Tag Archives: double

Violence as liberation in ‘Season of Migration to the North’ and ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’

1 Mar

In Frantz Fanon’s ‘The Wretched of the Earth’ (available on google books), the author makes a case for the positive influence of violence in the anti-colonial struggle by claiming “at the individual level”, it is a “cleansing force” that “… frees the native from his inferiority complex and his despair and inaction” (94). Fanon also describes violence as “all inclusive”,  and calls it an “illuminating force” (94).

This reading of violence as a positive, proactive force for change can be applied to the ending of Rhys’ ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’ as well as to the final pages of Salih’s ‘Season of Migration to the North’– In the former, Antoinette’s last words give the reader the impression that through the violence of a house fire, she will finally be able to reclaim her true identity– “the sky is red and all my life is in it” (Rhys 112). In Salih’s novel, the narrator describes his struggle in the water:

I was conscious of the river’s destructive forces pulling me downwards and of the current pushing me to the southern shore in a curving angle. I would not be able to keep thus poised for long; sooner or later the river’s forces would pull me down into its depths (168).

In keeping with the classic doppelganger trope often seen in Post-Colonial literature, the narrator mirrors Sa’eed’s own literal struggle with life when he almost drowns in the river, but survives when he gives up his struggle to migrate– figuratively and literally– from south to north.  On the final page of Salih’s book, the narrator appears to be claiming that by choosing to live, to engage with a community of his choosing and the discharge of his duties (168), he is choosing to not give into the struggle of belonging or being in either the north or the south– “Though floating on the water, I was not part of it” (168).

By placing violence in an active, positive context, Fanon seems to be suggesting that violence = action = agency = individualism = liberation. In ‘Black Skin, White Masks’, Fanon speaks of liberation again when he talks about freeing “the black man.. from himself”, and by association freeing him from the urge to seamlessly assimilate or mimic aspects of the colonizer. When Salih’s narrator vocalizes his yearning (a hunger, a thirst for a cigarette) and ceases to attempt to get to either north or south shore, and instead yells for help, he is eschewing the struggle Sa’eed faced before him, viz. being appropriated and objectified as an English Educated Black African. Similarly, when Rhys’ Antoinette lights all the candles she finds and makes plans for her final escape, she — through an act of violence– finally releases herself from the Othering forces of both her ethnic heritage and her white husband. It is only through violence and death (figurative for the former, literal for the latter) that both Salih’s narrator as well as Rhys’ Antoinette are able to escape the weight of their doubles (Sa’eed, the ghost/Tia) and truly return to their own sense of selfhood.

Doubling and Naming

8 Feb

Last class we discussed the double effect between Antoinetta and Tia. The two scenes that we talked about were when the two switch roles as Tia takes Antoinetta’s clothes, and the second when Tia throws the stone at her, showing tears and blood mirroring each other. The double here shows the confusion of identity and the struggle with Antoinetta being seen as both white and black, which is worse than being one or the other (“black nigger better than white nigger”).  This doubling I believe is continued throughout the rest of the novel, which becomes more confused as she loses herself- her name and identity.

Amelie seems to be another double, but the double is created through Rochester rather than Antoinetta. Amelie is dark, lower class and mean to Antoinetta in a similar way as Tia. The beauty Rochester sees in Antoinetta he transfers to Amelie. Taking Antoinetta’s place, Amelie sleeps with Rochester. However, as soon as the act is over, Rochester erases this double and sees Amelie as she was; “Her skin was darker, her lips thicker than I had thought” (84). The ‘whiteness’ of Antoinetta dissolves in the blackness of Amelie. As soon as the double vanishes, so does Amelie leave the novel. The fact that Antoinetta is nearby and able to hear everything is another step toward her own loss of self; her place as wife is transferred.

In the end, Tia is brought back to life as a double figure to Antoinetta. The last page of her dream vision reads, “Tia was there. She beckoned to me and when I hesitated, she laughed. I heard her say, You frightened?” (112). It is the double that beckons her to her death. The last step to her madness happens as she wakes up calling ‘Tia!” Antoinetta’s other half (Tia) lies over the edge. If she jumps to her death, she will have a full identity again rather than pieces of it scattered in various characters.

It may be too far to say that Rochester is some form of a double, however, there is some form of madness that takes over his thoughts. This is especially present after talking to Christophine in Part Two. Rochester says, “She’s mad but mine, mine. What will I care for gods or devils or for Fate itself. If she smiles or weeps or both. For me” (99). While naming seems to be a prominent issue in the sanity of characters, it seems to me that the doubling element has a lot to do with madness as well. Naming may be a trigger to the loss of identity, but doubling provides no return to sanity.