, pl52)

Clothes t r i g g e r o f f memories f o r Antoinette - memories of herself and of

her mother, even when they are no longer cut out of the same c l o t h .

' I am not a f o r g e t t i n g person,' said Antoinette. ... I remember the dress she was wearing - an evening

dress cut very low, and she was barefooted. There was a f a t black man w i t h a glass of rum i n his hand. ... I saw h i s mouth fasten on hers and she went a l l s o f t and limp i n h i s arms and he laughed.

(WSS, ppllO-111)

The memory of dresses i s a comparison between daughter and mother. Clothes

are f o r dressing and undressing - they have sexual connotations f o r the

Cosway women. Annette's i s low cut, Antoinette's i s flame-coloured l i k e

passion, a d e s c r i p t i o n of a c u l t u r e i n which the evaluation of women i s

according to t h e i r a t t r a c t i v e n e s s t o , and therefore adornment f o r , men.

Women and 'natives' were part and parcel of the c o l o n i a l possession of an

e n t i r e c u l t u r e by white masters.

42

( i i ) Annie John

The c l o t h which colours Annie's r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h her mother i s of a

d i f f e r e n t cut from t h a t of Antoinette's. I t i s the mater i a l of b r i g h t and

c h i l d i s h j o y , - "a piece of c l o t h - a yellow background, with f i g u r e s of

men...seated at pianos" (AJ p25) - rather than t h a t of an adult passion.

As d i f f e r e n t i s the imaging between Annie and her mother - t h e i r m i r r o r i s

alto g e t h e r d i f f e r e n t from t h a t shared by Antoinette and her mother, Annie

John's m i r r o r r i n g of her mother takes place i n a less tangible way although

her mother's presence i n her l i f e i s more tangible than that of

Ant o i n e t t e ' s . There are no obvious references to looking glasses, and of

clothes - only t h a t they were cut out of the same c l o t h and made by her

mother's hands. But Annie John i s also about the mother-mirror, and more

s p e c i f i c a l l y the daughter's growing resentment of i t a f t e r her c h i l d i s h

desire f o r i t . Indeed, Mrs. John desired her daughter as a mirror-image of

h e r s e l f , f o r

She was my mother, Annie; I was her daughter, Annie; and th a t was why I was c a l l e d by my mother and fa t h e r L i t t l e Miss.

(AJ, pl06)

Instead of a looking glass r e f l e c t i o n , the mirror-imaging between

Annie and her mother i s symbolized by spheres. Spheres are orbs l i k e

eyes. F i r s t they are i r i d e s c e n t glass ones - marbles - which then

metamorphose i n t o l i t t l e black b a l l s .

I t was my mother who gave me my f i r s t marbles. ...she thought t h a t t h e i r unusual size - they were big as plums - and t h e i r c o l o r would amuse me. ... They looked t o me l i k e miniature globes, the white representing the seas, the colors representing the land

43

masses. I did n ' t t h i n k very much of them as I r o l l e d them about i n my palms, but my mother...said, "What a nice c o l o r ! Amber." Amber! Needless to say, when I showed the marbles t o my f r i e n d s at school I said, "Such a nice c o l o r , amber," causing the desired e f f e c t ... they widened t h e i r eyes and shaped t h e i r mouths i n t o t i n y "o"s.

(AJ, pp55-56)

"0" i s zero the sign of nothing, or the sign of wonder, the zero degree of

the imagination. Marbles are also c r y s t a l b a l l s . One can see depth i n

them and they can colour one's v i s i o n . They were f i r s t expressions of love

from mother t o daughter, and are captured miniature worlds of delectable

nourishment of the senses. They look l i k e j u i c y plums, are b e a u t i f u l l y

t a c t i l e when r o l l e d i n palms, and are a feast f o r senses other than eyes.

They are b e a u t i f u l symbols of land surrounded by seas. They i l l u s t r a t e

t hat Annie's v i s i o n of her worlds are transformed by her mother. She

u t t e r s the magic word "Amber" and Annie's eyes are opened and her view

u t t e r l y transformed. She i m i t a t e s her mother, and her fr i e n d s i m i t a t e her

re a c t i o n . Their mouths express the globed shape of the marbles i n

nothingness, amazement and envy, Annie has discovered the capacity to

create such f e e l i n g s and to create new worlds - through i m i t a t i o n of her

mother's good naturedness.

However the next episode of the marbles that Annie shares with her

mother does not r e f l e c t such good naturedness. Annie has single-handedly

transformed her mother's r e a c t i o n to them, and they have now become orbs of

contention.

My mother kept up the search f o r the marbles. How she would torment me!

(AJ, p67)

Seeing that her daughter has become as unr e l e n t i n g as herself i n the face

44

of t h r e a t s , Mrs. John t r i e s a new, i n s i d i o u s t a c t i c . She t e l l s her

daughter the s t o r y of the long black snake l u r k i n g i n the bundle of green

f i g s she once c a r r i e d , almost f a i n t i n g , a l l the way home. This i s Annie's

response;

And so, f e e l i n g such love and p i t y f o r t h i s g i r l standing i n f r o n t of me, I was on the verge of g i v i n g my mother my e n t i r e c o l l e c t i o n of marbles. She wanted them so badly. What could some marbles matter? A snake had sat on her head f o r miles as she walked home. The words "The marbles are i n the corner over there" were on the very t i p of my tongue, when I heard my mother, her voice warm and s o f t and treacherous, say to me, "Well, L i t t l e Miss, where are your marbles?" Summoning my own warm, s o f t , and newly acquired treacherous voice, I said, " I don't have any marbles. I have never played marbles, you know."

(AJ, p70)

Mrs. John knows her daughter plays marbles. I t i s when Annie imagines her

mother a mirror-image of he r s e l f as a young g i r l , that an overwhelming

sense of softness and tenderness surges up. Then she re a l i s e s the snake-

hiss of her mother's speech, and again, r e t a l i a t e s by i m i t a t i n g her mother.

Defiant t o the l a s t , Annie s t i l l m irrors her mother. But, when she

menstruates, she stops playing marbles. I t i s as i f t h i s b i o l o g i c a l s i g n a l

of her young womanhood, as opposed to her mother's exhortations to be a

'young lady', stop Annie's disobedience and immature behaviour of her own

accord. I t i s the unavoidable b i o l o g i c a l mark of the separateness of her

being from her mother. This separateness i s also s i g n a l l e d by a new sphere

i n her l i f e - the l i t t l e black b a l l , so d i f f e r e n t from the large b e a u t i f u l

and i r i d e s c e n t plum-like amber marble. This black b a l l i s not given to her

by her mother, but created by h e r s e l f . I n deed, i t i s something she gives

to her mother.

45

My unhappiness was something deep inside me, and when I closed my eyes I could even see i t . ... i t took the shape of a small black b a l l , a l l wrapped up i n cobwebs. . . . i t weighed worlds. ... I was beyond f e e l i n g sorry f o r myself... I could only j u s t s i t and look at myself, f e e l i n g l i k e the oldest person who had ever l i v e d . . . A f t e r I had sat i n t h i s way f o r a while, to d i s t r a c t myself I would count my toes; always i t came out the same - I had ten of them.

(AJ, PP85/86)

I t e x i s t s deep i n her mind's eye, and where the marbles were miniature

worlds, these black b a l l s weigh worlds. I t i s embraced by the dust of her

heart and i s a metaphor of uncomprehending but keenly f e l t despair,

profound and ageless. And yet, Annie remains the c h i l d she ever was -

counting her toes. But counting her toes i s accompanied by the mature

r e a l i s a t i o n t h a t although she seems t o have changed immeasurably, other

t h i n g s , however simple or because they are simple, remain constant. This

b a l l r e f l e c t s a l l the blackness i n s i d e her and begins to r e f l e c t i t s

blackness on every colour c r e a t i n g her j o i e de v i v r e .

Everything I used t o care about had turned sour. I could s t a r t w i t h the sig h t of the flamboyant trees i n bloom, the red of the flowers ... seem on f i r e . . . ; seeing t h i s s i g h t , I would imagine myself incapable of coming t o harm i f I were j u s t to walk through t h i s i n f e r n o . I could end w i t h my mother and me; we were now a s i g h t t o see.

(AJ, p87)

As w i t h A n t o i n e t t e , the s i g h t of red - a red flower, a red dress - i s the

s i g n a l of flames. Red i s also the colour of the blood of menstruation.

Annie wishes t o perish i n such an i n f e r n o i n c i n e r a t i n g herself and her

mother; and A n t o i n e t t e does perish i n the flames of T h o r n f i e l d H a l l as the

i n c a r n a t i o n of her mad mother. Infernos symbolically p u r i f y , and enable

r e s u r r e c t i o n anew. By "s i g h t to see" Annie means that her mother and

46

h e r s e l f have become poles apart, behaving contrary to the other's desire.

They have developed i n t e r f a c e s of behaviour, mannerisms with one meaning

f o r others and separate meanings f o r themselves.

We both noticed that now i f she said that something I d i d reminded her of her own s e l f at my age, I would t r y t o do i t a d i f f e r e n t way... She returned the blow by admiring and p r a i s i n g everything that she suspected had spec i a l meaning f o r me. ... My mother and I soon grew two faces: one f o r my fath e r and the rest of the world, and one f o r us when we found ourselves alone w i t h each other. For my f a t h e r and the world, we were...love and laughter. I saw her with my o l d eyes, my eyes as a c h i l d , and she saw me wi t h hers of that time.

(AJ, p87)

Annie i s r e b e l l i n g , d e f i a n t l y d e c l a r i n g her separateness and i n s i s t i n g that

even when her mother was the same age as she i s now, she i s e n t i r e l y

d i f f e r e n t . But her mother's mind t h i n k s the same way as Annie's, and she

knows the st r a t e g y which outsmarts her daughter, blow by blow. Their

mirror-image has two faces and a multitude of r e f l e c t i o n s . They also have

two sets of eyes, each. I t i s as i f one set of orbs see clear and b e a u t i f u l

l i k e marbles, and the other set sees cobwebbed, black v i s i o n b l i n d i n g each

to the other. Annie confesses:

I had never loved anyone so or hated anyone so. But to say hate - what d i d I mean by that? Before, i f I hated someone I simply wished the person dead. But I couldn't wish my mother dead. I f my mother died, what would become of me? I couldn't imagine my l i f e without her. Worse than t h a t , i f my mother died, I would have to die, too, and even less than I could imagine my mother dead could I imagine myself dead.

(AJ, p88)

Her r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h her mother i s a l l about love and hate, l i f e and death

47

a l l i t s manifold meanings. I t s shared margin w i t h death makes l i f e

meaningful, l i k e w i s e the margin with hate i s what makes the meaning of love

so poignant. Annie j u s t cannot imagine her s e l f disembodied from her

mother, however hard she t r i e s to remain separate. Her mother i s both her

l i f e source and death source. I t i s as i f when confronted by such an

ultimatum, Annie i s not j u s t a mere r e f l e c t i o n of her mother, but her

mother h e r s e l f .

They share one f i n a l c o n f r o n t a t i o n when Annie's black b a l l merges with

her mother, forming yet another i n d i s s o l u b l e binding.

We looked at each other, and I could see the f r i g h t e n i n g black t h i n g leave her to meet the f r i g h t e n i n g black t h i n g t h a t had l e f t me. They met i n the middle and embraced. ... i t was as i f I were not only a stranger but a stranger that she d i d not wish to know. ... she used the French-patois word f o r i t . . . The word " s l u t " . . . As i f t o save myself, I turned to her and said, "Well, ... l i k e mother l i k e daughter."

(AJ, plOl)

I n contrast w i t h Rochester's in s i s t e n c e on what h i s wife does not wish to

know, that she i s l i k e her mother - meaning mad; Annie i n s i s t s her mother

i s l i k e h e r s e l f - a s l u t . I n both cases, i t i s the h u m i l i a t i o n of

l i k e n e s s , the former imposed upon the daughter and the l a t t e r upon the

mother.

At t h a t , everything stopped. ... The two black things j o i n e d together i n the middle of the room separated, hers going t o her, mine coming back to me. I looked at my mother. She seemed t i r e d and o l d and broken. Seeing t h a t , I f e l t happy and sad at the same time. I soon decided happy was better...when she said, " U n t i l t h i s moment, i n my whole l i f e I knew without a doubt that 1 loved you best,"...

I looked at my mother - at her turned back t h i s time - and she wasn't t i r e d and o l d and broken at a l l . ... I t was I who was t i r e d and o l d and broken, and as I looked at my mother, f u l l of v i g o r , young and whole, I wanted t o go over...and beg forgiveness... But I couldn't move... i t was as i f the ground had opened up between us...

{AJ, pl03)

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I n Annie's inner eye, her mother and hers e l f have created i n d i v i d u a l , and

yet the same inner black worlds which can meet and embrace. But when Annie

says d e f i a n t l y t h a t she IS the mirror-image of her mother, a great g u l f

yawns between them which cannot be trespassed. Even the symbol of enmity

they shared i s forced to separate. As always, her mother proves the

stronger and prouder and i t i s Annie who i s crushed. Her mother creates

w i t h i n her the sensation of drowning i n a sea of infamy. Like Christophine,

Mrs. John speaks patois f o r i t s more penetrating f l a v o u r . She accuses her

daughter of committing a crime which compromises the sex she shares with

her mother, and by extension her very s e l f and her mother. By her tone of

voice and manner of speaking, she sets her daughter apart from herself -

u n t i l her daughter i n s i s t s there i s no margin between them. I t i s

s i g n i f i c a n t t h a t Annie says she i s l i k e her mother i n order to save her own

sense of i d e n t i t y . I t i s t h i s inseparableness which causes the

simultaneous and c o n f l i c t i n g emotions of happiness and sadness, love and

hate, even unto l i f e and death, between mother and daughter. I t i s the

paradox of no 'between' e x i s t i n g between them which i s the cause of a l l

t h i s separation.

I was, i n f a c t , as t a l l as my mother ... we looked at each other eye t o eye. ... but then I could see: what di d such a t h i n g matter?

Out of the corner of one eye, I could see my mother. Out of the corner of the other eye, I could see her shadow on the w a l l , ... f o r the re s t of my l i f e I would not be able to t e l l when i t was r e a l l y my mother and when i t was r e a l l y her shadow standing between me and the rest of the world.

(AJ, PP104-107)

Even though Annie i s as large i n l i f e as her mother, she can apprehend such

• e q u a l i t y ' i s tenuous. What i s the u l t i m a t e and u l t e r i o r s i g n i f i c a n c e of

49

being on a l e v e l w i t h her mother; and as wi t h the marbles before, does i t

r e a l l y matter? The s i g n i f i c a n c e l i e s i n t h i s - eye to eye and orb to orb,

they see i n t o each other's i n t i m a t e l i t t l e worlds, and a l l t h e i r most

secret depths are r e f l e c t e d i n t o the v i s i o n of the other. She w i l l always

be reminded of the l i v i n g spectre of her mother forming the i n t e r f a c e

between h e r s e l f and the world, casting the d i v i d i n g l i n e and d e f i n i t i v e

margin which Annie seems unable to cross - even i f i t were f o r dear l i f e .

A shadow i s almost l i k e a ghost - but not q u i t e . Luce I r i g a r a y comments

upon ghostly c r e d e n t i a l s ;

Now a ghost has never been stopped by a w a l l , or even a door, much less by a c u r t a i n or v e i l . A ghost doesn't even re-mark them. But you can e a s i l y check h i s ghostly c r e d e n t i a l s by seeing how e a s i l y he can cross any p a r t i t i o n , separation, d i v i s i o n , i n t e r v a l between ... places, times, space-times. . . . B a r r i e r s , separations, d i f f e r e n c e s are necessary, however, i f ghosts are to e x i s t . . . The b a r r i e r s include, of course, those which f o r b i d crossing over from death to l i f e , from l i f e to death. ... defenses against phantoms breed phantoms and vice versa.

Although a shadow i s as i n s u b s t a n t i a l as a ghost, i t requires an object.

Shadows are formed by b a r r i e r s , ghosts transcend them. To Annie, her

mother's presence w i l l always be such a b a r r i e r - her mother i s the shadow

of her l i f e and the only release w i l l be death. But wi t h her mother's

death, Annie conceives of her own too. B a r r i e r s also breed ghosts.

50

( i i i ) The Speculation of I d e n t i t y

T r i n h Minh-ha reminds us that a m i r r o r "reveals to me my double, my

ghost..." 13 Annie's m i r r o r i n g of her mother has thus taken spherical

shape. There e x i s t s a very s p e c i a l t o o l f o r a s p e c i f i c a l l y female

m i r r o r i n g ; i t i s the speculum. I t s s i g n i f i c a n t curved shape i s h i g h l y

suggestive of the spheres i n Annie's l i f e shared w i t h her mother. There i s

great symbolism i n the speculum

being, of course, a sp h e r i c a l shape - f o r the sphere i s of a l l f i g u r e s the most p e r f e c t and l i k e unto i t s e l f -and polishes the outside curve to a perfect f i n i s h . Also makes i t a m i r r o r , but one turned inside out and thus unable t o lose anything or receive anything from the outside, both because there i s nothing outside i t and because everything t h a t i t brings about happens i n s i d e i t .

The Oxford English D i c t i o n a r y defines the speculum as

1. (surg.) instrument f o r d i l a t i n g c a v i t i e s of human body f o r i n s p e c t i o n . 2. M i r r o r , usually of polished metal ... esp. i n r e f l e c t i n g telescope. 3. (Ornith) s p e c i a l l y coloured area on wing of some b i r d s , i '

Thus a speculum i s a t o o l , a probe, a s o l i d r e f l e c t o r , an area of

d i s t i n c t i o n and beauty on an animate being. As a concave m i r r o r ,

gynaecologists use the speculum to inspect the ' c a v i t i e s ' of the female

body; hence i t becomes a s p e c i f i c a l l y 'female m i r r o r ' . The speculum i s a

mi r r o r which not only r e f l e c t s l i g h t so one can see, i t i s a mirror which,

by probing, focusses l i g h t so th a t one can perceive. States T o r i l Moi;

To make t h i s p o i n t , I r i g a r a y quotes Plato: "Turned h o r i z o n t a l l y i n r e l a t i o n to the face, t h i s concavity w i l l make i t seem as i f i t were turned upside down." But the concave m i r r o r i s also a f o c a l p o i n t , a lens t h a t can concentrate l i g h t rays so as t o 'shed l i g h t on

51

the secrets of caves' and to 'pierce the mystery of the woman's sex'. The speculum i s a male instrument f o r the f u r t h e r p e n e t r a t i o n of the woman, but i t i s also a hollow surface, l i k e the one i t seeks to explore. A speculum en t e r i n g and i l l u m i n a t i n g the woman's vagina can only do so by v i r t u e of i t s own concave shape; i t i s pa r a d o x i c a l l y , through the i m i t a t i o n of i t s object that the speculum o b j e c t i f i e s i t i n the f i r s t place,

The speculum i s thus a h a l f - o r b which can see; i t i s i n e f f e c t an eye. I t

can also be used by women to look at themselves. I n r e l a t i o n to the face,

the speculum possesses the power to i n v e r t perception. I t also has the

a b i l i t y to i g n i t e . We have seen powerful connotations i n the te x t s of Rhys

and Kincaid of the symbolism l a t e n t i n the image of flames. T o r i l Moi

confirms;

what i f there i s a mirror/speculum hidden at the center...? The mystics do fr e q u e n t l y use the image of the burning m i r r o r (or MIROIR ARDENT) ... the burning m i r r o r does seem to be the one mir r o r that r e f l e c t s nothing...

I n the background of the flames of C o u l i b r i , Antoinette looks at her l i t t l e

black f r i e n d Tia's face and sees only h e r s e l f . P r i o r to her i g n i t i o n of

T h o r n f i e l d H a l l and her immolation, Antoinette had seen no looking glass,

nothing but the memory of Tia both shadowed and i l l u m i n a t e d by flames -

"And the sky so red ... I c a l l e d 'Tia!' and jumped and woke." (WSS, pl55)

Blackness i s absence only as the 'other' of whiteness, and Antoinette's

p o i n t of view i s white. The only m i r r o r which remains f o r Antoinette i s

her shred of memory - Tia her m i r o i r ardent and black a l t e r ego - who

u l t i m a t e l y r e f l e c t s nothing. Nothing but herse l f who i s reduced to

nothing.

Ardent comes from 'ardour', which as we l l as " f i e r c e heat" i s defined

by the O.E.D. as "warm emotion". I n French, "ardent" means "burning". I n

her childhood, Annie's mother Annie was t r u l y her daughter's m i r o i r ardent.

52

Her mother's " L i t t l e Miss" Annie John followed her everywhere embraced by

the warmth of love. When they are separated by Annie's defiance and her

adolescent eyes, beyond the d i v i d i n g l i n e of t h e i r selves l i e s only the

dusty ashen shadow her mother casts upon her. No more i l l u m i n a t i n g warmth

nor l o v i n g r e f l e c t i o n , nothing.

U l t i m a t e l y , I r i g a r a y comments on the 'mir o i r ardent' of the

mirror/speculum; that being

a concave m i r r o r concentrates the l i g h t and, s p e c i f i c a l l y , . . . t h i s i s not wholly i r r e l e v a n t to woman's s e x u a l i t y . ... Which 'subject' has taken an i n t e r e s t i n the anamorphoses produced by the conjunction of such curvatures? What impossible r e f l e c t e d images... took place at each of t h e i r a r t i c u l a t i o n s ? When the ' i t i s ' annuls them i n the t r u t h of the copula i n which 'he' s t i l l forever f i n d s the resources of his i d e n t i f i c a t i o n as same... one w i l l r i g h t f u l l y suspect that any perspective, however s u r r e p t i t i o u s , that centers the subject, ... any closure that claims...to be metaphysical - or f a m i l i a l , s o c i a l , economic even -, to have r i g h t f u l l y . . . f i x e d and framed that concave mirror's incandescent hearth. I f t h i s m i r r o r - which however, makes a hole - sets i t s e l f up pompously as an a u t h o r i t y to give shape to the imaginary orb of a 'subject', i t thereby defends i t s e l f p h o b i c a l l y in/by t h i s inner 'center' from the f i r e s of the desire o f / f o r woman.

As I r i g a r a y p oints out, which subject has probed with i n t e r e s t the

anamorphoses produced by the curvatures of t h i s concave mirror? The O.E.D.

defines ANAMORPHOSIS as a " d i s t o r t e d drawing appearing regular from one

p o i n t ; abnormal transformation." From only one perspective without the

speculum does the alignment of v i s i o n seem s t r a i g h t f o r w a r d , and i t i s t h i s

perspective which i s appropriated by the subject now i n existence. When

viewed from a l l other perspectives, the speculum provides angles of v i s i o n

of d i s t o r t e d formation; p a r a d o x i c a l l y , a s t r a i g h t f o r w a r d perspective where

a l l the l i n e s of v i s i o n f a l l coherently i n t o place i s precisely an

53

"abnormal tra n s f o r m a t i o n " . According to Lacan, the Subject i s male. This

i s because the Speaking Subject only comes i n t o being a f t e r the

t r i a n g u l a t i o n of the dyadic u n i t y between mother and c h i l d . I n e f f e c t the

entry of the Subject i s the entry of the Father-figure d i s r u p t i n g the

homogeneous u n i t of Mother/Child. Or rat h e r , i t i s the entry of the

phallus symbolising the Law of the Father. Thus, I r i g a r a y implies that the

'subject' who i s male, sees through the speculum only through one (male)

point of view rendering h i s v i s i o n approachable, irreproachable, regular,

l o g i c a l and be l i e v a b l e - although i t i s i n t r u t h an abnormal transformation

of perspective. He centres the Specular according to his a u t h o r i t a r i a n

p h a l l o g o c e n t r i c v i s i o n . I n e f f e c t , he 'fix e s and frames' the speculum's

incandescent female hearth according to his demands and needs; i t s e f f e c t

i s u l t i m a t e l y , that of closure. Her a r t i c u l a t i o n of the speculum, on the

contra r y , e x i s t s i n the copula of the curvature - i t i s a gap, a blank

space, a margin of d e f i n i t i o n . Her speculum i s a curved mirror w i t h a

hole, a v o i d , a c i r c u l a r f i s s u r e with a myriad r e f l e c t i n g capacity.

Metaphorically, i t s focus i g n i t e s the f i r e s of desire of woman, i g n i t e s

the f i r e s of the desire f o r woman. But he, being the subject, transforms

her i n t o the c i r c u i t of h i s s u b j e c t i v i t y . For him the speculum becomes an

o b j e c t i f y i n g male probe, t u r n i n g her from her r i g h t f u l r e l a t i o n s h i p as

Speculum/Subject i n t o the Object i n t e r r o g a t e d by the Specular - and

Speculating - Tool.

But, may come the o b j e c t i o n , - defending against the o b j e c t i v e and the object - the speculum i s not necessarily a m i r r o r . I t may, q u i t e simply, be an instrument to d i l a t e the l i p s . . . s o that the eye can penetrate the i n t e r i o r . . . n o t a b l y w i t h speculative i n t e n t . Woman, having been misinterpreted...would now become the 'object' to be i n v e s t i g a t e d ... i n the f u t u r e the u l t i m a t e meaning w i l l perhaps be discovered by t r a c k i n g down what there i s to be seen of female s e x u a l i t v .

54

Yes, man's eye - understood as s u b s t i t u t e f o r the penis - w i l l be able t o prospect woman's sexual parts, seek there new sources of p r o f i t . ...even i f not only the woman but the mother can be unveiled t o h i s s i g h t , what w i l l he make of the e x p l o r a t i o n of t h i s mine? ...What w i l l he have seen as a r e s u l t of that d i l a t i o n ? And what w i l l they get out of i t ? A d i s i l l u s i o n quite as i l l u s o r y . . . a suspense w i l l remain i n v i o l a t e

The speculum i s a s o l i d p a r t i a l l y enclosing space, a f o l d that i s curved, a

semi-wrap, a masculine probe th a t has to r e f l e c t i t s object before

perceiving i t i n the f i r s t place, thus becoming a female mirror i n i t s CON-

TEXTE. {'Con' i s french f o r 'cunt'.) However, m i s i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of the

female context, such as

The c a s t r a t i o n of woman, penis-envy, hatred of the mother ... are a l l signs t h a t the app r o p r i a t i o n of the specular, or speculative p r o c e s s / t r i a l i s a v i c t o r y f o r (so-called) masculine s e x u a l i t y . They are signs of a specular p r o c e s s / t r i a l which favours a f l a t m irror as most apt t o capture the image, the representation, the auto-representation. This domination excludes the l i t t l e g i r l from any discovery of the economy of her r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h her mother, and wi t h maternity. 20

This f l a t m i r r o r r i n g i s a masculine m i r r o r r i n g , allowing only f o r a dual

r e l a t i o n s h i p I-YOU w i t h i n a masculine context i n which the male i s the

Subject and the woman his Object. The specular process which favours a

f l a t m i r r o r r i n g i s h i s method of appropriation of the Speculum according to

hi s own desire and power. I t also divides the mother/daughter

r e l a t i o n s h i p . A f l a t m i r r o r lacks the depth and dimension of the speculum

proper. A speculum being a m i r r o r enclosure of space of three dimensions.

I r i g a r a y thus points out that the female v i s i o n of the speculum i s

d i f f e r e n t and separate from the male view. Male specular l o g i c disregards

the nuances of the property of the speculum as a mir r o r and chooses to

concentrate instead on i t s evaluation as a probe of 'perception'. The

65

female v i s i o n i s tha t the speculum i s the symbol of a s e l f - s u s t a i n i n g

feminine p r i n c i p l e and i t s m i r r o r i n g . Even i f the speculum i s merely an

instrument f o r d i l a t i n g the l i p s of woman, i t surely symbolically expands

the o r i f i c e of speech, as w e l l as that of reproduction. Speech too,

reproduces i t s e l f i n order to create and recreate meaning. Which l i p s does

man mean, which l i p s can woman take t o mean? With the speculum, the man's

EYE/1 becomes a metaphysical penis (which echoes Sandra G i l b e r t and Susan

Gubar's d e s c r i p t i o n of the pen as being a "metaphorical penis" i n

The Madwoman i n the A t t i c ^ ^ ; indeed, i t too i s a t o o l a r t i c u l a t i n g w ith

speculative i n t e n t ) . I r i g a r a y ' s accusation i s that man u t i l i s e s the

specular t o o l to suffocate woman by i n i t i a l l y m i s i n t e r p r e t i n g and now

i n v e s t i g a t i n g her ... but surely woman can inve r s e l y argue a d i s t o r t i o n of

t h i s argument i n t o an act of l i b e r a t i o n f o r herself? She can take over

t h i s Symbolic male d i s r u p t i v e a r t i c u l a t i o n of her s e l f , and imagine instead

the d i l a t i o n of her l i p s as allowing her access to her own symbolic s e l f -

a r t i c u l a t i o n and s e l f - a s s e r t i o n . She w i l l then be able to say, "This i s

MINE", instead of having him probe her v e r i t a b l e mine of wealth f o r h i s own

speculative i n t e r e s t . The speculum had allowed him access to and power over

the female i n t e r i o r as an Imperial power e x p l o i t s the colonized. The male

EYE/1 had l i m i t e d female s u b j e c t i v i t y t o only the o r i f i c e s through which he

thought to see; thus denying her symbolism of h e r s e l f . She i s no longer a

commodity p r o f i t i n g him. I f any d i s i l l u s i o n m e n t comes to l i g h t , at least

i t becomes her own, and her own symbolic suspense w i l l remain i n v i o l a t e .

U l t i m a t e l y we are reminded th a t to seek companionship, - and i n

p a r t i c u l a r perceptive companionship - from a mir r o r i s to be met with the

response which greeted Antoinette's attempt t o be r i d of her essenti a l

s o l i t u d e :

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But the glass was between us - hard, cold, and misted over w i t h my breath. {WSS, pl47)

I t i s a margin containing the i l l u s i o n of i n v i s i b i l i t y , but which cannot be

trespassed. Only when i t becomes a metaphor f o r other than i t i s - such as

s e x u a l i t y and t e x t u a l i t y - can the crossing of i t s i n t e r f a c e be achieved.

{ i v ) The Fa b r i c a t i o n of I d e n t i t y

A looking glass provokes one to look at oneself. As w e l l as revealing

oneself b o d i l y and p s y c h o l o g i c a l l y , a m i r r o r also provokes one i n t o

concealing oneself. By con j u r i n g a comprehension of nakedness, the looking

glass i n v i t e s , i n c i t e s , adornment. Mate r i a l i s woven f o r concealment,

concealment beckons r e v e l a t i o n , and r e v e l a t i o n i n s p i r e s the conception of

ma t e r i a l as the s t u f f of w r i t i n g . Weaving has become a feminine myth and

metaphor of w r i t i n g . I r i g a r a y quotes Freud verbatim:

Women have made few c o n t r i b u t i o n s to the discoveries and inventions i n the h i s t o r y of c i v i l i s a t i o n ; there i s , however, one technique which they may have invented -th a t of p l a i t i n g and weaving. ...Nature her s e l f would seem to have given the model which t h i s achievement i m i t a t e s by causing the growth at maturity of the pubic h a i r t h a t conceals the g e n i t a l s . The step that remained to be taken l a y i n making the threads adhere t o one another... We should be tempted t o guess the unconscious motive of the achievement. 22

One i s tempted t o ask Freud why the most n a t u r a l step which occurred to him

at the f i r s t s i g h t of female pubic h a i r should be that of concealment by

p l a i t i n g and weaving as opposed t o , say, p u l l i n g i t apart, tearing or

shaving i t o f f i n order t o reveal? One should t r y to guess Freud's

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unconscious motive behind t h i s thought. I r i g a r a y l i n k s h i s essay "Women

Have Never Invented Anything But Weaving" w i t h another of Freud's

assumptions, t h a t of female v a n i t y . I r i g a r a y states i n her essay "The

Vanity of a Commodity" that i f woman i s valued only i n terms of her face

value, then of course

Whence the importance she vests i n f a b r i c s and cloths to cover h e r s e l f w i t h . ... Women can, i t seems, {only) i m i t a t e Nature. ... Therefore woman weaves i n order to v e i l h e r s e l f , mask the f a u l t s of Nature { i n man's eyes) and r e s t o r e her to her wholeness. ...Whence the need f o r weaving... A p r o t e c t i v e , defensive t e x t u r e . A hymen whose usefulness needs to be re-evaluated. ^3

I n the eyes of men such as Freud, Father of modern psychology, the v i s i o n

of woman i s tha t she i s nothing but a f a b r i c a t i o n . Rochester's tone

corroborates w i t h t h i s argument when he says, "She'll not dress up and

smile at h e r s e l f i n that damnable looking-glass. So pleased, so s a t i s f i e d .

Vain, s i l l y c r e a t u r e . " {WSS, pl36) Freud implies the only thing worth

i m i t a t i n g from her i s her g e n i t a l area of which she creates a f a i t h f u l

reproduction.23 The most v i v i d metaphor of weaving i s a myth of f a i t h f u l

unreproductive boredom, i n v e r t i n g day and ni g h t . I t i s the Penelope myth.

The p r o d u c t i v i t y and deeds of the day are unravelled and wasted by n i g h t ;

i t i s implie d t h a t woman's wealth i s non-wealth and a night a c t i v i t y at

t h a t . This s h i n i n g example of Womanhood weaves i n order to restore

h e r s e l f , t o sew h e r s e l f i n t o her r i g h t f u l wholeness. This m a t e r i a l i z a t i o n

of metaphorical philosophy according to masculine p r i n c i p l e i s a

f a b r i c a t i o n . More t r u l y , instead of being a metaphor of waste and

s e x u a l i t y - and th a t of women; weaving i s a metaphor f o r w r i t i n g and

t e x t u a l i t y . States Walter Benjamin:

the important t h i n g f o r the remembering author i s not what he experienced, but the weaving of h i s memory, the

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Penelope work of r e c o l l e c t i o n . Or should we c a l l i t , r a t h e r , a Penelope work of f o r g e t t i n g ? I s not in v o l u n t a r y r e c o l l e c t i o n much closer to f o r g e t t i n g than what i s u s u a l l y c a l l e d memory? And i s not t h i s work of spontaneous r e c o l l e c t i o n , i n which remembrance i s the woof and f o r g e t t i n g the warp, a counterpart to Penelope's work rather than i t s likeness? For here the Day unravels what the Night has woven. When we awake each morning, we hold i n our hands, usually weakly and loo s e l y , but a few f r i n g e s of the tapestry of l i v e d l i f e , as loomed f o r us by f o r g e t t i n g . ̂ 4

To Benjamin, weaving i s the act of r e c o l l e c t i o n and f o r g e t t i n g ; to Trinh,

the weaving of a t e x t i s language i t s e l f f o r :

language i s always older than me. Never o r i g i n a l , 'me' grows i n d e f i n i t e l y on ready-mades, which are themselves explainable only through other ready-mades ... Wri t i n g as an inconsequential process of sameness/otherness i s ceaselessly re-breaking and re-weaving patterns of ready-mades... 23

Thus, according t o T r i n h , s e l f - i d e n t i t y i s a woven i d e n t i t y and w r i t i n g i s

such an expression of t h i s s e l f . Weaving, as a metaphor of w r i t i n g ,

ceaselessly recreates new meaning i n the margins of the material of the

t e x t . Roland Barthes also described speech as a woven e n t i t y ;

Speech i s i r r e v e r s i b l e : a word cannot be r e t r a c t e d , except p r e c i s e l y by saying that one r e t r a c t s i t . ... The c o r r e c t i n g and improving movement of speech i s the wavering of a flow of words, a weave which wears i t s e l f out catching i t s e l f up ... The eponymous f i g u r e of the speaker i s Penelope.

The eponymous f i g u r e of the speaker i s thus feminine. I f , as according to

Freud, the female sex has a n a t u r a l penchant f o r weaving, by the extension

of h i s metaphor the female sex possesses a complex weave of s i g n i f i e r s of

speech and i t s m a t e r i a l a t t r i b u t e s - the t e x t , as opposed to j u s t her sex -

which s i g n i f y h e r s e l f . T rinh comments on the woman s i g n i f y i n g h e r s e l f . l t i s

59

impossible f o r her to take up her pen without questioning her r e l a t i o n t o the material that defines her and her ... work. As f o c a l point of c u l t u r a l consciousness and s o c i a l change, w r i t i n g weaves ... the complex r e l a t i o n s of a subject caught between the problems of race and gender, and the pra c t i c e of l i t e r a t u r e . . . 27

The weaving of w r i t i n g i s a marginal t h i n g w i t h many p l u r a l i t i e s of

meaning. I t i s f u r t h e r complicated f o r woman because the material she

handles i n order t o define h e r s e l f i s man-made. However the threads she

uses to adhere her ma t e r i a l together are of her own colouring. Roland

Barthes sums up;

The p l u r a l of the t e x t depends not on the ambiguity of i t s contents but on the stereographic p l u r a l i t y of i t s weave of s i g n i f i e r s . (Etymologically, the t e x t i s a t i s s u e , a woven f a b r i c . ) The reader of the t e x t may be compared to someone at a loose end. . . . i t s reading i s woven e n t i r e l y w i t h c i t a t i o n s , references, echoes, c u l t u r a l languages... 28

Thus, according t o Barthes, the t e x t i s a woven tissue of which the weave

i s speech; t o Tr i n h woven t e x t u a l i t y i s language i t s e l f , to Benjamin the

woven t h i n g i s both a r e c o l l e c t i o n and a f o r g e t t i n g . I r i g a r a y completes

the c i r c l e of comment. According to Freud, woman's woven t e x t u a l i t y stems

from her s e x u a l i t y , the ' i n s t i n c t i v e ' concealment of her g e n i t a l area. On

the contrary, t o I r i g a r a y , t e x t u a l i t y i s woven i n t o an awareness of

feminine s e x u a l i t y . Instead of t h i s possessive p r o p r i e t y of language, i n

which woman and the language used to define her i s treated as a commodity,

the keynote of her language i s pro x i m i t y , which she weaves i n t o her t e x t .

I t i s an intimacy of nearness, closeness, not that of possession and

closure:

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...Property and p r o p r i e t y are... f o r e i g n to a l l that i s female... Nearness... i s not f o r e i g n . . . Woman enjoys a closeness w i t h the other so near she cannot possess i t , any more than she can possess h e r s e l f . 29

Such sexual intimacy of the f a b r i c a t i o n of a t e x t i s expressed by

Ant o i n e t t e i n the convent.

My needle i s s t i c k y , and creaks as i t goes i n and out of the canvas. 'My needle i s swearing', I whisper ... We are c r o s s - s t i t c h i n g s i l k roses on a pale background. We can colour the roses as we choose and mine are green, blue and purple. Underneath, I w i l l w r i t e my name i n f i r e red, Antoinette Mason, nee Cosway, Mount Calvary Convent, Spanish Town, Jamaica, 1839.

{WSS, p44)

Her t o o l c l i n g s i n pro t e s t as she wields i t , but with i t she emblazons

i r r e v o c a b l y her i d e n t i t y i n s t i t c h e s of flames. Flames are symbols

evocative of Antoinette's s e l f . I t i s the colour of her recurring red

dress, the emblem of her e r o t i c f e m i n i n i t y ; expressive also of her end i n

a cold and strange a l i e n background. Her s t i t c h i n g describes her l i f e .

Her needle i s a persona i n i t s own r i g h t , i t uses strong language and with

i t she colours her expression of her s e l f as l u r i d and e x o t i c , a w i l d

imaginative frenzy. This contrasts so markedly w i t h her aunt's neat and

regulated, well-matched and well-made patchwork.

As she t a l k e d she was working at a patchwork counterpane. The diamond-shaped pieces of s i l k melted one i n t o the other, red, blue, purple, green, yellow, a l l one shimmering colour. Hours and hours she had spent on i t and i t was nearly f i n i s h e d . Would I be lonely? she asked and I said 'No', looking at the colours. Hours and hours and hours I thought.

{WSS, p47)

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Her aunt's b e a u t i f u l s t r a i g h t l i n e s are a contrast to Antoinette's f l u i d

curving flowers and hyperbolic w r i t i n g . But wi t h both women i t i s a labour

of concentration, love and time, an expression of s o l i t u d e and harmony - or

disharmony. S i g n i f i c a n t l y A ntoinette marvels at her aunt's patience and

d i s c i p l i n e . Both pieces are made of the s t u f f of t h e i r c o n t r a s t i n g

characters. Antoinette's sojourn sewing i n the convent symbolizes her

sexual blooming. I t i s s i g n i f i c a n t that while she i s at the convent, her

stepfather Mr. Mason brings her presents of p r e t t y clothes and t r i n k e t s

which she cannot wear. Laying eyes on her, he i s aware that she i s of a

marriageable age. I t was f o r Mr. Mason th a t Antoinette's mother sold her

l a s t piece of j e w e l l e r y i n order to a t t r a c t him to her. Adornment i s

c r u c i a l to Annette's sense of i d e n t i t y - which i s the i d e n t i t y a man

bestows upon her. The p r a c t i c e of a r t i f i c e i s thus encouraged by

Antoinette's mother and her ste p f a t h e r , and i s her inheritance. Her

stepfather's g i f t s of dress and ornament are the i n i t i a l expressions of the

f i n a n c i a l aspect of t h e i r r e l a t i o n s h i p , which culminates when Antoinette

and her assets are married to Rochester.

Clothes are such a ma t e r i a l u m b i l i c a l cord between Annie and her

mother t h a t ' g i f t s ' are too formal a term f o r them, u n l i k e the presents of

bought f r i v o l o u s clothes Mr. Mason gives h i s step-daughter. As Antoinette's

s t i c h i n g of her t e x t i n the convent i s a symbol of her yo u t h f u l bloom, so

too i s Mrs. Annie John's embroidering of baby clothes beneath a tree a

d e s c r i p t i o n of her st a t e of f r u i t f u l expectancy before Annie's b i r t h .

There was the chemise...the f i r s t garment I wore a f t e r being born. My mother had made that h e r s e l f , and once

... I was even shown the tree under which she sat as she made t h i s garment. There were some of my diapers... there was the dress I wore on my f i r s t b i r thday: a yellow c o t t o n w i t h green smocking on the f r o n t ; there was the dress I wore on my second bi r t h d a y : pink cotton with green smocking on the f r o n t ; . . .

{AJ, p20)

I t i s an e n t i r e catalogue of love. Her sewing i s the preparation of the

m a t e r i a l of Annie's l i f e i n a perpetual maternal embrace. I t i s work of her

imagination, body and time. Her mother has l i t e r a l l y fashioned and

coloured her l i f e from the barest essentials of diapers to the f i n e r y of

b r i g h t and c h e e r f u l smocking. This contrasts so v i v i d l y w ith the time

Annie's mother c a l l e d her a s l u t i n rea c t i o n to seeing her daughter

' l o i t e r i n g ' w i t h a group of young boys. I n r e a l i t y , Annie

was r e a l l y l ooking at my own r e f l e c t i o n i n the glass ... I saw myself j u s t hanging there among b o l t s of c l o t h , among Sunday hats and shoes, among men's and women's undergarments...

{AJ, p94)

Amongst a l l these accoutrements of adornment, from the f i n e r i e s one wears

to show o f f on s p e c i a l days, to the necessities one hides d a i l y , Annie's

m i r r o r image amongst a l l t h i s woven s t u f f cuts a l o n e l y f i g u r e . She i s

surrounded by the female metaphors of her t e x t u a l i t y - her m i r r o r i n g and

the woven things surrounding her are subtle expressions of h e r s e l f . These

garments are not merely f a b r i c a t i o n s . They express an atmosphere, a

memory, a time, a person - such as Bertha's red dress redolent with the

colour of flames, sole fragment of the l i n g e r i n g memory of l o v e l y

A n t o i n e t t e . Cloth i s a m a t e r i a l out of which a maternal co n f i g u r a t i o n of

shared and hoped f o r rapture can be bequeathed to a daughter.

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Thus, the apparently simple symbols of the mirror and of feminine

handiwork are weighted w i t h profound m a r g i n a l i t i e s of meaning. The mirror

and weaving have become metaphors of w r i t i n g . Weaving becomes meaning,

the t e x t u r i n g of a t e x t , and the ma t e r i a l woven i s r e f l e c t e d i n the magic

m i r r o r i n which t o o l and i t s margins disappear and the r e f l e c t i o n becomes

the s e l f . The questions asked - and to a c e r t a i n degree answered by these

t e x t s - are; What kin d of m i r r o r r i n g takes place i n which type of mirror?

Probing, r e f l e c t i n g , focussing? A f l a t m i r r o r , the revolving psyche, the

i g n i t i n g speculum? I n which context or con-texte? Which frame, which

f o l d of material? Does the ma t e r i a l reveal or conceal? Does the mirror

reveal or conceal t h i s material? I s the m i r r o r , and weaving, s t i l l

s p e c i f i c a l l y feminine symbols of w r i t i n g ? These a l l lead to the marginal-

imaging of the mother-figure i n these t e x t s by Rhys, and Kincaid.

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THE SARGASSO SEA, A FREE-FLOATING SWAMP OF SEAWEED IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ATLANTIC.

THE CLOCKWISE SPIRALING OF THE MORTH ATLANTIC OCEAN CORRALS THE LUMPY FIELDS OF SARGASSO WEED INTO AN AREA OF 100 SOUARE MILES AND UP TO 30 FEET DEEP. EVEN CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS ON HIS JOURNEY-TO THE NEW WORLD WROTE ABOUT BEING MIRED FOR DAYS IN THE YELLOW-GREENISH HYDRO-MISTLETOE.

Tania Aebi - the youngest person, and a g i r l , t o circumnavigate the globe single-handedly. ^

AN ISLAND HAS SET LIMITS, SEA AND SKY MEET IN INFINITE AND MINUTELY DEFINED HORIZON... THERE IS SPACE FOR THE WANDERING PERIPHERY OF THE MIND, MEANDER WITHIN THE MARGIN OF MEANING.

Christopher Searle

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IV. THE METAPHOR OF FLUIDS: THE SEA OF DREAMS

The metaphor of f l u i d s has been used of the feminine sex i n the past.

I t i s also a contemporary metaphor of female w r i t i n g , especially i n French

f e m i n i s t and psychoanalytical thought. The use of the metaphor of f l u i d s i s

of marginal, but profound s i g n i f i c a n c e to w r i t i n g by women of Caribbean

o r i g i n , e s p e c i a l l y when a te x t i s possessed of a t i t l e as a b s t r a c t l y

potent as Wide Sargasso Sea. I t i s i n t e r e s t i n g that Jean Rhys correlated

the completion of her t e x t with a r e c u r r i n g dream;

I've dreamt several times that I was going to have a baby... F i n a l l y I dreamt that I was looking at the baby i n the cradle - such a puny weak t h i n g . So the book must be f i n i s h e d . . . I don't dream about i t any more. ̂

To Rhys the t i t l e of her t e x t bears the same mystical s i g n i f i c a n c e ;

I have no t i t l e y et. "The F i r s t Mrs. Rochester" i s not r i g h t . Nor, of course i s "Creole". That has a d i f f e r e n t meaning now. ... t i t l e s mean a l o t to me. Almost h a l f the b a t t l e . I thought of "Sargasso Sea" or "Wide Sargasso Sea" but nobody knew what I meant. "

Rhys also toyed w i t h "Gold Sargasso Sea" from a Caribbean Song. To choose

width r a t h e r than gold i s to choose an i n t a n g i b l e imaginative span beyond

m a t e r i a l v a l u a t i o n . The Sargasso Sea has the s t a t u r e of myth and legend but

i s i n f a c t very r e a l - Christopher Columbus and Tania Aebi i n d i f f e r e n t

centuries have b a t t l e d w i t h t h i s presence of p r i m i t i v e l i f e . I t has been

described as a zombie sea, a marginal zone of the l i v i n g dead:

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...an apparently dead ocean where flotsam accumulates, a melange of d e r e l i c t ships and the sargassum seaweed. I t i s said that one can walk on the Sargasso Sea; i n the past w r i t e r s wrote ghost s t o r i e s about i t . Rhys's novel i s , i n some sense, a ghost story too. ̂

This i s the sea of s e n s i b i l i t y surrounding Rhys's t e x t as v i r g i n margin

surrounds p r i n t on a page. Walking on water i s the s t u f f of madness,

dreams and b l i n d f a i t h . I n choosing the name of t h i s sea as her very

s i g n i f i c a n t t i t l e , Rhys commands a sense of timelessness, of a mysterious

c l u t t e r w i t h imaginative consequences. I t h i g h l i g h t s the essence of her

t e x t . The Sargasso Sea was a margin between the Old World and the New, a

mass both s o l i d and f l u i d , a boundary which yet was not d e f i n i t i v e and

which could be trespassed but under p e r i l . For the Sea i s a timeless

metaphor of mystery, and of man - and the Sargasso Sea i s especially dense

cohesive, and mysterious. Paul Theroux quotes from Elias Canetti's

Crowds and Power;

There are crowd symbols i n nature...and the sea i s a d i s t i n c t one. . . . " I t s m u l t i p l i c i t y l i e s i n i t s waves -the waves are l i k e men. . . . I t s mystery l i e s i n what i t covers... I t i s u n i v e r s a l and all-embracing; i t i s an image of s t i l l e d humanity; a l l l i f e flows i n t o i t and i t contains a l l l i f e . "

C a n e t t i describes the crowd symbol of the English. I t i s the sea: a l l the triumphs and disasters of English h i s t o r y are bound up w i t h the sea, and the sea has o f f e r e d the Englishman transformation and danger.

"The Englishman sees himself as a captain," Canetti says: t h i s i s how h i s i n d i v i d u a l i s m r e l a t e s to the sea. ^

The sea i s the metaphor of the u n i v e r s a l i t y of man, and so i t seems,

es p e c i a l l y t h a t of the Englishman. Rochester i s the chief male protagonist

i n these t e x t s and he i s an Englishman. Transformation and danger were

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and I d i d not. But I could hardly say so. Not yet . " (WSS, p75)

An i s l a n d Paradise i s associated i n the c o l o n i z i n g mind w i t h images of

u n c o n t r o l l a b l e f e c u n d i t y , noble savages and ignoble natives i n searing

t r o p i c a l heat - a loose ease of l i f e breeding disease and s i n . The i s l a n d

thus becomes the image of immorality. Yet, 'Paradise' i s the word used to

describe the i s l a n d ; i t i s a c o l o n i a l notion imported by the white man.

The natives never knew they l i v e d i n 'Paradise' u n t i l they were t o l d so and

taught so i n the classroom. Kincaid demonstrates the legacy of white and

p a t r o n i s i n g c o l o n i a l h i s t o r y s t i l l has the present power to punish a l i t t l e

n a t i v e g i r l . Annie i s s t r i p p e d of her status as class prefect (another

imported c o l o n i a l t i t l e ) f o r defacing her i m p e r i a l i s t t e x t . She has i n

e f f e c t , knocked God who discovered and therefore created her i s l a n d , o f f

his pedestal.

I had gone too f a r t h i s time, defaming one of the great men i n h i s y , Christopher Columbus, discoverer of the i s l a n d t h a t was my home. ... Had my peers ever seen anyone so arrogant, so blasphemous?

(AJ, p82)

Chris Searle compares t h i s teaching of the i l l u s i o n of a 'great white

h i s t o r y ' , w i t h the imported notions of 'Paradise' from the white t o u r i s t

trade of today which p r o s t i t u t e s the i s l a n d commercially;

a n x i e t i e s w i t h i n the garden...make people reach out from the i s l a n d world t o the outside world, to grasp on to modernity and the white man's compensations. People wake worried i n a clouded Paradise... ^

White man's compensations mean l i t t l e to the Caribbean islander when he i s

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e x p l o i t e d by them - f o r such 'compensations' can only happen when funded by

e x p l o i t a t i o n . E x p l o i t a t i o n c a r r i e s on beyond slavery. Pat E l l i s points out:

the o r i g i n a l sources are fed back t h e i r own products...our sugar i s fed back as p r e t t i l y wrapped confectionary stamped 'Made i n England'...so i s our own reggae fed back to us on a m u l t i - m i l l i o n d o l l a r l a b e l by a King of Reggae who i s American. ^

Chris Searle comments that the c h i l d "develops i n t h i s strange e l i s i o n " .

The Caribbean isl a n d e r s thus s u f f e r from the delusion of Paradise without

i t s rewards. However, John Donne meditates i n his Seventeenth Devotion -

No man i s an i s l a n d , e n t i r e of i t s e l f ; every man i s a piece of the continent, a part of the main. I f a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe i s the less... any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved i n mankind, and therefore never send to know f o r whom the b e l l t o l l s - i t t o l l s f o r thee.

But perhaps t h i s Devotion i s purely European. Every white man i s a piece

of the continent and par t of the mainland - as long as the colonies remain

relegated t o and as i t s margins, the black man l i e s beyond his v i s i o n , and

the woman out of s i g h t . Such i s the perspective of the white man and his

i m p e r i a l power, and the focus i s himself. According to the Oxford English

D i c t i o n a r y , " c o n t i n e n t " has two meanings;

co n t i n e n t ! , Temperate; chaste,

co n t i n e n t ^ . Continuous land, mainland...

Freud shrouds woman by h i s d e s c r i p t i o n of her 'private p a r t s ' as the

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famous "dark continent" of feminine s e x u a l i t y .

Does t h i s "dark c o n t i n e n t " t h e r e f o r e imply a b e l t of c h a s t i t y , a temperate

mainland, or a lush, beckoning, undiscovered and dangerous Paradise?

Temperate a p t l y describes the climate of the Imperial Power, and the Main

Land i s by d e f i n i t i o n the Centre and focus of a l l other lands c a l l e d

colonies. The lush Paradise i s one such colony. Which, therefore, i s the

dark continent? A colony cannot be the Main Land, which implies i t i s not

the Dark Continent. Helene Cixous speaks of yet another Dark Continent -

th a t which i s taught to the l i t t l e g i r l as soon as she enters Lacan's

Symbolic phase:

As soon as they begin to speak, at the same time they're taught t h e i r name, they can be taught t h a t t h e i r t e r r i t o r y i s black: because You are A f r i c a . You are black. Your continent i s dark. Dark i s dangerous.

Men have made f o r women an antinarcissus. ...We are black and we are b e a u t i f u l .

The Dark Continent i s neit h e r dark nor unexplorable. I t i s s t i l l unexplored only because we've been made t o believe t h a t i t was too dark to be explorable. And they want to make us believe that what i n t e r e s t s us i s the white continent, with i t s monuments to l a ck. 12

Are women the r e f o r e the "Dark Continent" because they are chastely

temperate or because they are l u s t i l y fecund? Rochester described

A n t o i n e t t e as "intemperate and unchaste" (WSS, p l 5 2 ) . Women may be the

lush i s l a n d Paradises or A f r i c a n continents of wet incontinent dreams, but

i t seems t h a t by d e f i n i t i o n , the Dark Continent more t r u l y describes the

dominating I m p e r i a l and Main Land power which prides i t s e l f on i t s

white c o n t r o l . I t centres i t s e l f as the focus of a l l i t s colonies and

possesses f o r i t s e l f the prerogative of 'discovery' (which r e a l l y means

( s ) e x p l o i t a t i o n ) . I t i s t h i s whiteness which labels black as i t s

a n t i t h e s i s , as outside of i t s e l f , s w i f t l y followed by the j u s t i f i a b l e

r a t i o n a l e t h a t dark must be dangerous and therefore oppressed. Dark stands

f o r Black men, and f o r a l l women. Thus the Dark Continent has long been a

white c o l o n i z i n g male's euphemism of the feminine sex and of i t s colonies

f u l l of blacks and savages - r e q u i r i n g discovery, e x p l o r a t i o n , possession,

e x p l o i t a t i o n , and u l t i m a t e l y the synthesis of a l l these - c o l o n i z a t i o n .

Should the dark and the black personify lack and a l l that i s negative?

When by i t s very d e f i n i t i o n the Dark Continent and Main Land b e t t e r

describe the climate and temperament of the dominating White Male Imperial

Power w i t h i t s lack of knowledge of the margins which define i t s s e l f -

centredness, and i t s sombre and a u t h o r i t a r i a n arrogance of s e l f -

s u p e r i o r i t y . For 'darkness' has become a white euphemism f o r non-

i l l u m i n a t i o n and ignorance - from which the colonizer s u f f e r s . For h is

world v i s i o n i s only turned inwards upon himself.

Islanders have t h e i r own world v i s i o n , and v i s i o n of themselves. The

very f a c t of an i s l a n d being a f i n i t e land mass provides a special focus

and framework from which to view oneself and beyond. Perspectives beyond

the i s l a n d have t o confront the horizon, a margin i n f i n i t e l y merging sea

and sky and which cannot be trespassed. This margin of merging sea and

sky surrounding the i s l a n d imbues i t w i t h a sense of meaning necessarily

separate from t h a t of the mainland, or Main Land. Our view i s defined

according t o the alignment of our perspective, our perspective depends on

the focus our framework allows, and t h i s a l l depends upon the s h i f t i n g

framework i t s e l f - whether the margins remain s o l i d l y constant, or

const a n t l y f l u i d and d i f f u s e . Gregory Woods comments on the alignment of

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human perspective:

How does one pai n t a landscape? As i f i t were w i t h i n reach... as i f i t s horizon could be touched with...an outstretched hand... a way of managing the world, of touching the horizon, while yet d e f e r r i n g t o i t s size; and of c r e a t i n g i t anew... he reduces h i s landscape to a human scale...

In the t e x t s of Rhys and Kincaid, the i s l a n d home of the female

pro t a g o n i s t i s described as a landscape of Paradise and the Garden of Eden.

This childhood v i s i o n of Paradise and i t s horizons i n the eyes of a young

naive, n a t i v e or creole g i r l are a view d i f f e r e n t from that of her white

all-knowing c o l o n i a l master. Annie says, " I t was i n such a Paradise that I

l i v e d " (AJ p25); and Anto i n e t t e describes the estate of her childhood,

C o u l i b r i , thus:

Our garden was large and b e a u t i f u l as that garden i n the Bible - the tree of l i f e grew there.

(WSS, pl6)

For A n t o i n e t t e , her childhood garden was b e a u t i f u l even without a mother's

love, f o r i t had a strange and unnatural l i f e of i t s own which drew her.

On the contr a r y , Annie's mother was the embodiment of her childhood

Paradise, and of the c o l o n i a l values which u l t i m a t e l y destroyed her -

suffused by her ambience, nourished and nurtured, clothed by material made

by her hands, a l l i n a maternal embrace of love. Annie i d e n t i f i e d her

mother as the l i f e source of her Paradise. Gregory Woods describes the

in t i m a t e r e l a t i o n s h i p between landscape and love, and therefore landscape

and i d e n t i t y ;

We may even conclude ... that the loved one could not possibly be loved i n any other l o c a t i o n . Instead of serving as an evocative or decorative background to a

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p o r t r a i t of a loved one, the landscape becomes the subject, of which the human f i g u r e i s but a small, i f not i n s i g n i f i c a n t p a r t . ... This trend of thought n a t u r a l l y concludes i n the concept of the beloved (or hated) landscape; or of the loved one AS a landscape.

Thus, Annie's Paradise i s her mother, a landscape of love i n which her

i d e n t i t y i s a mirror-image of her mother. C o u l i b r i i s Antoinette's

childhood Paradise, and a f t e r i t s d e s t r u c t i o n by the black people who hated

them, Granbois (or T a l l Trees, Big Woods) her holiday home, becomes

Antoinette's new Paradise and symbol of her marriage. I t i s to Granbois

t h a t she leads her husband and lover, to her "sweet honeymoon house". When

she grew to i d e n t i f y i t with Rochester and hate, i t was destroyed f o r her -

but t h i s time by coldness, not by flames. The landscape of love sours i n t o

a landscape of hate. Antoinette's exotic bloom perishes i n the cold and

f o r b i d d i n g f o r t r e s s of Rochester's hate which i s T h o r n f i e l d H a l l - her

landscape of s u f f e r i n g , a metaphoric f i e l d of thorns. Her memory as

An t o i n e t t e i s only resurrected from the ashes of Bertha as a phoenix i s

from the flames.

Christophine, Antoinette's mothering and magical p r i n c i p l e , has a name

reminiscent of the r i s e n C h r i s t and the resurrected phoenix. I n

Antoinette's time of d i r e d i s t r e s s and need, i t i s Christophine's place and

presence of mind she desires. Antoinette i d e n t i f i e s i n s p i r i t and vibrancy

w i t h Christophine's place;

dark green mango leaves, and I thought, 'This i s my place and t h i s i s where I belong and t h i s i s where I wish to stay.' Then I thought, 'What a b e a u t i f u l t r e e , but i t i s too high up here f o r mangoes and i t may never bear f r u i t , ' . . .

Pink and red hibiscus grew i n f r o n t of her door... (WSS, p90)

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The t r e e i s t a l l and strong and v i t a l l y a l i v e , but Antoinette's conclusion

of i t i s i t s barrenness. Mangoes are a lush, sweet and succulent f r u i t and

grow p l e n t i f u l l y . But t h i s t r e e l i e s beyond the landmark of the rocks, the

"Mounes Mors (the Dead Ones)" (WSS p89). To Antoinette the atmosphere

s t i l l seems marked by a f e e l i n g t h a t i s f o r b i d d i n g rather than f r u i t f u l -

an epitome of hopelessness. But these are f e e l i n g s that stem s o l e l y from

Antoinette's mind, f o r over Christophine's doorstep glow a welcoming

f r a g i l e f l o u r i s h of colour. Yet the o v e r a l l ambience of Christophine's

landscape i s the c o l o u r i n g of ambiguity. Gregory Woods emphasises the

s i g n i f i c a n c e of p l a n t s , as suggested by the myths of t h e i r o r i g i n s . Many...bear human memories... The t r e e s , also remember human o r i g i n s . . . Love...motivated a l l t h e i r metamorphoses.

. . . A l t e r n a t i v e l y , flowers are an expression, not of t h e i r own, but of the earth's desire.

Flowers frame Christophine' s doorstep and i t i s her help by which

A n t o i n e t t e seeks t o regain her husband's desire. The wreath marking the

consummation of t h e i r matrimonial happiness was placed upon the bed by

Christophine, and i t i s w i t h t h i s wreath that Antoinette crowns her

husband. But Rochester

took the wreath o f f . i t f e l l on the f l o o r and as I went towards the window I stepped on i t . The room was f u l l of the scent of crushed flowers. I saw her r e f l e c t i o n i n the glass...

(WSS, p62)

Rochester ignores the f r a i l t y of the flowers when he crushes them. They

s i g n i f y the bloom of h i s w i f e . Yet he cannot help but be made aware of

t h e i r l i n g e r i n g fragrance, a subtle pressure of pleasure which cannot be

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denied. He heads f o r the window, a frame from which t o view beyond, and he

sees h i s wife m i r r o r r e d i n i t , which places h i s view i n a d i f f e r e n t

perspective. One pane of glass thus becomes two d i f f e r e n t frames enclosing

t h e i r wedding space - one transparent from which to look out, which o f f e r s

release and which Rochester takes possession of; and one which r e f l e c t s her

v i s i o n , encloses and traps her view. The window thus becomes a mi r r o r , and

takes on a new margin of meaning. Flowers and mirrors are heady and heavy

i n the symbolism of f e m i n i n i t y . A f t e r reading Daniel Cosway's poisoned

piece, Rochester

passed an orchid w i t h long sprays of golden-brown flo w e r s . One of them touched my cheek and I remembered p i c k i n g some f o r her one day. 'They are l i k e you', I t o l d her. Now I stopped, broke a spray o f f and trampled i t i n t o the mud. This brought me t o my senses.

(WSS, p82)

The flower's small and i n t i m a t e , touching gesture reminds him of one such

gesture to h i s wife - which reminds him of yet another gesture at the

beginning of t h e i r marriage which was not so d e l i c a t e , but c r u e l .

I f flowers are o l d and l a s t i n g metaphors describing the m a r g i n a l i t y of

f e m i n i n i t y - i t s v u l n e r a b i l i t y and d e s i r a b i l i t y , so too are b i r d s .

Fragrance and song are as d i f f u s e as f l u i d s . Flowers are a d e s c r i p t i o n of

Antoinette's ornamental, f r a g i l e beauty. Birds are also an epitome of

f e m i n i n i t y because they are small, p a l p i t a t e when held i n the hand, and are

o f t e n trapped i n g i l d e d cages. Like flowers, b i r d s are f r a g i l e and

ornamental, and can be crushed.

Of a l l creatures, b i r d s alone can f l y a l l the way to heaven - yet they are caged. Birds alone can sing more . b e a u t i f u l l y than human voices - yet they are unheeded, or s i l e n c e d . . . I f i n d that the caged b i r d makes a

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metaphor that t r u l y deserves the a d j e c t i v e female... when Rochester proposes...Jane f i g h t s to get f r e e . . . 'Jane, be s t i l l ; don't struggle so, l i k e a w i l d f r a n t i c b i r d . . . ' ' I am no b i r d ; and no net ensnares me; I am a f r e e human being w i t h an independent w i l l , which I now exert t o leave you.'

I t i s l o v e b i r d s which Annie's mother embroiders on her daughter's

bedspread, and i t was her p a r r o t t h a t Antoinette's mother t r i e d t o save

from the flames. Unlike a phoenix, the parrot perished, but i t s death

averted Antoinette's doom. With i t s screeches echoing the screams of

Annette r i n g i n g i n t h e i r ears, the black people averted t h e i r faces at the

s i g h t of a dying p a r r o t ( f o r i t was bad luck t o see one), and gradually

dispersed i n fear without harming the Cosway fa m i l y . According to Helene

Cixous;

F l y i n g i s woman's gesture - f l y i n g i n language and making i t f l y . . . . I t i s no accident that v o l e r has a double meaning...(fly, rob)* women take a f t e r b i r d s and robbers... They...fly the coop...take pleasure i n jumbling the order of space, i n d i s o r i e n t i n g i t . . .

What woman hasn't flown/stolen? ... A feminine t e x t canot f a i l to be more than subversive, we are ourselves sea, sand, c o r a l , seaweed, beaches, t i d e s , swimmers, c h i l d r e n , waves... Heterogeneous, yes. For her joyous b e n e f i t s she i s erogeneous: she i s the erotogeneity of the heterogeneous: airborne swimmer, i n f l i g h t , she does not c l i n g to h e r s e l f : she is...desirous and capable of others, of the other woman that she w i l l be, of the other woman she i s n ' t , of him, of you.

Cixous's 'She' i s the embodiment of the feminine p r i n c i p l e and transcends

a l l b a r r i e r s - p h y s i c a l , metaphysical, metaphorical, mystical. She i s at

home i n sky and sea - "airborne swimmer", and her presence i s the merging

of t h i s margin, where sky and sea become one. No i n s u l a r presence, she.

Her s i g h t s and horizons l i e beyond i n her heterogeneous freedom; she i s i n

deed a new horizon unto h e r s e l f . Although Cixous's d e s c r i p t i o n of such

* I n French, " v o l e r " means " t o f l y " , " t o s t e a l " .

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sexual t e x t u a l i t y i s u l t i m a t e l y fantasy, i t should not be simply dismissed.

Lacan agrees Woman's gesture i s a f l i g h t y and flo w i n g tongue, (meaning

the r e f o r e . f r i v o l o u s and f i c k l e ) i n another marginal pun which i s more

ambivalent, and less complimentary i n meaning. To Freud's question "What

does Woman want?", Lacan concludes that the question must remain open since

by h i s r a t i o n a l reckoning the female i s " f l u i d " , f l u i d i t y i s "unstable",

and t h e r e f o r e she i s not t o be t r u s t e d .

Woman never speaks PAREIL ( s i m i l a r , equal, l i k e ) . What she emits i s fl o w i n g (FLOUENT). Cheating (FLOUANT). is

A fl o w i n g emission sounds unclean and vaguely obscene - i t i s not a

compliment. By the i m p l i c a t i o n of his comment, her p r i n c i p l e s are at

stake. To Lacan, women's speech i s of marginal importance as revealed by

his dismissive d e s c r i p t i o n of i t as " f l u i d " - i n other words, i r r a t i o n a l

and untrustworthy. But f l u i d s have other connotations, and meanings

mysterious and potent rather than derogatory. Josephine Lowndes Sevely

confirms the ancient mythological and etymological connection between

f l u i d i t y and women's s e x u a l i t y which Cixous contemporarily describes;

For a long period of time the l i t t l e l i p s of the vagina were commonly known as "NYMPHAE" ... means "water goddesses" i n Greek.

Lips speak, and l i q u i d l i p s speak f l u i d thoughts. The goddess i s a

d i f f e r e n t logos and her speech therefore has a d i f f e r e n t , less s o l i d but no

less potent a u t h o r i t y . Her t e x t u a l a u t h o r i t y i s not ph a l l o l o g o c e n t r i c i n

the sense of " I n the beginning was the Word; and the Word was God."

Instead, her a u t h o r i t y stems from a d i f f e r e n t h i s t o r y , or HERstory. Sevely

continues;

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H i s t o r i c a l l y , goddesses of nature were of t e n associated w i t h the waters of the earth and bo d i l y f l u i d s , the sources of a l l l i f e . The Egyptian goddess I s h t a r was goddess of the seas and ti d e s and women's menstrual f l u i d s . From I s h t a r evolved the Greek goddess Aphrodite, l a t e r to become L a t i n Venus, born of the waters of the ear t h , and the medieval Mary, Queen of Nature, whose name i s derived from the La t i n MARE meaning "sea". 20

T r i n h Minh-ha states c a t e g o r i c a l l y t h a t the

Liquid/ocean association w i t h woman/mother i s not j u s t a f a c i l e play on words from the nineteenth century Romantics - MER/MERE. 21

T o r i l Moi confirms t h a t Cixous's contemporary l i n k i n g of female s e x u a l i t y

w i t h the w r i t t e n t e x t u a l i t y of f l u i d s begins w i t h ancient h e r s t o r i c a l and

symbolical reasons;

For Cixous, as f o r countless mythologies, water i s the feminine element par-excellence...contains and r e f l e c t s the comforting s e c u r i t y of the mother's womb. ...Her v i s i o n of feminine w r i t i n g i s . . . l o c a t e d w i t h i n the closure of the Lacanian Imaginary... I n the Imaginary, mother and c h i l d . . . a r e one. Cixous refuses t o accept the loss of that p r i v i l e g e d realm. The mother's voice, her breasts, m i l k , honey and female waters are a l l invoked as par t of an e t e r n a l l y present space surrounding her and her readers. 22

Cixous goes on to say s p e c i f i c a l l y that the sea i s a "word without water";

but i f a woman speaks, words resume t h e i r o r i g i n a l and o r i g i n a r y state

of meaning, responding as water does to a primeval t h i r s t . I n e f f e c t , i n

Cixous's p s y c h o l o g i c a l / p h i l o s o p h i c a l fantasy, the sea i s a metaphor f o r

woman, f o r her speech i s not dehydrated of i t s meaning.

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There i s almost nothing l e f t of the sea but a word without water: f o r we have t r a n s l a t e d the words,...emptied them of t h e i r speech, d r i e d , reduced, embalmed them... But a voice has only to say: the sea, the sea, f o r my keel to s p l i t open, the sea i s c a l l i n g me, sea! c a l l i n g me, waters! 23

Luce I r i g a r a y also demonstrates her own d e f i n i t i o n of f l u i d 'Womanspeak';

i t emerges spontaneously when women speak together, but disappears as soon as men are present. ...the f i r s t t h i n g t o be said about 'womanspeak' i s that nothing can be said about i t . . . " o n e speaks i t , i t cannot be metaspoken" 24

Moi confirms I r i g a r a y ' s " d e f i n i t i o n of woman's s t v l e " ^ ^ i s :

i t s i n t i m a t e connection w i t h f l u i d i t y and the sense of touch. 2 5

Cixous's 'Womanspeak' i s f a n t a s t i c and f l u i d and thus d i f f u s e , beyond the

comprehension of men because according to Cixous, they do not hear the

mysterious and my s t i c a l c a l l of the waters which s i g n i f y Woman. I r i g a r a y ' s

'Womanspeak' i s as i n t i m a t e l y f l u i d . This time i t i s not j u s t beyond the

comprehension of men, but beyond t h e i r experience. To I r i g a r a y , women

possess a mysterious and magic speech which not only cannot be heard by

men, but "disappears" as i f the women themselves were rendered i n v i s i b l e

and i n t a n g i b l e by the very presence of men - beyond touch and therefore

t r u e apprehension of female s e x u a l i t y . I n other words, i t could be said

t h a t i f 'Womanspeak' e x i s t s , i t i s forced t o become 'Pluralspeak' - a

series of homonyms i n which the same words possess d i f f e r e n t meanings

because of p o l a r i s e d contexts. Thus 'Womanspeak' s i g n i f i e s d i f f e r e n c e to

men f o r they hear i t i n t h e i r context, see i t from t h e i r viewpoint, sense

i t according t o t h e i r own surroundings. Thus her c a l l metamorphoses i n t o

something a l i e n . Or i s 'Womanspeak' i n deed something t h a t IS u t t e r l y

d i f f e r e n t i n utterance? I s i t her speech which s i g n i f i e s d i f f e r e n c e , as

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opposed to h i s conception of i t ?

I n her essay "The Mechanics of F l u i d s " , I r i g a r a v implies metaphors are

masculine co n s t r u c t s , rendering i t impossible to escape from the

pha l l o g o c e n t r i c p r i n c i p l e of language which governs the very d e f i n i t i o n of

t e x t u a l i t y . F l u i d s , most s i g n i f i c a n t l y embodied by the sea, have become

metaphors f o r women's s e x u a l i t y and therefore any t e x t u a l i t y regarding her.

The concept of the i n t r i n s i c s e x u a l i t y of metaphor, i n p a r t i c u l a r the

p o s s i b i l i t y of the inherent 'masculinization' of every metaphor, even

those which are supposedly 'feminine' l i k e the metaphor of f l u i d s , has i t s

t e x t u a l consequences. This i s e s p e c i a l l y so when bearing i n mind that

according t o Lacan, the feminine p r i n c i p l e does not acquire the status of

the Subject i n the t e x t . Therefore no metaphor w i l l possess any meaning

w i t h regard t o her. According to I r i g a r a y ' s argument, the feminine

p r i n c i p l e does acquire the status of the Subject - but i t i s subjected to a

s o l i d i f i c a t i o n of meaning i n which the d i f f u s e p l u r a l i t y of her sex i s

denied. Therefore her 'metaphor of f l u i d i t y ' has no place i n a meaning

which i s dominatingly masculine. I r i g a r a y objects t o

the p r i v i l e g e granted to metaphor (a quasi s o l i d ) over metonymy (more c l o s e l y a l l i e d to f l u i d s ) . . . a l l language i s metaphorical, and by denying t h i s , language f a i l s t o recognize the 'subject' of the unconscious and precludes i n q u i r y i n t o the subjection...of that subject to a symbolization that grants precedence to s o l i d s . ̂ 6

Thus, according t o such an apprehension of ' r e a l i t y ' , the p o s s i b i l i t y of

the metaphor of f l u i d s d e f i n i n g women's s e x u a l i t y and space w i t h i n the text

i s a paradox. Perhaps the s i g n i f i c a n c e of the metaphor of f l u i d s does not

e x i s t anyway, or more meaning than i s j u s t i f i e d i s imposed upon i t . This

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thought occurs i n The (M)other Tongue where there are

reservations about what might be c a l l e d that f e t i s h i z a t i o n of the female body i n r e l a t i o n to w r i t i n g . I t may be true that f e m i n i n i t y i n i t s q u i n t e s s e n t i a l embodiment, Motherhood, can provide a p r i v i l e g e d mode of access t o language and the mother tongue. What would worry me i s the c o d i f i c a t i o n , based on t h i s i n s i g h t , of woman's w r i t i n g and w r i t i n g s t y l e . I n recent French f e m i n i s t theory, one sees tendencies toward c e n t r a l i t y of woman's body and blood, closeness to nature, attunement t o q u a l i t y of 'voice' rather than to 'dry' meaning: elemental rhythms w i t h w r i t i n g as flow, ' l i q u i d ' syntax, l y r i c i s m at a l l costs...to see i n t h i s genre the one and only genuine mode of feminine w r i t i n g would...be a mistake. 27

This p o i n t i s p e r t i n e n t . Although such access to language and mother tongue

expressed by a d e s c r i p t i o n of motherhood provides but one marginal reading

of the t e x t , t h i s q u i n t e s s e n t i a l l y feminine r e l a t i o n s h i p between mother and

daughter i s a c r u c i a l p i v o t i n Wide Sargasso Sea and Annie John.

J.K.Gardiner comments th a t mothering i s more profound as a symbol of

f l u i d i t y i f the c h i l d i s a daughter and therefore embodies the p o t e n t i a l of

being the mother's mirror-image.

the f l u i d nature of female p e r s o n a l i t y arises s p e c i f i c a l l y from the mother's r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h her daughter... 28

However, T o r i l Moi points out t h a t regimenting the metaphor of f l u i d s i n

accordance w i t h the c a t e g o r i z a t i o n s o l i d / f l u i d implying the couple

male/female, i s t o continue c o n f i n i n g i t w i t h i n the p a t r i a r c h a l l i n e of

discourse. Moi discusses t h i s w i t h s p e c i f i c reference to I r i g a r a y ,

commenting t h a t her

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mimicry of the p a t r i a r c h a l equation between woman and f l u i d s , woman as l i f e - g i v i n g sea, source of blood, milk and amniotic f l u i d . . . o n l y succeeds i n r e i n f o r c i n g p a t r i a r c h a l discourse. This f a i l u r e i s due to her f i g u r i n g of f l u i d i t y as a p o s i t i v e a l t e r n a t i v e . . . i t i s no longer mockery of the a b s u r d i t i e s of the male, but a pe r f e c t reproduction of the a b s u r d i t i e s of the same. When the quotation marks are no longer apparent, I r i g a r a y f a l l s i n t o the very e s s e n t i a l i s t t r a p of d e f i n i n g woman t h a t she set out to avoid. ̂ 9

Yet, the j u s t i f i c a t i o n of the metaphor of f l u i d s w i th regard to women's

t e x t u a l i t y l i e s i n Gisela Ecker's p e r t i n e n t comment i n Feminist Aesthetics:

symbols are not n e u t r a l ; they come to us wi t h a h i s t o r y of c u l t u r a l associations, a whole 'sexual f i x ' ,

However Gardiner confirms Moi's t h i n k i n g ;

the simplest answer to the question of what characterizes women's w r i t i n g i s that nothing does. The next simplest.,.goes to the opposite extreme to f i n d d i f f e r e n c e i n e v i t a b l y s pringing from the f a c t of female embodiment... No one believes that women w r i t e only w i t h t h e i r bodies, but some people f e e l that women's w r i t i n g i s influenced by body consciousness, and some contemporary french w r i t e r s self-consciously produce 'feminine w r i t i n g ' l a v i s h w i t h such imagery. ...Such p e r s i s t e n t s e l f - c r e a t i o n may a f f e c t women's w r i t i n g , as i n Rhys's constant references to mirrors and cosmetics.

Gardiner describes the true pleasure of women i n w r i t i n g as l y i n g i n

w r i t i n g ' s i n v i s i b i l i t y , w i t h i t s . . . freedom not to be conventionally feminine, and i t s separation...from the traces of one's fl e s h y form. ̂ 2

Her argument i s an a n t i t h e s i s t o Cixous's and I r i g a r a y ' s f l u i d , and fleshy

female fa n t a s i e s which c o n s t i t u t e t h e i r w r i t i n g . Gardiner also comments on

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the m a r g i n a l i z a t i o n of women's w r i t i n g which she describes as being an

imposed and accepted concept, as opposed to being inherent. To Gardiner,

the d e s c r i p t i o n of women's w r i t i n g as being a form of marginalization i s a

pha l l o g o c e n t r i c conspiracy which some femi n i s t s are party t o :

The idea t h a t woman's w r i t i n g r e f l e c t s woman's experience appeals to common sense, but anti-humanist c r i t i c s challenge t h i s common sense 'expressive realism' and i t s preconception t h a t l i t e r a t u r e transparently expresses r e a l l i f e .

A common v a r i a n t of the idea that women's w r i t i n g r e f l e c t s women's experience i s the s p e c i f i c notion that the d i s t i n g u i s h i n g experience of women i s that of oppression or m a r g i n a l i z a t i o n w i t h i n a male-dominated c u l t u r e . 3 3

The advantage of t h i s theory i s that i t a l l i e s women's p o s i t i o n w i t h t h a t of other oppressed groups, and t h i s i s also i t s disadvantage, since i t does not d i f f e r e n t i a t e gender oppression from other oppressions.

such oppressions are complex and i n t e r a c t i v e i n t h e i r e f f e c t s .

A f u r t h e r v a r i a t i o n on the concept of women as an oppressed group i s the not i o n t h a t 'Woman'...is defined e x c l u s i v e l y as man's Other. ... ̂ 4

Theorist T o r i l Moi i s h o s t i l e to the whole issue of gender d i f f e r e n c e i n w r i t i n g . "The p u r s u i t of sex d i f f e r e n c e i n language i s not only a t h e o r e t i c a l i m p o s s i b i l i t y , but a p o l i t i c a l e r r o r , " Nonetheless, she suggests t h a t proper c o n t e x t u a l i z a t i o n can c l a r i f y some confusions,

Any context cannot e x i s t without the margins which define i t . Moi states

that 'proper c o n t e x t u a l i z a t i o n ' can c l a r i f y some confusion of sex

d i f f e r e n c e i n language, which according to her cannot t h e o r e t i c a l l y e x i s t .

Furthermore, i t s presumption r e s u l t s i n p o l i t i c a l consequences. However

to say confusion e x i s t s i n sexual d i f f e r e n t i a t i o n w i t h i n t e x t u a l i t y , i s

tantamount to a d m i t t i n g that sexual d i f f e r e n c e i n the t e x t e x i s t s . I t i s

the t r a d i t i o n a l bond between c r e a t i v i t y and context which Moi seeks to

q u a l i f y . This bond i s described by Simone de Beauvoir's famous and newly

q u a l i f i e d statement:

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"One i s not born a woman, one becomes a woman." ... t h i s statement can be reversed: one i s indeed born a woman, wi t h a physi c a l destiny programmed d i f f e r e n t l y from a man's, w i t h a l l the psychological and s o c i a l consequences l i n k e d to t h i s d i f f e r e n c e . . . . s u p e r i o r i t y and i n f e r i o r i t y are fragmentary evaluations l i n k e d w i t h s u b j e c t i v e judgments... Each of us w i l l draw his or her own conclusions... the human species, which i s c u l t u r a l by i t s very nature, i s the only species capable of conceiving i t s e l f as a species, to conceptualize sexes... 3 s

This i s u l t i m a t e l y because women are

Not a class. ...women are an i n f e r i o r caste. I n p r i n c i p l e , one can move to another class, but caste i s a

group i n t o which one i s born and cannot leave. ^7

I n deed, perhaps by our very attempts to explain the i d e n t i t y of feminine

t e x t u a l i t y , we destroy the heterogeneity of s e x u a l i t y i n l i n e w i th the

p o l i t i c a l l i m i t a t i o n s of caste. I n favour of Moi's argument, does

t e x t u a l i t y supersede se x u a l i t y ? Or are t e x t and gender woven i n t o one and

the same imaginative and psychological f a b r i c i n a type of t e x t u a l

i n t e r c o u r s e as impli e d by I r i g a r a y and Cixous? Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

comments:

the p o s s i b i l i t y of explanation c a r r i e s the presupposition of an explainable universe and an ex p l a i n i n g subject. These presuppositions assure our being. Explaining, we exclude the p o s s i b i l i t y of the r a d i c a l l y heterogeneous,

Gender d i f f e r e n c e s are r a d i c a l l y heterogeneous, and the context of t h e i r

heterogeneity must inf l u e n c e the cr e a t i o n of each t e x t . U l t i m a t e l y ,

explanation also p r o h i b i t s m a r g i n a l i z a t i o n and i t s p o t e n t i a l i t i e s of

d i f f e r e n t and more profound understanding. Instead, the p o l i t i c s of the

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ideology of explanation - 'common sense' i n more usual words - has become

the pinnacle of a u t o c r a t i c and a u t h o r i t a r i a n phallogocentrism. Spivak

summarizes:

although the p r o h i b i t i o n of m a r g i n a l i t y t h a t i s c r u c i a l i n the production of any explanation i s p o l i t i c s as such, what i n h a b i t s the p r o h i b i t e d margin of a p a r t i c u l a r explanation s p e c i f i e s i t s p a r t i c u l a r p o l i t i c s . 39

Thus the m a r g i n a l i t y that i s w r i t i n g by women requires not explanation but

i d e n t i f i c a t i o n . Explanation and i d e n t i f i c a t i o n i n t h i s case are one and

the same. The question t o be asked t h e r e f o r e , i s the question of speaking

as a woman. Perhaps there i s no answer - except that the question i s

s u f f i c i e n t as an answer i n i t s e l f . However i s the question of speaking as a

woman as s e l f - s u f f i c i e n t i n i t s e l f i n a masculine context as i t i s i n a

feminine? Maybe i t i s the feminine context which has to be analysed

thoroughly f i r s t - a f t e r a l l , her questions are already i n the exclusive

possession of metaphors which are i m p l i c i t l y masculine anyway. Shoshana

Felman comments i n her essay The C r i t i c a l Phallacy;

I s i t enough to be a woman i n order to speak as a woman? Is 'speaking as a woman' a f a c t determined by some b i o l o g i c a l c o n d i t i o n or by a s t r a t e g i c t h e o r e t i c a l p o s i t i o n , by anatomy or by culture? What i f "speaking as a woman' were not a simple ' n a t u r a l ' f a c t , could not be taken f o r granted? ''o

Spivak, i n her essay "New French Feminisms i n an I n t e r n a t i o n a l Frame"

echoes Felman's argument i n her question which stresses the double focus

faced by every woman i n every context. This double focus i s the expression

of her m a r g i n a l i z a t i o n :

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there has t o be a simultaneous other focus: not merely who am I? but who i s the other woman? How am I naming her? How does she name me? I s t h i s part of the problematic I discuss? Indeed, i t i s the absence of such unfeasible but c r u c i a l questions that makes the 'colonized woman' as 'subject'...

Thus speaking as a woman cannot be taken f o r granted. The woman of the

colony i s another caste apart. The woman who l i v e s on an is l a n d possesses

yet another sense of m a r g i n a l i t y . We have seen th a t the 'metaphor of

f l u i d s ' , f a r from being a s u p e r f i c i a l symbol stemming from the association

of MERE (mother) w i t h MER (sea), has m a r g i n a l i t i e s of meaning embracing the

e n t i r e question of the i d e n t i t y of the woman who wr i t e s - and what she

w r i t e s about. This i s what Annie John discovers when, on her f i r s t day at

school, every g i r l w r i t e s a composition. Annie's composition provokes such

an emotional response from her teacher and classmates a l i k e that i t i s

selected f o r the classroom l i b r a r y , and her company immediately becomes

much sought a f t e r . Her composition i s about her mother and the sea, and i t

i s the evocation of a dream i n which the ending i s e n t i r e l y of her own

making. The dream i s 't r u e ' , and the ending a make-belief - thus Annie's

s t o r y expresses an i n t e r f a c e of consciousness.

My mother was a superior swimmer. When she plunged i n t o the seawater, i t was as i f she had always l i v e d there. ... I , on the other hand, could not swim at a l l . ... The only way I could go i n t o the water was i f I was on my mother's back, my arms clasped t i g h t l y around her neck

When we swam around i n t h i s way, I would t h i n k how much we were l i k e the p i c t u r e s of sea mammals I had seen, my mother and I , naked i n the seawater... I would place my ear against her neck, and i t was as i f I were l i s t e n i n g to a giant s h e l l , f o r a l l the sounds around me - the sea, the wind, the bi r d s screeching - would seem as i f they came from i n s i d e her, the way the sounds of the sea are i n a seashell.

(AJ, p43)

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To Annie, her mother i n water i s a primeval creature so i n harmony with

t h i s f l u i d element t h a t she becomes an expression of an ageless memory of

the sensuousness of existence. The mother w i t h her u t t e r l y dependent baby

on her back i s an image of the amniotic bond of fecund maternity. I t i s as

i f they are one, i n a t r u l y naked and n a t u r a l r e l a t i o n s h i p with nothing

else between them. Annie's mother i s the embodiment of Cixous's airborne

swimmer and the f l u i d and feminine erogeneous. The elements and t h e i r

endlessness are pa r t of her, as i n d i s s o l u b l e as the echo of the waves i n a

s h e l l . Annie continues the account of her dream i n which she describes the

unfathomable sense of loss when she can no longer f i n d her mother i n the

sea. With h e r s e l f on the shore and unable t o swim, the awareness of

separation beween h e r s e l f and her mother i s a r e v e l a t i o n beyond bearing.

The sea becomes a symbol of separation and h o s t i l i t y , and she i s unable to

speak and describe the sensation t h a t f i l l s her, f o r "My tears ran down

i n t o my mouth, and i t was the f i r s t time that I r e a l i s e d tears had a b i t t e r

and s a l t y t a s t e . " (AJ, p44) The s a l t y waters had previously been so

i d e n t i f i e d w i t h her mother as a source of n u r t u r i n g love - as i t i s i n the

womb - tha t Annie had never before r e a l i s e d the sea as an e n t i t y i n i t s own

r i g h t , divorced from her mother and endowed wi t h the feel i n g s of

i s o l a t i o n . Yet her own tears are also s a l t y waters; she too forms and i s

pa r t of the substance of the sea i n her own r i g h t . She has learned

confusion and ambivalence w i t h regard to the sea, and i s o l a t i o n w ith regard

to h e r s e l f . Because of the sea, she becomes her own i s l a n d . I t i s w e l l to

remember the words of Ernest Becker;

Man l i v e s i n a world of symbols and dreams. ""̂

So too does Woman.

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MYSTIFICATION THROUGH LANGUAGE IS PERHAPS THE SUBTLEST AND MOST INSIDIOUS TECHNIQUE OF DOMINATION... HIS LANGUAGE TRANSLATES HIS WORLD TO MEANING. HIS LANGUAGE IS HIS ARTICULATED BEING... IF HIS LANGUAGE BETRAYS HIM, HIS EXPERIENCE IS DEFORMED.

Chris Searle ̂

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V. THE COLONIZATION OF LANGUAGE

Chris Searle's statement theorizes the denial of black people by white

f i g u r e s of speech, the e x p l o i t a t i o n of the colony by an imperial l e g a l

system, and the be t r a y a l of women by language which i s a construction of

masculine metaphors. The previous chapter has observed that some women

have i n one s t r a t e g i c l i n e of defense, proceeded to attempt to demystify

themselves by using t h e i r own m y s t i f y i n g , d i f f u s e language. Of which the

paramount example i s the metaphor of f l u i d s - and i n p a r t i c u l a r the

symbolism of the sea.

Difference i n language has consequences f o r female Caribbean

consciousness. As Trinh Minh-ha comments, every d e t a i l of human existence

i s sewn i n t o the f a b r i c of time, f o r "Every gesture, every word, involves

our past, present, and f u t u r e . " 2 Caribbean h i s t o r y , w i t h i t s

complications of c o l o n i s a t i o n and therefore of c u l t u r e , has i t s

consequences f o r the status of i t s women. H i s t o r i c a l l y , the evaluation of

women of the Caribbean by t h e i r men and masters have not only demarcated

them as separate but deemed them i n f e r i o r . Therefore t h e i r c u l t u r e and

inh e r i t a n c e of Caribbean h i s t o r y i s d i f f e r e n t , and perhaps i t i s more t r u l y

defined as t h e i r HERstory. Their herstory would be that of the tra d i n g of

commodities, f o r tha t has been woman's t r a d i t i o n a l evaluation i n the

marriage marketplace, even i f they were no longer slave commodities. Yet,

i t i s only a f t e r marriage that the Caribbean woman t r a d i t i o n a l l y derives

any status of her own, paradoxically a f t e r she belongs to a man. Pat

E l l i s comments "The image of the strong, independent and dominant Caribbean

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statement;

"Now t h a t you are married, you are your own woman." ̂

Annie John baulks against t h i s f a t e f o r accompanying i t i s the r e a l i s a t i o n

of her e s s e n t i a l d i f f e r e n c e , and u l t i m a t e l y separation from her mother.

The case of the creole woman i s no d i f f e r e n t . Wed by English Law, her

s e l f and her property become the property of her husband. This i s

i l l u s t r a t e d i n Rhys's t e x t . For the woman i n the Caribbean, whether creole

or n a t i v e , marriage i s a sexual imposition w i t h no t e x t u a l r i g h t s .

Pat E l l i s also describes the se x i s t imposition w i t h i n language i n

which women are l i t e r a l l y forced to speak a d i f f e r e n t language. This

d i f f e r e n c e i n language has i t s c u l t u r a l overtones;

The s t r i c t sexual d i v i s i o n of labour i n ca r i b settlements was re i n f o r c e d by language differences between men and women; men spoke one language, and women another... The male bias i n Caribbean h i s t o r y i n t e r p r e t e d the sexual r e l a t i o n s between white c o l o n i a l i s t s and slave women as instances of women's treacherous c o l l u s i o n w i t h oppressors... '*

The Caribbean male refused to see tha t i n most cases of sexual l i a s o n , the

slave women was oppressed i n t o i t s performance. Edward Brathwaite points

out that t h i s oppression had i r r e v e r s i b l e consequences f o r the o r i g i n s -

and o r i g i n a l i t y - of Caribbean c u l t u r e which has become in h e r e n t l y creole.

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i t was i n the i n t i m a t e area of sexual relationships...where the most s i g n i f i c a n t - and l a s t i n g i n t e r c u l t u r a t i o n took place. ... The coloured population was an admission of t h i s i n t e r a c t i o n ( r e s u l t i n g i n ) . . . p h y s i c a l and metaphysical e f f e c t s as w e l l . ... This slow, u n c e r t a i n but organic process...is what we mean by c r e o l i z a t i o n . ... Here were two cu l t u r e s of people, having t o adapt themselves to a new environment and to each other. The f r i c t i o n created by t h i s c o n f r o n t a t i o n was c r u e l , but i t was also c r e a t i v e . =

Brathwaite should make q u i t e clear that t h i s d e f i n i t i o n of creole c u l t u r e

i s not simply confined to coloured people. Creole c u l t u r e i s a colouring,

not a colour. The colo u r i n g i s derived from the country of settlement, not

the colour of skins. Brathwaite discusses the etymological root of

'Creole':

'Creole' appears to have o r i g i n a t e d from a combination of two Spanish words: CRIAR (to create, to imagine, t o e s t a b l i s h , to found, to s e t t l e ) and COLON (a c o l o n i s t , a founder, a s e t t l e r ) i n t o CRIOLLO: a comitted s e t t l e r , one i d e n t i f i e d w i t h the area of settlement, one native to the settlement though not a n c e s t r a l l y indigenous to i t . . . 6

The c r e a t i o n of a creole c u l t u r e i s an unconscious and n a t u r a l evolutionary

process of b l u r r i n g the r i g i d margin between the Black/White d e f i n i t J o n of

people which has so confined and condemned the c o l o n i z a t i o n of the

Caribbean. P.M.Sherlock quotes Naipaul i n The Mimic Men:

I t was one of the tragedies of slavery and of the con d i t i o n s under which c r e o l i z a t i o n had to take place, t h t i t should have produced...mimicry. ... w i t h i n our c u l t u r e , the very word and notion of mimicry i s loaded w i t h p l u r a l meanings.

The question i s , can a black man ever express himself w i t h white man's

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words without compromising himself? Can the colonized describe his freedom

i n the syntax of an i m p e r i a l power? Can woman voice her s e l f i n a t e x t u a l

f a b r i c t h a t i s her a n t i t h e s i s ? Does the Object, the 'Other', have to

metamorphose i n t o the Subject before h i s vehicle of expression becomes

t r u l y his? Do words have t o become homonyms when used by a d i f f e r e n t race

and gender of people? Can words therefore encompass the p l u r a l margins of

meaning belonging separately t o Subject and Object, or i s t h i s p l u r a l i t y

i t s e l f the very d e f i n i t i o n of t h e i r separate m a r g i n a l i t i e s ? Maurice

Blanchot states c a t e g o r i c a l l y ;

I n t h i s world language i s the essence of power. I t i s the powerful and v i o l e n t who speak. ... Thus language imposes the d i a l e c t i c of master and slave which obsesses us... The slave only hears. To speak i s what matters... ^

The speech of the slave i s summarily degraded i f not completely silenced.

Susan Sontag observes, "Behind the appeals f o r silence l i e s the wish f o r a

perceptual and c u l t u r a l clean s l a t e " . ^ I t was the slave who by necessity

employed s i l e n c e , sometimes a silence cowed beneath the lash. Perhaps

more i n s i d i o u s l y and d e v a s t a t i n g l y , the slave embraced the s i l e n c i n g of his

speech and t h e r e f o r e of himself by mimicking the white man - f o r that was

where the power l a y . This c u l t u r a l clean s l a t e enabled the copying of the

white man's language, r e s u l t i n g i n the metaphorical whitewashing of the

black man's consciousness.

...the words and sayings of the f o l k m i r r o r r e d t h i s world of contempt and hate, and captured i t s corrosive q u a l i t y . ... buckra was 'white man'...and the word became an a d j e c t i v e describing the best q u a l i t y : eg b u c k r a yam. ... I n white and brown C r e o l e s o c i e t y honourable A f r i c a n day names like...C u f f e e f o r Friday were applied d e r i s i v e l y t o blacks. Cuffee meant a s t u p i d person. ... The word mulatto was taken over

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from the Spanish to designate i n i t i a l l y white/black, then any person of mixed blood. The d e f i n i t i o n of race was complex to the p o i n t of lunacy...mulatto/white was mustee or mustefino. Sambo was black/brown. i°

The t i n i e s t t r a c e of black was defined t o the u l t i m a t e negative po i n t .

Black people were t r e a t e d as commodities, and commodities are speechless.

Jamaica Kincaid confirms t h i s poignantly;

Do you know why people l i k e me are shy about being c a p i t a l i s t s ? Well, i t ' s because we, f o r as long as we have known you, WERE c a p i t a l , l i k e bales of cotton and sacks of sugar, and you were the commanding, c r u e l , c a p i t a l i s t s , and the memory of t h i s i s so strong, the experience so recent t h a t we can't q u i t e b r i n g ourselves to embrace t h i s idea that you t h i n k so much of.

The c o n d i t i o n of slavery i t s e l f demonstrates the f a l s e but convenient

a p p r o p r i a t i o n by white oppressors of the l a b e l l i n g bond of colour. Colour

was immediately a badge of slavery - but the 'indigeneous' (meaning native

and Creole) slaves themselves r e j e c t e d any kinship w i t h the newly captured

and imported A f r i c a n s , c a l l i n g them f o r e i g n , h u m i l i a t i n g them, and thus

d e r i v i n g a a r t i f i c i a l and insecure sense of s u p e r i o r i t y . This was an

i n h e r i t e d c u l t u r a l i m p o s i t i o n of hierarchy i m i t a t e d from t h e i r white

masters. Creole blacks f e l t and were d i f f e r e n t c u l t u r a l l y , and sometimes

r a c i a l l y , from A f r i c a n blacks. But to the white man i n charge, black was

black and obviously d i f f e r e n t from white and that was a l l that mattered.

Rhys has Rochester say to A n t o i n e t t e , "Slavery was not a matter of l i k i n g

or d i s l i k i n g ... I t was a question of j u s t i c e . " (WSS, pl21) This

i n e r a d i c a b l e c o l o u r i n g of c u l t u r e t r a n s l a t e d i t s e l f i n t o the white man's

in e q u i t a b l e sense of j u s t i c e , w i t h consequences f o r Caribbean h i s t o r y

h e r e a f t e r .

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This saw the establishment of two s o c i e t i e s , two worlds... one European-centred w i t h European laws, i n s t i t u t i o n s , languages and c u l t u r e s ; and the other a black world of dispossessed and displaced f o l k , who grad u a l l y developed t h e i r own f o l k - i n s t i t u t i o n s , coded ways of speech... I t was not the merging and shaping of a s i n g l e society out of these two diverse communities...but two l i k e c i r c l e s , i n t e r s e c t e d each other... 12

The t e x t s by Rhys and Kincaid are a d e s c r i p t i o n of these two worlds with

t h e i r marginal i n t e r s e c t i o n s . The c o l o n i s a t i o n of the Caribbean caused

confinement w i t h i n the l i m i t e d d e f i n i t i o n of co l o u r i n g ; t h i s i s i t s

oppression. P.M.Sherlock begins his h i s t o r y of "West Indian Nations" with

the statement "The s t o r y of the people of the Caribbean begins with the

nature of the region i t s e l f " . But which speech does the story of the

people of the Caribbean begin with? I s i t speech 'natural' to the region,

a tru e 'mother tongue'; or the presence of an adopted, imposed speech, the

'tongue of the white fathers'? Throughout h i s t o r y , Caribbean speech and

u l t i m a t e l y l i t e r a t u r e , has become coloured by a white, imperial and

masculine c u l t u r e . The words Sherlock uses to describe h i s region i s 'West

In d i e s ' . The 'West In d i e s ' echo the 'East In d i e s ' , the 'Far East' and the

'Middle East' - and the only t h i n g the names of these heterogeneous regions

have i n common i s that they are a l l l a b e l l e d r e l a t i v e to a white European

focus which presumes i t s e l f the centre. White power renders these

abs t r a c t i o n s t a n g i b l e , and misconception becomes deception.

The a l t e r n a t i v e d e s c r i p t i o n of the region, the 'Caribbean', i s another

example of the c o l o u r i n g power of language. The word 'Caribbean' i s derived

from 'Carib', the name of a t r i b e which i s but one amongst many. To name

the whole region the 'Caribbean' does not acknowledge the existence of

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the whole region the 'Caribbean' does not acknowledge the existence of

other t r i b a l people l i k e the Arawaks. Yet the name of the Carib t r i b e

p e r s i s t s i n c o l o u r i n g the whole region, and not only that but also the Sea

which these diverse islands share i n common. Such a name, and such naming,

confers a semblance of u n i t y and shared inh e r i t a n c e which may more than i n

a c t u a l f a c t and deed e x i s t . Also, to c a l l the Caribs the indigeneous

t r i b a l people of the Caribbean may be as misleading a misnomer as

de s c r i b i n g t h i s c l u s t e r of disparate islands the 'Caribbean' or 'West

I n d i e s ' ; f o r the Caribs were themselves migrants, and not the only ones,

from the Americas.

The people who inhabited the islands at the time when Columbus a r r i v e d were the l a t e or neo-Indians; some speaking Arawakan, and others Cariban. They migrated from Venezuela... The Arawaks...were wiped out i n the f i r s t century of Spanish Occupation. The Amerindians of T r i n i d a d survived u n t i l the early 19th Century and we s t i l l use many of t h e i r place names. The only Amerindians l e f t i n the islands are i n the Carib Reserve

In t h e i r mythology the Caribs consider themselves the f i r s t of the Indian t r i b e s . They speak of themselves as 'the' people, and of t h e i r language as 'the' language.

The forebears of the Caribans were themselves mistakenly named on being

'discovered'. They were described as 'Indians' regardless of what they

named themselves, because the explorers thought they had discovered I n d i a .

Discovery brings w i t h i t the prerogative of arrogance which s w i f t l y

m a t e r i a l i s e s i t s e l f i n t o conquest, oprression and e x p l o i t a t i o n . Perhaps

there i s an i r o n i c v a l i d i t y i n the d e s c r i p t i o n 'West Indies', a f t e r a l l .

The Amerindians who emigrated to the Caribbean had i n the past been c a l l e d

'Indians' when they were discovered i n the Americas. They were simply

given the same name when they were 'rediscovered' i n the 'West Indies' f o r

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othpr, the savage. One arrogant and a c q u i s i t i v e mistake compounds another,

perpetuates i t and makes i t ' r i g h t ' . I t i s s i g n i f i c a n t that the memory of

the Amerindians i s continued by t h e i r place names - i t i s the l a s t of t h e i r

r i t u a l s to have survived and w i t h i t the consciousness of t h e i r c u l t u r e and

race.

There seems no r e c a l l of people before the Caribs (and Arawaks). This

im p l i e s they were the f i r s t people t o migrate to the isla n d s , hence they

are not described as immigrants. They were not a guest people imposing

upon a host. Neither were they invaders nor conquerors. The l a b e l 'the'

which i s s e l f - g i v e n describes the status of being supposedly f i r s t , and

th e r e f o r e by as s o c i a t i o n , the most important. 'The' i s a self-r e g a r d i n g

symbol of s t a t u s . The Caribs at present survive i n a 'Reserve'. However

t h i s ' r e s e r v a t i o n ' i s not the i m p l i c a t i o n of p r i v i l e g e , but rather the

u l t i m a t e consequence of e x p l o i t a t i o n - a race being reduced to almost

nothing. I t i s a d e s c r i p t i o n of physical and emotional b a r r i e r s keeping

people w i t h i n and people without. (One such emotional b a r r i e r i s the

c l i c h c d ' B r i t i s h reserve'). What i s i t that happens which makes a people a

token people; and what happens to them once they have become a token

people?

They have become marginalized and set aside, and i n the case of the

Caribs, given token land marked as a 'Reservation'. The p a r c e l l i n g out of

land i s by | h s t o r i c a l d e f i n i t i o n the formation of a colony. )

COLONIA, that i s to say, a settlement of...grants of land i n the surrounding t e r r i t o r i u m administered by the town, ...the term COLONIA also meant that an e x i s t i n g town or c i t y was accorded special municipal status.

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... The establishment of a COLONIA was always a matter of e x p l i c i t i m p e r i a l p o l i c y .

The Caribbean may not be Roman B r i t a i n although there have been e f f o r t s to

transform i t i n t o B r i t i s h Caribbean, but the i m p e r i a l sentiment of

p a r c e l l i n g out land i n order to form a colony i s the same. A colony i s

thus a d e f i n i t i o n of land acknowledging the presence of power i n the

i n t e r e s t s of people other than the natives. The l o t of the Carib people,

those who l e n t t h e i r name to the rest of t h i s region of islands, mirrors

the l o t of the e n t i r e Caribbean. Trinh Minh-ha confirms that independence

and a sense of i d e n t i t y i s i n t i m a t e l y bound w i t h a sense of regional

belonging:

Self-determination begins w i t h d i v i s i o n of the land. ... " d i f f e r e n c e " i s e s s e n t i a l l y " d i v i s i o n " i n the understanding of many.

D i v i s i o n i s also d i f f e r e n c e i n the understanding of many. The d i v i s i o n of

land i s i n t i m a t e l y bound w i t h a sense of regional - sometimes

i r r e c o n c i l i a b l e - d i f f e r e n c e s . Having o u t l i n e d the physical l i n e s

of demarcation by b u i l d i n g up borders and border c o n t r o l .

they work toward your erasure while urging you t o keep your way of l i f e and ethnic values w i t h i n the BORDERS of your homelands. This i s c a l l e d the p o l i c y of "separate development" i n apartheid language. Tactics have changed since c o l o n i a l times; indigenous c u l t u r e s are no longer o v e r t l y destroyed. You may keep your t r a d i t i o n a l law and t r i b a l customs among yourselves, as long as you and your own kind are c a r e f u l not to step beyond the assigned l i m i t s . "̂̂

Geoffrey Hartman observes that t h i s divisiveness manifests i t s e l f i n more

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d e f i n i t i o n s of m a r g i n a l i t i e s . The existence of a margin necessitates the

l i m i t a t i o n s of f i n i t e space. A margin i s a border w i t h i n a border, and the

inner border delineates two concepts of space - one c e n t r a l , the other,

p e r i p h e r a l . Thus, the framework of a c u l t u r e has i t s margins, as i t s

lands have t h e i r borders. D i v i s i o n w i l l r e s u l t i n

more frames by v i r t u e of the f a c t that the frame s t a r t s breaking up. The contained manifests i t s e l f , but part of the contained i s the container.

I n other words, p a r t of the periphery i s contained i n the centre, and part

of the centre manifests i t s e l f i n i t s margins. There are p o l i t i c a l

consequences. Edward Said voices an emphatic opinion on ma r g i n a l i t y as the

consequence of the p a r c e l l i n g out of land;

I do not believe i n p a r t i t i o n , not only at a p o l i t i c a l and demographic l e v e l , but on a l l sorts of other i n t e l l e c t u a l and s p i r i t u a l ones. The whole idea of p a r c e l i n g out pieces f o r communities i s j u s t t o t a l l y wrong. Any notion of p u r i t y - that such and such t e r r i t o r y i s e s s e n t i a l l y the P a l e s t i n i a n or I s r a e l i homeland - i s j u s t an idea t h a t i s t o t a l l y i n a u t h e n t i c . . .

The notion of struggle...of everyone qua r r e l i n g over t e r r i t o r y . . . That's how i t r e l a t e s to questions of i n f l u e n c e and why i t i s now c a l l e d " i n t e r t e x u a l i t y " .

Any form of p a r t i t i o n i n g u l t i m a t e l y r e s u l t s i n the appropriation,

tr a n s f o r m a t i o n , occupation and e x p l o i t a t i o n of one c u l t u r e by another.

S i m i l a r l y , the m a r g i n a l i t i e s i n every t e x t create w i t h i n i t the p o t e n t i a l

of becoming a powerful discourse, wielding r e a l power. This i s the

s t r u g g l e of i n t e r t e x t u a l i t y . Kincaid's A Small Place i s one such polemic.

I t i s a d e s c r i p t i o n of the struggle of i n t e r t e x t u a l i t y , expressing the

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discord of transplanted and imposed influence w i t h i n a colonized and

c r e o l i z e d c u l t u r e as described i n Annie John and Wide Sargasso Sea.

Whereas language i s merely speech or w r i t i n g viewed ' o b j e c t i v e l y ' as a

series of signs without a subject, 'discourse' means "language ta n g i b l y

grasped as utterance, i n v o l v i n g speaking and w r i t i n g subjects and

t h e r e f o r e p o t e n t i a l l y readers or l i s t e n e r s " . 2 0 Thus discourse has the

r e a l p o t e n t i a l of embodying p o l i t i c a l a t t i t u d e s accompanied by physical

power. Figures of speech become statesmen who make h i s t o r y . H i s t o r i c a l

discourse i s not j u s t t e x t u a l play, i t i s produced w i t h i n the r e a l world of

power s t r u g g l e . Discourse, therefore t e x t u a l i t y , i s a c e n t r a l human

a c t i v i t y and i n Raman Selden's phrase - "a violence we do to things". 21

This violence i s o f t e n the accompaniment to p a r t i t i o n i n g .

Brathwaite describes the c o l o n i z a t i o n of the Caribbean as continuous

e x p l o i t a t i o n f o r f i v e hundred years since i t s 'discovery' by Europe. A

violence has been done to the Caribbean by Europe. The Caribbean i s , or at

l e a s t was, a region of impressive n a t u r a l resources, but Europe to i t s own

advantage devised a d i v i s i v e system s o c i a l l y and geographically ruinous f o r

the n a t i v e s .

M e r c a n t i l i s t system of trade i n raw materials extracted from the region: gold, s i l v e r , tobacco, sugar, o i l s , b a u xite, banana: owned, supervised and c o n t r o l l e d by the metropole. I n exchange the Caribbean received c e r t a i n selected goods at s t e a d i l y i n f l a t e d and c o n t r o l l e d p r i c e s . This system, q u i t e n a t u r a l l y , i n h i b i t e d the n a t u r a l growth of the Caribbean economy, and created a dependence on expensive imported products. 22

One such legacy of e x p l o i t a t i o n i s the contemporary dependance of the

Caribbean economy upon tourism - imports of e x p l o i t i n g people. Jamaica

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Kincaid describes t o u r i s t f a r e i n these terms;

A good guess i s that i t came from a place l i k e Antigua f i r s t , where i t was grown dirt-cheap, went to Miami, and came back. There i s a world of something i n t h i s , but I can't go i n t o i t r i g h t now. 23

Tourism i s as e x p l o i t a t i v e as enslavement, and though less overt, i t i s

more c u l t u r a l l y i n s i d i o u s . Susan Sontag describes

Travel as accumulation. The co l o n i a l i s m of the soul...however w e l l - i n t e n t i o n e d . 24

Tourism i s a new commercial form of c o l o n i z a t i o n . Jamaica Kincaid conveys

vehemently

That the na t i v e does not l i k e the t o u r i s t i s not hard t o ex p l a i n . For every native of every place i s a p o t e n t i a l t o u r i s t , and every t o u r i s t i s a native somewhere. Every n a t i v e everywhere l i v e s a l i f e of overwhelming and crushing b a n a l i t y and boredom... But... - most natives i n the world - cannot go anywhere. They are too poor...so when the natives see you, the t o u r i s t , they envy...your a b i l i t y to t u r n t h e i r own b a n a l i t y and boredom i n t o a source of pleasure f o r v o u r s e l f . 23

T r i n h Minh-ha has t h i s t o say about the d e f i n i t i o n of the 'native'

language i s one of the most complex forms of subjugation, being at the same time the locus of power and of unconscious s e r v i l i t y . ... such i s the r e l a t i o n between we, the na t i v e s , and they, the natives. Terming us the 'natives' focusses on our innate q u a l i t i e s and our belonging to a p a r t i c u l a r place by b i r t h ; terming them the 'natives', on t h e i r being born i n f e r i o r and 'non-European'. ... As homonyms, these two natives sometimes claim t o merge and other times hear nothing of each other. ... From "Forget who you are and

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f o r g e t me not" to "know who you are and copy me not", the p o i n t of view i s the same: "Be l i k e us"... Don't be us... Just be " l i k e " and bear the chameleon's f a t e . 26

To be n a t i v e i s to claim status synonymous w i t h the place of b i r t h . Trinh

points out the p l u r a l i t i e s of meaning i n the term 'native' are symptoms of

an i m p e r i a l power imposing upon the colony the i n f e r i o r status of being

marginal, a simulacrum ra t h e r than the Subject. When the natives of a

colony are described, termed, and named 'Natives' w i t h a c a p i t a l l e t t e r ,

they are transformed i n t o c a p i t a l . The process of naming then becomes an

a r t i f i c i a l n o t i o n of 'acceptance' i n c l u s i v e of b a r r i e r s , therefore of

meaning i n c l u s i v e of d i v i s i v e margins. Naming i s a r i t u a l of d e f i n i t i o n and

p r o t e c t i o n . A n t o i n e t t e says, "Naming i s a form of obeah too" - and

Rochester's i n s i s t a n c e on c a l l i n g her Bertha i s the beginning of her

metamorphosis i n t o the character of the mad Creole conceived by Bronte. I t

i s also s i g n i f i c a n t t h a t Antoinette c a l l s h e r s e l f a f t e r her mother Annette

w i t h 'Toi' - french f o r the second person - couched i n between; and that

Annie's mother names her daughter a f t e r her s e l f . A name thus becomes a

bequest of i d e n t i f i c a t i o n - s e l f - i d e n t i f i c a t i o n as a mirror-image of the

mother, and s e l f - s e p a r a t i o n describing one's d i f f e r e n c e from the other.

'Annie' and 'Antoinette' are v a r i a t i o n s on the same name shared with t h e i r

mothers. Of the s i g n i f i c a n c e of names, Susan Sontag c i t e s Rainer Maria

Rilke's d e s c r i p t i o n of

the naming of th i n g s , ... A tremendous s p i r i t u a l p reparation i s required f o r t h i s deceptively simple act of naming. 27

T o r i l Moi suggests that the p r o f u n d i t y of naming i s a way of the Subject

coping w i t h the Other. Naming i s an act of the Ego d e f i n i n g not j u s t the

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centre of the s e l f , but the other p e r s o n a l i t i e s d e f i n i n g the margins of

the s e l f and th e r e f o r e describing the ego as a whole.

To impose names i s . . . n o t only an act of power, i t also reveals a desire to regulate and organize r e a l i t y according t o well- d e f i n e d categories. ... as Brecht put i t i n Mann i s t Mann "When you name yo u r s e l f , you name another". 28

T r i n h Minh-ha describes even more emphatically the status a name gives to

one's c u l t u r a l sense of being a person, part of the very f a b r i c of

humanity.

Naming i s par t of the human r i t u a l s of i n c o r p o r a t i o n , and the unnamed remains less human than the inhuman or sub-human. 29

Naming i s a r i t u a l endowing a r i g h t - and Rochester's renaming of

An t o i n e t t e i s a v i o l a t i o n of her s e l f . Not only i s Antoinette forced by

the English l e g a l system t o renounce her 'proper' name and take on h i s , he

also forces her, by the impos i t i o n of his w i l l , to change her most

i n t i m a t e and personal name r e s u l t i n g i n the inner core of her emotional

s e l f g i v i n g way. Christophine, the embodiment of Pat E l l i s ' s independent

and resourceful Caribbean woman, has three c h i l d r e n "each one a d i f f e r e n t

f a t h e r , but no husband, I thank my God. ... Law! The Mason boy f i x i t ,

t h a t boy worse than Satan..." (WSS, p91) Christophine i s the a n t i t h e s i s of

the t r a d i t i o n a l r o l e of the woman married according to English Law. She has

only contempt f o r husbands and the l e g a l system they embody. When

Ant o i n e t t e l i v e s according to a norm a l i e n t o her, i t culminates i n the

u l t i m a t e d e n i a l of h e r s e l f . Sandra G i l b e r t and Susan Gubar describe

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woman's enforced d e n i a l of he r s e l f i n more c a t e g o r i c a l terms:

For woman i n our c u l t u r e , a proper name i s at best problematic...designating her r o l e as her father's daughter...erases her own p o s i t i o n . . . Her 'proper'name, t h e r e f o r e , i s always i n a way improper because i t i s not i n the french sense, PROPRE, her own e i t h e r to have or to give. With what l e t t e r s , then can a woman...perpetuate the most elementary trace of her i d e n t i t v ? 3°

This comment i s confirmed by Xaviere Gauthier who quotes Monique W i t t i g :

Women...do not have a proper name: "That which i d e n t i f i e s them l i k e the eye of the cyclops, t h e i r s i n g l e forename."

An t o i n e t t e i s denied even t h i s i n s i g h t ; and Annie i s but a r e p e t i t i o n of

her mother i n the sense of the same shared name accompanied by the f i x t u r e

of the husband and f a t h e r - Mrs. Annie JOHN and Miss. Annie JOHN. As

Antoi n e t t e says, "Names matter, l i k e when he wouldn't c a l l me Antoinette,

and I saw An t o i n e t t e d r i f t i n g out of the window..." (WSS, pl 4 7 ) . Jacques

Derrida's i n s i g h t i s tha t the name i s always under erasure anyway, because

the bestowing of the proper name, something no society can avoid, i s inh a b i t e d by the s t r u c t u r e of w r i t i n g . For the phrase 'proper name' s i g n i f i e s a c l a s s i f i c a t i o n . . . Thus the proper name, as soon as i t i s understood as such, i s no longer f u l l y unique and proper to the holder. The proper name i s always already common by v i r t u e of belonging t o the category 'proper'. I t i s always already under erasure.

...The n a r c i s s i s t i c desire to make one's 'proper' name 'common', to be one wi t h the body of the mother tongue; and simultaneously the Oedipal desire to preserve one's proper name as the analogon of the name of the f a t h e r . 32

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But does woman have a choice as to where her n a r c i s s i t i c desires, focussed

by her name, should l i e and express themselves? Does she t r u l y possess the

Oedipal desire and choice f o r her name to be one w i t h the f a t h e r , or i s i t

rat h e r a 'choice' t h r u s t upon her? To be one wi t h the mother tongue,

p a r t i c u l a r l y as expressed by the metaphor of f l u i d i t y i n texts such as

those by I r i g a r a y and Cixous, may be an exercise as the a n t i t h e s i s of

the Language of the Father and thus an attempt t o f i n d her t e x t u a l freedom.

I f woman i s not even allowed the r i t u a l r i g h t of owning her own i d e n t i t y i n

the form of a name - where, then, i s her place i n a c u l t u r e , especially the

c r e o l i z e d c u l t u r e of a colony? Pat E l l i s h i g h l i g h t s m a t t e r - o f - f a c t l y a

p e r t i n e n t p o i n t which i s o f t e n overlooked by Freudian and Lacanian

a n a l y s i s ;

A l l women play c r i t i c a l roles i n c u l t u r e . As c h i l d n u r t u r e r s and teachers, they transmit the values of that s o c i e t y . ̂ 3

T r i n h echoes t h i s w i t h her statement "the mother's body i s the l i n k between

c u l t u r e and nature, and as such must play a conserving r o l e . . . " 3" - t h i s

i s e s p e c i a l l y shown i n Annie John. Thus the key r o l e a mother plays with

the c h i l d i s not simply only during the 'mirror stage' when the c h i l d ' s

consciousness i s at one w i t h the mother, but continues through adolescence

and adulthood. Therefore the r o l e of women i n c u l t u r e cannot by d e f i n i t i o n

be marginal - yet she i s relegated to the borders of i d e n t i t y and given

marginal meaning by being unnnamed. Therefore i t i s perhaps the term

' c u l t u r e ' i t s e l f which has to be defined, and wi t h i t the question to which

c u l t u r e does woman belong. I s i t mainstream or marginal, or i s she j u s t

shored up on the edge of the text? M.F.Montagu dicusses the o r i g i n of the

concept of c u l t u r e by probing i t s etymological roots:

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The word 'Culture' derives from the L a t i n CULTURA and CULTUS,... Both words were used o r i g i n a l l y i n an a t t r i b u t i v e , f u n c t i o n a l s e n s e . . . c u l t i v a t i o n of something. CULTURA occurs f i r s t i n the composite AGRI CULTURA...cultivating of the s o i l . . . Middle Ages, occasi o n a l l y worship of God r e f e r r e d to as AGRICULTURA DEI... Cicero speaks of CULTURA ANIMI, c u l t i v a t i o n of the mind... Thus, common feature of a l l kinds of c u l t i v a t i o n . . . c o n t r o l and orga n i z a t i o n , refinement and sublimation of nature.

I n t h i s way, a t t r i b u t i v e f u n c t i o n a l uses of CULTURA and CULTUS fused i n t o the general and substantive term 'CULTURE'... This change from a t t r i b u t i v e t o substantive s i g n i f i c a n c e implies a turn from the representation of CULTURA, c u l t i v a t i o n , as an a c t i v i t y t o the concept of c u l t u r e as an established c o n d i t i o n , s t a t e of being, c i v i l i z e d . 3 '

When Pat E l l i s comments th a t a l l women play a c r u c i a l r o l e i n c u l t u r e , and

when Trinh states t h a t women are the actual conservors of c u l t u r e , do they

mean women are purely c u l t i v a t o r s of c h i l d r e n as nurterers and teachers

(both roles o f t e n synthesised i n the r o l e of motherhood)? Or do they imply

Montagu's d e s c r i p t i o n of the concept of c u l t u r e as an established

c o n d i t i o n and s t a t e of being, which we have so f a r seen to be in h e r e n t l y

and dominantly male. Also, ' c i v i l i z a t i o n ' i n a colony i s a white,

i m p e r i a l concept. Maurice Blanchot defines ' c u l t u r e ' i n a s i m i l a r vein:

C u l t u r e . . . i s based on the notion of humanism...that man i s n a t u r a l l y r e f l e c t e d i n h i s works and never d i s t i n c t from himself, that progress i s continuous, an u n i n t e r r u p t i b l e c o n t i n u i t y which ensures the flow of past i n t o present, since c u l t u r e and accumulation go hand i n hand. 3 6

This brings t o mind Susan Sontag's comment that t r a v e l as accumulation i s

the c o l o n i a l i s m of the soul. Blanchot's d e f i n i t i o n of c u l t u r e i s material

and t e x t u a l ( w i t h regard t o the 'works' of man) and o p t i m i s t i c a l l y

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humanist. But what happens when ' c u l t u r e ' becomes a c o l o n i a l imposition, a

hy b r i d i n a f o r e i g n and e x p l o i t e d land? Man himself became a source of

accumulation, as i n the Caribbean colonies where the black man was white

man's c a p i t a l . Women both black and white, were t r e a t e d as c h a t t e l w ith

the d i f f e r e n t status of the l a t t e r merely 'elevated' by the p r i v i l e g e d

l a b e l of marriage. Black people were forced to become d i s t i n c t from

themselves w i t h no i d e n t i t i e s of t h e i r own. The black man was never

perceived as a man d i s t i n c t from h i s master and never allowed any r i g h t s as

a s e l f - r e g a r d i n g man. Like woman, he d i d not possess the r i t u a l of a

personal proper name. A n t o i n e t t e , by becoming her husband's property,

experiences a s i t u a t i o n not d i s s i m i l a r from that of the black man.

Enslavement cannot be based upon the notion of humanism. The black man's

'progress' as a race was an enforced t r a n s p l a n t a t i o n , consequent

stagnation, and i f anything, the regression of the status of h i s race,

r e s u l t i n g i n the stamping out of h i s i d e n t i t y . The flow of his past i n t o

h i s present promised h i s c h i l d r e n no f u t u r e beyond that of an inheritance

of s e r v i t u d e . I n a c o l o n i a l / s l a v e c u l t u r e , the phrase " c u l t u r e and

accumulation" takes on an e n t i r e l y d i f f e r e n t meaning when man i s himself

c a p i t a l . Terry Eagleton comments a s t u t e l y .

There i s no document of c u l t u r e which i s not also a record of barbarism. ... there are times and places when Culture becomes...charged w i t h a s i g n i f i c a n c e beyond i t s e l f . . . i n nations s t r u g g l i n g f o r t h e i r independence from Imperialism. ... Imperialism i s not only the e x p l o i t a t i o n of cheap labour-power, raw materials and easy markets but the uprooting of languages and customs, ...the i m p o s i t i o n of a l i e n ways of experiencing...most i n t i m a t e roots of speech and s i g n i f i c a t i o n . I n such s i t u a t i o n s , c u l t u r e i s so v i t a l l y bound up w i t h one's common i d e n t i t y that there i s no need to argue f o r i t s r e l a t i o n t o p o l i t i c a l power s t r u g g l e . I t i s arguing against i t which would seem incomprehensible,

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The sense of t h e i r own c u l t u r a l i d e n t i t y influences the language of a

people, which becomes i n t u r n , an expression of t h e i r c u l t u r e . Language

u l t i m a t e l y becomes a d e f i n i t i o n of c u l t u r e . This i s complicated by the f a c t

t h a t i n the Caribbean, c o l o n i z a t i o n has imposed a complex c r e o l i z a t i o n of

c u l t u r e expressed i n a h y b r i d of languages such as pa t o i s , an expression of

a confusion of i d e n t i t y . I t can also be said i n the Caribbean that instead

of c u l t u r e forming a man's i d e n t i t y , i t i s h i s i d e n t i t y which forms h i s

c u l t u r e . For i f a man was i d e n t i f i e d as black - even i f he looked white

but had the s l i g h t e s t ' t a i n t ' of black blood - h i s consequent c u l t u r e was

inexorably l a b e l l e d and l a i d out f o r him. The question of i d e n t i t y also

becomes simultaneous w i t h the concept of language which expresses and

defines the s e l f . What language does the black man speak, i s he made to

speak? As Susan Sontag points out, "the simplest l i n g u i s t i c act: ( i s ) the

naming of t h i n g s " 3B Vrhen women and black men have no names and therefore

no i d e n t i t y , where i s t h e i r place i n the order of things? I s i t always to

be confined t o the margins? Chris Searle describes the status of the

Caribbean c h i l d i n h i s

i s l a n d n a t i o n - t h e i r people s t i l l speak i n a language t h a t takes them back t o the past and t h e i r subjection and e x p l o i t a t i o n through centuries of slavery and c o l o n i a l i s m . ... Their language speaks against them...

We f i n d our i d e n t i t i e s through our language. That language must uphold us, give us confidence, t e l l us we belong t o our world and each other... A man becomes absurd when h i s language divides him from h i s world and makes him speak of f o r e i g n t h i n g s . I t i s h i s language tha t forges out and a r t i c u l a t e s h i s images of i d e n t i t y . . . 39

I t i s t h i s t h a t Annie John unconsciously struggles f o r i n her c o l o n i a l

classroom. She doodles i n her imported English textbook and defaces the

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white man's version of the ' h i s t o r y ' of the West Indies. Annie mauls

Christopher Columbus w i t h her pen. On a more contemporary note, Lee Kuan

Yew reminds himself of Singapore's c o l o n i a l h i s t o r y i n the classroom;

I have read a l l about the d a f f o d i l s and the bumblebee, and heigh-ho, merry-oh and a l l the r e s t . I t was part of my schooling. They pumped i t i n t o me. And I hated what they d i d , and I jo i n e d up w i t h the communists to get r i d of them. "0

Lee Kuan Yew also quotes Nehru whose nation underwent a s i m i l a r c o l o n i a l

experience and i n h e r i t a n c e :

I cry when I t h i n k t h a t I cannot speak my own mother tongue as w e l l as I can speak the English Language. '•̂

Roland Barthes comments on man's inheritance of language. Man's - and

woman's - i n h e r i t a n c e of language i s woven i n t o the very f a b r i c of h i s

t e x t u a l i t y and h i s consequent d e f i n i t i o n of himself:

Thus i s born the t r a g i c element i n w r i t i n g , since the w r i t e r must f i g h t against ancestral and a l l - p o w e r f u l signs which, from the depths of a past f o r e i g n t o him, impose L i t e r a t u r e on him l i k e some r i t u a l , not l i k e a r e c o n c i l i a t i o n . ''2

Barthes' words are a summary of the c o l o n i a l invasion of language. Neither

i s i t a question of the black man becoming reconciled w i t h the white man,

but i t i s of him being reconciled w i t h himself. The colonized man has no

choice as t o the ancestral signs he i n h e r i t s , nor any woman - f o r the signs

belong t o the powerful who are the e x p l o i t e r s . These signs and symbols are

the f a b r i c of h i s c u l t u r e , as John Blacking observes:

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Though the mat e r i a l products of a society's c u l t u r e may survive... and be given new meanings i n the context of another c u l t u r e . . . a c u l t u r e i t s e l f survives only as long as people use i t . A c u l t u r e i s always being invented and re-invented by i n d i v i d u a l decision­making...it r e a l l y i s . . . c u l t u r e that i s t r a n s i e n t and dependent on human whim. ''3

However, i n the case of the Caribbean colony, the dominant c u l t u r e d i d not

evolve through the choice of the m a j o r i t y of i n d i v i d u a l s , but through the

choice of a m i n o r i t y of e x p a t r i a t e i n d i v i d u a l s i n power. There was then no

choice as t o which c u l t u r e was u t i l i s e d i n the d a i l y d e t a i l of l i v i n g ; the

c u l t u r e of the white man was enforced - f i r s t through enslavement, then

through education. P.M.Sherlock states that there i s ample j u s t i f i c a t i o n

f o r the c u l t u r e of the Caribbean t o be not j u s t t h a t of the white man's.

The c u l t u r e of the Caribbean i s a hybri d of other c u l t u r e s , not least of

a l l t h a t of A f r i c a .

the A f r i c a n past i s a part of the heritage of the people of the Caribbean archipelago...people of A f r i c a n o r i g i n are i n the m a j o r i t y . . . knowledge of A f r i c a and African h i s t o r y w i l l help to free us from the misconception that we i n h e r i t e d from the c o l o n i a l period through a school system which e i t h e r negelected A f r i c a altogether or presented i t as a p r i m i t i v e barbarous place.

...a s u b s t a n t i a l mythology about A f r i c a was accepted and taught because i t appeared to j u s t i f y , or at l e a s t to ex p l a i n , the enslavement of the A f r i c a n . . . I n the same way that Caribbean h i s t o r y was treated as a footnote t o European h i s t o r y so A f r i c a n h i s t o r y was tre a t e d as i f i t were the same as the h i s t o r y of the European c o l o n i s a t i o n of A f r i c a .

...any s c i e n t i f i c study of man's past must include a study of the past of A f r i c a , because evidence i n d i c a t e s t h a t man had h i s o r i g i n s i n A f r i c a . ''''

The question of c u l t u r e i s u l t i m a t e l y the question of o r i g i n s , and

in h e r i t a n c e . I n her essay on Hawaiian-American l i t e r a t u r e , Katherine

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Newman makes some s a l i e n t points about the m a r g i n a l i t y of l i t e r a t u r e

derived from a h y b r i d of c u l t u r e s . I f 'Caribbean' i s sub s t i t u t e d f o r

'Hawaiian-American', her comments may be relevant to w r i t i n g of Caribbean

o r i g i n .

There i s , s t r i c t l y speaking, no Hawaiian-American l i t e r a t u r e . What there i s , at present, i s a Hawaiian CONSCIOUSNESS that pervades... s t r i v i n g to create a l i t e r a r y t r a d i t i o n t h a t meets the needs of the Hawaiians, a people fragmented by the m u l t i p l i c i t y of t h e i r o r i g i n s , l i v i n g on i n c r e d i b l y b e a u t i f u l islands t h a t are constantly devoured and recreated by sea and volcano...

As Hawaiian w r i t e r s . . . r i s e , they are threatened by increasing waves of tourism and commercialism. ... A s p i r i t must be forged, not of conformity or u n i t y , but of harmony i n a society where the "ethnics", the c h i l d r e n and grandchildren of immigrants, are i n the majority,...and the natives...are i n the m i n o r i t y . . .

Questions, s i m i l a r i t i e s and contadictions are provoked by a comparison of

Caribbean l i t e r a t u r e w i t h Hawaiian l i t e r a t u r e . The Caribbean

shares w i t h Hawaii an i s l a n d nature w i t h s i m i l a r climate and vegetation, a

h i s t o r y of fragmented t r a n s p l a n t a t i o n of a diverse people, and an

ex c e p t i o n a l l y American influence on the economic l i f e of the i s l a n d today.

The Caribbean however i s possessed of a B r i t i s h c o l o n i a l i n h eritance, and

the m a j o r i t y of 'immigrants' were u n w i l l i n g l y imported as slaves. However

s i m i l a r the Chinese c o o l i e experience i n the Hawaiian sugar plan t a t i o n s may

be, they came t e c h n i c a l l y of t h e i r own free w i l l . Thus the climate may be

the same, but the temperament i s d i f f e r e n t .

I s there at present a l i t e r a r y Caribbean consciousness? With regard

to the t e x t s by Jamaica Kincaid, the answer i s 'yes'; and although Jean

Rhys l i v e d i n England a l l her adulthood. Wide Sargasso Sea i s imbued with

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consciousness which i s more than mere 'native' f l a v o u r i n g and 'l o c a l

colour'. Hers i s the expression of a Creole experience which i s uniquely

Caribbean. However, i s there a l i t e r a r y Caribbean Tradition? T r a d i t i o n , by

d e f i n i t i o n , i s b u i l t up from the past. The complex colonized past of the

Caribbean has r e s u l t e d i n t e x t s as diverse as those by Rhys and Kincaid,

imaging d i f f e r e n t experiences of Caribbean c u l t u r e , black and white, but

w i t h s i m i l a r i t i e s more deeply inherent than the f a c t that the female

protagonists share versions of the same name. They share the same coloured

and C r e o l e experience of a c o l o n y . There may not be a Caribbean

' t r a d i t i o n ' of w r i t i n g but there may r e s u l t a Caribbean 'canon' of t e x t s .

Also, an i s l a n d i s a t a n g i b l y f i n i t e landmass. The awareness of the

perpetual presence of the bordering sea defines the i n s u b s t a n t i a l i t y of

land and the l i f e i t sustains which i s es p e c i a l l y heightened by the

presence of volcanoes. Islands can be created and destroyed at whim from

the depths of the sea. ( I n the Caribbean, St. Pierre i n Martinique was

destroyed by a volcano, remembered and described by Jean Rhys). I t does not

j u s t r e q u i r e the presence of volcanoes t o be aware that land i s constantly

being devoured and recovered by the sea. Annie John observes the r i s i n g of

the sea i n the Chapter The Long Rain. This awareness of the s h i f t i n g

shores of boundary, of the merging margin between sea and land; also the

i n f i n i t e s i m a l l i n e of the margin of horizon between sea and sky, influence

the island's t e x t u a l i t y . Waves of tourism and commercialism also threaten

t o engulf every b e a u t i f u l i s l a n d . I t seems to be a paradoxical 'natural'

e f f e c t .

Yet, can t e x t s by w r i t e r s such as Rhys and Kincaid be t r u l y described

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as 'Caribbean'? Both women were indeed of Caribbean o r i g i n , born and

childhoodbred but Rhys then l i v e d i n England, and Kincaid now l i v e s i n New

York. Their l i v e s are to some degree a d e s c r i p t i o n and d e f i n i t i o n of

consciously imposed l i t e r a r y e x i l e . The jeopardy of colonized o r i g i n s may

w e l l be a l i t e r a r y advantage as described by the t e x t s of Rhys and Kincaid.

The l i t e r a r y t e x t then becomes not j u s t a t e x t u a l transcending of

b o r d e r l i n e s , but the discovery of what these boundaries are, r e s u l t i n g i n

the c r e a t i o n of meaning from m a r g i n a l i t i e s . J.K.Gardiner observes:

For the c o l o n i a l woman w r i t e r . . . t h e e x i l e that sends her from the colony to the c u l t u r a l center must always be profoundly ambiguous... To be e x i l e d from the periphery to the center of one's c u l t u r e i s not the t r a d i t i o n a l meaning of e x i l e , yet these w r i t e r s do not define t h i s center as 'home'... as c o l o n i a l s , they can see English c u l t u r e as a dominating discourse imposed upon t h e i r c r e a t i v i t y ; at the same time i t enables that c r e a t i v i t y by f r e e i n g them from...home as the family of o r i g i n . What being a c o l o n i a l - i n - e x i l e does...is put i n t o play an o s c i l l a t i o n whereby no place i s home...so there remains a missing point of o r i g i n i n t h e i r works... (They are) simultaneously i n h e r i t o r s and antagonists t o imperialism... the English l i t e r a r y t r a d i t i o n i s the reassuring heritage of a mother tongue, but i t i s also somewhat a l i e n . . .

...They perceive home - i n both d i r e c t i o n s - as periphery and center, as i n d i v i d u a l c o l o n i a l f a m i l y and as dominant c u l t u r e - as a s i t e of oppression i n which they l e a r n to a r t i c u l a t e t h a t oppression.

The po i n t of o r i g i n therefore i s both margin and centre - from both r e s u l t

an equivalent d e r i v a t i o n of s e l f - d e f i n i t i o n . Trinh Minh-ha i s adamant that

being a c o l o n i a l woman w r i t e r i s a summary of the status of jeopardy. She

can never f e e l the complacency of c e n t r a l status held by the m a j o r i t y , but

r a t h e r i s f e t t e r e d by the stereotype of her ' f e e l i n g s ' :

Remember, the m i n o r - i t y ' s voice i s always personal; that of the m a j o r - i t y , always impersonal. Logic d i c t a t e s .

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Man t h i n k s , woman f e e l s . The white man knows through reason and l o g i c - the i n t e l l i g i b l e . The black man understands through i n t u i t i o n and sympathy - the sensible. Old stereotypes d e r i v i n g from well-defined d i f f e r e n c e s (the apartheid type of d i f f e r e n c e ) govern our thought.

But to w r i t e w e l l , we must e i t h e r espouse his cause, or transcend our borderlines. We must forget ourselves. We are therefore t r i p l y jeopardized: as a w r i t e r , as a woman, as a woman of colour.

Colonization developing i n t o c r e o l i z a t i o n i s a colouring of i d e n t i t y -

o f t e n through l i t e r a l a d u l t e r a t i o n . Thus ' f e e l i n g ' i s described by the

dominant people as the marginal space occupied by the min o r i t y - but the

whole sense of the people i s made up of both the marginal space and c e n t r a l

space of consciousness, symbolized as the stereotypes of ' f e e l i n g ' and

' r a t i o n a l i t y ' . The experience of the Caribbean involves such i n t e r s e c t i n g

spaces of black, white and Creole consciousness. Trinh i l l u m i n a t e s other

i n t e r s e c t i o n s of consciousness which i s today's inheritance of

e x p l o i t a t i o n :

To s u r v i v e , 'Third World' must necessarily have negative and p o s i t i v e connotations: negative when viewed i n a v e r t i c a l ranking system - "underdeveloped"... and p o s i t i v e when understood...as a subversive, "non-aligned" f o r c e . Whether 'Third World' sounds negative or p o s i t i v e also depends on WHO uses i t . Coming from Westerners, the word can hardly mean the same as when i t comes from US members of the Thir d World.

..."Third World" commonly r e f e r s t o those states i n A f r i c a , Asia and L a t i n America which c a l l themselves "non-aligned" i e : a f f i l i a t e d w i t h n e i t h e r Western ( c a p i t a l i s t ) nor eastern (communist) power blocs. E x p l o i t e d , looked down upon, and lumped together i n a convenient term that denies t h e i r i n d i v i d u a l i t i e s . . .

...The Thi r d World has moved West (or North, depending where the d i v i d i n g l i n e f a l l s ) . . . T hird World dwells on d i v e r s i t y ; so does F i r s t World. This i s our stren g t h and our misery...

...There i s a Fourth World which, we are t o l d , " i s a world populated by indigenous people who s t i l l continue to bear a s p i r i t u a l r e l a t i o n s h i p to t h e i r indigenous lands." The c o l o n i a l i s t creed " d i v i d e and

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conquer" i s here again... Agressive Third World (educated 'savages') must be c l a s s i f i e d apart from gentle Fourth World (uneducated 'savages').

The Caribbean i n h e r i t s i t s people from A f r i c a and L a t i n America, and shares

w i t h Asia the c o l o n i a l i n h e r i t a n c e of e x p l o i t a t i o n . Trinh's r h e t o r i c i s a

prophecy of present-day pertinence, and she emphasises th a t

The s u b s t i t u t i o n of words l i k e r a c i s t f o r s e x i s t , or vice versa, and the established image of the Third World Woman i n the context of (pseudo) feminism r e a d i l y merges w i t h t h a t of the Native i n the context of (neo-c o l o n i a l i s t ) anthropology. The problems are interconnected.

The s u b s t i t u t i o n of words i s one example of the i n t e r s e c t i o n of

consciousness, as i s the i n t e r s e c t i o n of experience between Third World

Woman and Native. 'Third World Woman' and 'Native' share the experience

of becoming the enforced m a r g i n a l i t i e s of colon i a l i s m . There i s another

kind of i n t e r s e c t i o n which has to be taken i n t o account - that between

t e x t s , which Kristeva describes as ' i n t e r t e x t u a l i t y ' i n her essay

"The word w i t h i n the space of t e x t s " . I n t e r t e x t u a l i t y manifests i t s e l f as

the i n t e r s e c t i o n of language (the t r u e p r a c t i c e of thought) w i t h space (the VOLUME w i t h i n which s i g n i f i c a t i o n . . . a r t i c u l a t e s i t s e l f ) . ... We must f i r s t d e fine the three dimensions of t e x t u a l space or coordinates of d i a l o g u e . . . w r i t i n g subject, addressee and e x t e r i o r t e x t s . The word's status i s thus defined h o r i z o n t a l l y (the word i n the t e x t belongs both to w r i t i n g subject and addressee) as we l l as v e r t i c a l l y (the word i n the t e x t i s oriented towards an a n t e r i o r l i t e r a r y corpus).

...each word ( t e x t ) i s an i n t e r s e c t i o n of words ( t e x t s ) where at l e a s t one other word ( t e x t ) can be read. ...any t e x t i s constructed as a mosaic of quotations; any t e x t i s the absorption and transformation of another. The notion of i n t e r t e x t u a l i t y replaces t h a t of i n t e r s u b j e c t i v i t y .

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The word i s s p a t i a l i z e d . . . ^°

The word i s s p a t i a l i z e d so that i t a c t u a l l y contains margins of meaning.

The w r i t i n g subject i n the t e x t s by Rhys and Kincaid i s a woman of

Caribbean o r i g i n v o i c i n g a Caribbean g i r l c a l l e d Annie/Antoinette who i s

i n p a r t the image of her mother, and whose cause i s the search f o r her

s e l f . Both t e x t s e s p e c i a l l y share the inheritance of one p a r t i c u l a r

e x t e r i o r t e x t - t h a t of Jane Eyre which i s part of the accepted l i t e r a r y

canon of t h e i r mother tongue. The addressee i s assumed to share the same

mother tongue and l i t e r a r y i n h e r i t a n c e . Kristeva implies each word i s a

t e x t i n i t s own r i g h t , and t h a t each t e x t i s the "absorption and

transformation of another". The same could be said of the c u l t u r e of the

Caribbean, where one c u l t u r e i s absorbed and transformed by another. The

c o l o n i z a t i o n of c u l t u r e r e s u l t s i n c r e o l i z a t i o n - i n t h i s case, black

c u l t u r e i s absorbed and transformed by the dominating c u l t u r e of the white

masters, and the process i s c a l l e d ' c i v i l i z a t i o n ' by them. The notion of

i n t e r t e x t u a l i t y i s thus an acknowledgement of m a r g i n a l i t i e s . M a r g i n a l i t i e s

are a necessary pa r t of the t e x t u a l i t y of a c u l t u r e complicated by i t s

c o l o n i a l h i s t o r y . Terry Eagleton observes about t e x t u a l i t y that

A l l l i t e r a r y works contain one or more.. .SUB-TE.XTS.. .a t e x t which runs w i t h i n i t , v i s i b l e at c e r t a i n 'symptomatic' points of ambiguity, evasion or overemphasis, and which we as readers are able to ' w r i t e ' even i f the novel i t s e l f does not. ... such subtexts...may be spoken of as the 'unconscious' of the work i t s e l f . The work's i n s i g h t s , as with a l l w r i t i n g , are deeply r e l a t e d t o i t s blindnesses: what i t does not say, and how i t does not say i t , may be as important as what i t a r t i c u l a t e s ; what seems absent, marginal or ambivalent about i t may provide a c e n t r a l clue to i t s meanings...

117

Such t e x t u a l i t y t h e r e f o r e has consequences f o r c u l t u r e . Jane Eyre i s the

obvious sub-text; and less obvious but perhaps more important i s the

subtext of B r i t i s h , American and A f r i c a n influences and o r i g i n s on the

c u l t u r e and t h e r e f o r e l i t e r a t u r e of the Caribbean. Woman and the black man

are i n a r t i c u l a t e i n a white man's language. Their m a r g i n a l i t y may be much

more than a mere c e n t r a l clue t o the t e x t , but the key to the centre of the

t e x t i t s e l f . Susan Sontag discusses the r e l a t i o n s h i p between te x t and

m a r g i n a l i t y . Of the

marginal l i t e r a r y subject: an unimportant 'work' could be a marvellous ' t e x t ' . Considering something as a ' t e x t ' means...precisely to suspend conventional evaluations. ... notions of ' t e x t ' and ' t e x t u a l i t y ' charges the c r i t i c w i t h the task of discarding worn-out meanings f o r fresh ones.

W r i t i n g by women of Caribbean o r i g i n cannot, because of i t s circumstance

of c r e o l i z e d c o l o n i a l c u l t u r e , be conventionally evaluated. Hence the

m a r g i n a l i t y of t h e i r works lend themselves to t h e i r d e s c r i p t i o n as ' t e x t s ' ,

not j u s t 'works'. The analysis of these t e x t s by Rhys and Kincaid has not

so much been a di s c a r d i n g of 'old' meanings - but the i l l u m i n a t i o n of the

m a r g i n a l i t i e s of meaning that DO e x i s t by the very nature of the

circumstances of t h e i r t e x t u a l i t y . These works by Rhys and Kincaid which

are not considered t o be of c l a s s i c importance according to the tenets of

the t r a d i t i o n a l l y white, male-dominated l i t e r a r y canon of t h e i r 'mother

tongue', are the most marvellous t e x t s . Their m a r g i n a l i t i e s of meaning are

profound. T o r i l Moi confirms t h i s new method of c r i t i c i s m w i th regard to

the ' t e x t ' , bearing i n mind a l l meaning i s contextual, and every word i s a

t e x t :

118

I t i s v i t a l to study the context of each and every utterance. ... The only way of producing i n t e r e s t i n g r e s u l t s from...texts i s to take the whole of the utterance (the whole t e x t ) as one's o b j e c t , which means studying the i d e o l o g i c a l , p o l i t i c a l and psychoanalytical a r t i c u l a t i o n s , i t s r e l a t i o n s w i t h s o c i e t y , with the psyche,...with other t e x t s . Kristeva has coined the concept of i n t e r t e x u a l i t y . ^3

This i s ex a c t l y what I have attempted to do w i t h the these two texts by

Rhys and Kincaid. Derrida has shown th a t a t e x t can be taken to have any

number of contexts. 'Context' should not be understood as a u n i t a r y

phenomenon, i s o l a t e d and determined. I n s c r i b i n g a s p e c i f i c context f o r a

t e x t does not close or f i x the meaning of the t e x t - instead there i s a

boundless p o s s i b i l i t y of r e i n s c r i b i n g the t e x t i n other contexts. Where

then, does the f u t u r e of w r i t i n g by women of Caribbean o r i g i n l i e ? I t l i e s

i n response t o these words of Antoinette's;

So between you I o f t e n wonder who I am and where i s my country and where do I belong and why was I ever born at a l l .

(WSS, p85)

**********

119

FOOTNOTES

I n t r o d u c t i o n

Hartman, Geoffrey. Interviewed by Imre Saluzinsky i n C r i t i c i s m i n Society. Methuen. New York & London. 1987. p84. Rhys, Jean. Francis Wyndham & Diana Melly eds. L e t t e r s : 1931-66. Penguin. London. ppl56-7. Sontag, Susan. A Susan Sontag Reader. Random House. New York. 1983. p428.

I I . N a r r a t i v e Structure

1. Moi, T o r i l . Sexual/Textual P o l i t i c s : Feminist L i t e r a r y Theory. Routledge. New York & London.

2. Marks, G. & I s a b e l l e de Courtivron eds. New French Feminisms. U n i v e r s i t y of Massachusetts Press. Amherst. 1980. The Harvester Press Ltd. Sussex. 1985. pl64.

3. L e t t e r s : 1931-66, pl62. 4. Ricoeur, Paul ed. C r i t i c a l I n q u i r y . U n i v e r s i t y of Chicago Press.

vol.7 ( 1 ) . 1980. pl67. 5. i b i d . p209. 6. i b i d . p209. 7. Genette, Gerard. Jonathan Lewin trans.Narrative Discourse.

B a s i l Blackwell. Oxford. 1980. p215. 8. Na r r a t i v e Discourse. pl84. 9. L e t t e r s , p263. 10. i b i d . p263. 11. N a r r a t i v e Discourse, pp243-245. 12. i b i d . plO. 13. Booth, Wayne. The Rhetoric of F i c t i o n .

Peregrine Books. U.S.A. (1961) 1987. pl57. 14. C r i t i c a l I n q u i r y , pl80/pl86. 15. C r i t i c i s m i n Society, pl24. 16. Derrida, Jacques. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak trans. & preface.

Of Grammatology. John Hopkins U n i v e r s i t y Press, pp x - x i i . 17. Selden, Raman. A Reader's Guide t o Contemporarv L i t e r a r y Theory.

Harvester Press Ltd. Sussex. (1985) 1986. pl09. 18. N a rrative Discourse, pl79. 19. Blanchot, Maurice. The Siren's Song. Indiana U n i v e r s i t y Press. 1982. p3.

I I I . The Imaging of the Mother-Mirror

1. T r i n h , Minh-ha. Woman, Native, Other: W r i t i n g P o s t c o l o n i a l i t v & Feminism. Indiana U n i v e r s i t y Press. 1989. p22

2. Kr i s t e v a , J u l i a . T o r i l Moi ed. The Kristeva Reader: J u l i a Kristeva. Columbia U n i v e r s i t y Press. 1986. pp240-242.

120

3. Becker, Ernest. The Denial of Death. The Free Press. Macmillan. New York. 1973. p2.

4. Woolf, V i r g i n i a . A Room of One's Own. Penguin. (1929) 1945. p31. 5. I r i g a r a y , Luce. G i l l i a n G i l l t r a ns. Speculum of the Other Woman.

Cornell U n i v e r s i t y Press. (1974) 1985. pl49. 6. Woman, Native, Other, p22. 7. Gardiner, J. K. Rhys, Stead, Lessing, & the P o l i t i c s of Empathy.

Indiana U n i v e r s i t y Press. 1989. ppl67/8 8. Sternberg, R. & M. Barnes. The Psychology of Love. p224. 9. Chodorow, Nancy. Sue N. Garner, C. Kahane, M. Sprengnether eds.

The (M)other Tongue: Essays i n Feminist Psychoanalytic I n t e r p r e t a t i o n . Cornell U n i v e r s i t y Press. 1975. p75.

10. Sexual/Textual P o l i t i c s , p99/pl01. 11. i b i d . p l O l . 12. Speculum of the Other Woman, p282. 13. Woman, Native, Other. p22. 14. Speculum of the Other Woman, p321. 15. Sexual/Textual P o l i t i c s , pl30, 16. i b i d . 17. i b i d . pl37. 18. Speculum of the Other Woman, pl44/5. 19. i b i d . P144/5. 20. i b i d . p77. 21. G i l b e r t , Sandra M. & Susan Gubar. The Madwoman i n the A t t i c : The Woman

Writer and the Nineteenth-Century L i t e r a r y Imagination. Yale U n i v e r s i t y Press. New Haven & London. 1980. p3.

22. Speculum of the Other Woman, p l l 2 . 23. i b i d . p l l 5 . 24. Benjamin, Walter. H. Zohn tr a n s . I l l u m i n a t i o n s . New York. Schocken. p202 25. Woman, Native, Other, p36. 26. Barthes, Roland. Image-Music-Text. Fontana, C o l l i n s . ppl90/191. 27. Woman, Native, Other, p6. 28. Image-Music-Text, pl59. 29. Speculum of the Other Woman, ppl03/105.

IV. The Metaphor of Fluids

1. Aebi, Tania. Maiden Voyage. Simon & Schuster. 1989. p48. 2. Searle, Christopher. The Forsaken Lover: White Words & Black People.

Routledge & Kegan Paul, London & Boston. 1972. p l 7 . 3. L e t t e r s : 1931-66, p301. 4. i b i d . pl54. 5. O'Connor, Theresa. Jean Rhys, The West Indian Novels.

New York U n i v e r s i t y Press. 1986. pl56. 6. Theroux, Paul. The Kingdom by the Sea: A Journey Around Great B r i t a i n .

Houghton M i f f l i n Company. Boston. pp80/81. 7. The Forsaken Lover; White Words and Black People, pl7. 8. i b i d . p20. 9. E l l i s , Pat ed. Women of the Caribbean.

Zed Books L t d . London. 1986. p l l 6 . 11. O l i v i e r , C h r i s t i n e . G. Craig trans. Jocasta's Children: The Imprint of

the Mother. Routledge. London & New York. p4.

121

12. New French Feminisms, pp247/8, 255. 13. Woods, Gregory. A r t i c u l a t e Flesh: Male homo-erotic and modern poetry.

Yale U n i v e r s i t y Press. New Haven & London. p38. 14. i b i d . 15. i b i d . p40. 16. The Madwoman i n the A t t i c . pp209/10. 17. Cixous, Helene. The Laugh of the Medusa. p260/51. 18. A Reader's Guide to Contemporarv L i t e r a t u r e , pl43. 19. Sevely, Josephine Lowndes. Eve's Secrets: A Revolutionary Perspective on

Human Se x u a l i t y . Paladin, Grafton, C o l l i n s . London. (1987) 1989. p65. 20. i b i d . pp52/3. 21. Woman, Native, Other, p38. 22. Sexual/Textual P o l i t i c s , p l l 7 . 23. i b i d . p412. 24. I r i g a r a y , Luce. This Sex Which I s Not One, t r a n s l a t e d by C. Porter.

Cornell U n i v e r s i t y Press. (1977) 1985. p41. 25. i b i d . pl44. 26. i b i d , p l l O . 27. The (M)other Tongue, p l 7 1 . 28. Rhys, Stead, Lessinq & the P o l i t i c s of Empathy, p2. 29. Sexual/Textual P o l i t i c s , pl42. 30. Ecker, Giselda. Feminist Aesthetics. p l 8 . 31. Rhys, Stead, Lessinq & the P o l i t i c s of Empathy, pl57. 32. i b i d . pl57. 33. i b i d . pl58. J.K. Gardiner quotes Catherine Belsey i n

C r i t i c a l P r a c t i c e , and T o r i l Moi i n Sexual/Textual P o l i t i c s . 34. i b i d . pl59. 35. i b i d . pl60. 36. New French Feminisms, pl58. 37. i b i d . pl46. 38. Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. I n Other Worlds: Essays i n C u l t u r a l P o l i t i c s ,

Methuen. New York & London. 1987. pl05. 39. i b i d . pl06. 40. Felman, Shoshana. "The C r i t i c a l Phallacy". D i a c r i t i c s .

Winter 210. 1975. p3. 41. "Feminist C r i t i c a l Theory". I n Other Worlds, p39. 42. The Denial of Death, p2.

V. The Colonization of Lanquaqe

1. The Forsaken Lover: White Words and Black People, p24. 2. Woman, Native, Other, pl22. 3. Women of the Caribbean, p8. 4. i b i d . 5. Brathwaite, Edward. Contradictory Omens: C u l t u r a l D i v e r s i t y and I n t e q r a t i o n

i n the Caribbean. Savacon Press. Mona, Kingston, Jamaica. 1974. ppl9-21. 6. i b i d . plO. 7. Sherlock, P. West Indian Nations; A New H i s t o r y .

Macmillan. Jamaica Publishing House Ltd. 1973. p l 5 . 8. The Siren's Song, p50. 9. Sontag, Susan. Elizabeth Hardwick, preface. A Susan Sontaq Reader.

Random House. New York. 1983. pl92.

122

10. West Indian Nations, pl82. 11. Kincaid, Jamaica. A Small Place. Virago Press. London. 1988. p37. 12. West Indian Nations, pl35. 13. i b i d . p i . 14. i b i d , pp 4-7. 15. Eraser, Antonia. The Warrior Queens: Boadicea's Chariot.

Mandarin. London. 1989. pp64/5. 16. Woman, Native, Other, p82. 17. i b i d . p80. 18. C r i t i c i s m i n Society, p88. 19. i b i d . PP129/140. 20. Eagleton, Terry. L i t e r a r y Theory: An I n t r o d u c t i o n .

B a s i l Blackwell. Oxford. 1983. p l l 5 . 21. A Reader's Guide to Contemporary L i t e r a t u r e , plOO. 22. Contradictory Omens, p28. 23. A Small Place, p l 4 . 24. A Susan Sontag Reader, pl34. 25. A Small Place, ppl8/19. 26. Woman, Native, Other, p52. 27. A Susan Sontaq Reader, pl97. 28. Sexual/Textual P o l i t i c s , pl60. 29. Woman, Native, Other, p54. 30. G i l b e r t , Sandra & Susan Gubar. No Man's Land: The Place of the

Woman Wr i t e r i n the Twentieth Century. Vol.1: The War of Words. Yale U n i v e r s i t y Press. 1988. p237.

31. New French Feminisms, ppl63/4. 32. Of Grammatoloqy, p p l x x x i i i / l x x x i v . 33. Women of the Caribbean, pl09. 34. Woman, Native, Other, p368. 35. Montagu, M. F. ed. Culture: Man's Adaptive Dimension.

New York. Oxford U n i v e r s i t y Press. 1968. pp3/4. 36. The Siren's Song, p l 2 . 37. L i t e r a r y Theory: An I n t r o d u c t i o n , p214. 38. A Susan Sontag Reader, pl97. 39. The Forsaken Lover, p2. 40. Josey, Alan. Lee Kuan Yew: The Struggle f o r Singapore.

Angus & Robertson. 1974. p p x i i / x i i i . 41. i b i d . p27. 42. Barthes, Roland. Susan Sontag, preface. A. Lavers & G. Smith trans.

W r i t i n g Degree Zero. Johnathan Cape Ltd. U.S.A. 1968. pp86-7. 43. Blacking, John, a common sense view of music: Reflections on Percy

Grainger's C o n t r i b u t i o n to Ethnomusicology and Music Education. Cambridge U n i v e r s i t y Press. 1987. pp22-3.

44. West Indian Nations, p32. 45. Newman, Katherine. MELUS. pp46-7. 46. Rhys, Stead, Lessing and the P o l i t i c s of Empathy, p i 3 . 47. Woman, Native,Other, p28. 48. i b i d . pp98/99. 49. i b i d . pp84/5. 50. The Kristeva Reader: J u l i a K r i s t e v a , pp36-7. 51. L i t e r a r y Theory: An I n t r o d u c t i o n , pl78. 52. A Susan Sontag Reader, p428. 53. Sexual/Textual P o l i t i c s , ppl55-156.

123

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