Jean Rhys: West Indian intellectual

Helen Carr

in West Indian Intellectuals in Britain

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print December 2003 | ISBN: 9780719064746
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781700426 | DOI:
Jean Rhys: West Indian intellectual

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This chapter addresses in what sense Jean Rhys could be called a West Indian. Three of her first four novels, and many of her short stories, are placed in Europe, and have heroines with no apparent knowledge of the Caribbean. The fiercest battle over her place in West Indian literature was fought out in the 1970s. Rhys is a diasporic intellectual, with the migrant's consciousness of the shifting complexity of identities and the impossibility of an assured ‘arrival’. Like other West Indians, Rhys met immediate prejudice when she reached England. Her attitudes are never simple, and she says at one point that her hatred of England was really ‘disappointed love’. Rhys' fiction imagines Englishness as the apotheosis of whiteness, in contrast to Caribbean blackness. Wide Sargasso Sea is Rhys' most Caribbean novel, linguistically as well as in subject matter.

Keywords: Jean Rhys; West Indian; diasporic intellectual; England; disappointed love; Wide Sargasso Sea; Englishness

Chapter.  10126 words. 

Subjects: Colonialism and Imperialism

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