Jean Rhys

by justineb89

Justine Burlo

The poem “Jean Rhys” by Derek Walcott describes the lives of women in postcolonial states throughout the Caribbean. Jean Rhys is a Dominican novelist who was similar to the women described in the poem, growing up and attempting to create a career for herself in a postcolonial society. Similarly Walcott’s heritage includes family, which was brought to the America’s as slaves, and he himself saw in his home, the West Indies the effects of colonialism.

Walcott begins by describing “faint photographs” of people who appear to be of little means as the women sit in “wickerwood armchairs” as well with “their features pale”. Moreover Walcott describes the men as “bone collared gentleman” as opposed to white or blue collard, exemplifying that their profession requires much physical labour. Walcott ends the stanza stating “all looking colored from the distance of a century” describing the century of colonialism which existed in the Caribbean.

Wallcott continues in stanza two by further describing the strife the women must face as he states “ that her is as feverish child’s some malarial angel” demonstrating the continual disease which plagues these women. As well as the “mania of wild yams” which describes the lack of food and therefore malnutrition the women must face. Wallcott continues this theme of strong hard working women in a terrible situation with the simile “ the child expects a sound from a butterfly clipping itself to a bush like a gold earring to a black maids ear”, as these are both seemingly impossible situations.

Walcott then describes England, which had colonized Dominica and Carib both, describe in the poem as a way to continue to illustrate the idea of post colonialism and that although it may not change the mother state it does affect the colonial state. As well he makes a references Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, which is a tie to Jean Rhys who wrote a prequel to Jane Eyre ,Wide Sargasso Sea . Finally Walcott concludes by describing the women “forseeing that her own white wedding dress will be white paper” again exemplifying how these are in such a dire state.


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