Social Otherness in British Fiction Analytical Essay by smb490

Social Otherness in British Fiction
Examination of "The Fifth Child" by Doris Lessing and "Wide Sargasso Sea" by Jean Rhys for elements of social stratification and oppression through the image of the British home.
# 119724 | 5,866 words | 15 sources | MLA | 2005 | US
Published on May 21, 2010 in Literature (English) , English (Analysis) , Sociology (Multiculturalism)

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This paper deals with the topic of British social supremacy and how it manifests itself through the presence of architecture in the novels "The Fifth Child" by Doris Lessing and "Wide Sargasso Sea" by Jean Rhys. The paper explains that Antoinette, perceived as racially inferior to Rochester because of her Creole heritage, and Ben, a representative of the lower working class, pose threats to the social order created by the British as represented by their ordering of architectural space. The paper further points out that author Lessing, arriving back to England from Rhodesia, and author Rhys, being a Creole herself, have felt the judgment imposed on them by British society, imposing their standards upon these two women while not fully accepting them into their culture. The paper concludes that both authors reject this notion of British supremacy and colonial attitude towards inferior subcultures by rejecting the efforts of Ben and Antoinette's oppressors to enclose their victims within an architectural space of dominance.

From the Paper:

" It would erroneous to suggest that Lessing's Ben Lovatt and Rhys' Antoinette Cosway are parallel figures; clearly there is enough distinction between the two novels to delineate one from the other. However, that is not to say that Antoinette and Ben are not the same kind of literary figure, one that is typified by the world in which he or she lives as the "savage other." Lessing and Rhys use similar motifs in their narratives to create a set of criteria to characterize marginalized figures. Both Ben and Antoinette have a predilection for the outdoors, particularly the garden, in their early stages of development. Ben's mother Harriet laments that her son "would suddenly, for no reason she could see, take off and run into the garden." He is also described several times throughout the novel as looking like a garden gnome, "With his yellowish stubbly low-growing hair, his stony unblinking eyes, his stoop, his feet planted apart and his knees bent, his clenched held-forward fists." Antoinette, symbolizing the same connection to outdoor space, finds a refuge in the wilderness: "There is the tree of life in the garden and the wall green with moss. The barrier of the cliffs and the high mountains. And the barrier of the sea. I am safe." By associating Ben and Antoinette with the outdoors, their respective authors impart onto them a sense of primitive behavior that characterized human beings before man became associated with cities and urban life."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Abel, Elizabeth. "Women and Schizophrenia: The Fiction of Jean Rhys." Contemporary Literature 20.2 (Spring 1979): 155-177.
  • Budhos, Shirley. The Theme of Enclosure in Selected Works of Doris Lessing. New York: The Whitston Publishing Company, 1987.
  • Ciolkowski, Laura E. "Navigating the Wide Sargasso Sea: Colonial History, English Fiction, and British Empire." Twentieth Century Literature 43.3 (1997): 339-359.
  • Ferguson, Moira. Colonialism and Gender Relations from Mary Wollstonecraft to Jamaica Kincaid: East Caribbean Connections. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993.
  • Ingersoll, Earl G., ed. Doris Lessing Conversations. Princeton: Ontario Review Press, 1994.

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