The Plight of Not Belonging: Jean Rhys’s “Let Them Call It Jazz” and “The Day They Burned the Books”

  • Carmen Laguarta Bueno University of Zaragoza
Keywords: Jean Rhys, postcolonial literature, Caribbean literature, alineation, ambivalence


This paper offers an analysis of the short stories “Let Them Call It Jazz” (1962) and “The Day They Burned the Books” (1960), set in London and in the Caribbean respectively, with the aim to demonstrate that, no matter their origin, Rhys’s protagonists are often confronted with a feeling of non-belonging that sometimes makes them fluid, unstable beings. Furthermore, it aims to demonstrate that, although in some of her writings Rhys seemed to be very critical of the attitude of the colonizers and to align herself with the colonized Others instead, her attitude towards the empire can also be very ambivalent at some points. Ultimately, the analysis of these two short stories suggests that the ambivalence present in Rhys’s works could be a direct consequence of her peculiar positioning as somebody in between two different cultures, and, consequently, uncovers to what extent the process of colonization affected those involved in it.    


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