The Aftershocks Of Oppression : Historical Determinism
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The Aftershocks of Oppression: Historical Determinism in Writing
In his seminal essay, “The Muse of History,” Derek Walcott argues for the rejection of history as a “creative or culpable force” in narrative fiction. Walcott proposes that protagonists should “[walk] in a world without monuments and ruins,” unencumbered by the vestiges of the past. His perspective on the role of history in prose is decidedly anti-determinist, and he maintains that good prose should not be driven by the past. Walcott asserts that writing should not be constrained by history. However, in “Let Them Call it Jazz” by Jean Rhys and “You Can’t Get Lost in Cape Town” by Zoe Wicomb, “there is no escape from history.” The past digs its long claws into the flesh of…show more content… The legal system works against the narrator, and the police “pretend [she] never have any [savings].” When she comes to the police with her complaint, they trip her up with their questioning, and she is unable to convince them that she has been robbed. However, when the police question the narrator’s white, British, landlady, she—referring to the narrator’s ethnic background—tells them, “these people [are] terrible liars.” The police take the landlady’s statement at face value, but do not pay the same regard to the narrator’s statement.
The power dynamics and stereotypes at play bias the police against the narrator because she is black, foreign, and poor. The narrator herself recognizes the one-sidedness of the legal system, saying, “All I can say about police and how they behave is I think it all depend who they dealing with.” The narrator is not “Eveian” woman, and she is not infallible; nevertheless, the way in which the legal system treats the narrator, reveals the inherent prejudice of the system. It is not until the narrator accepts her subordinate role within the power structure that things seem to turn around for her—she is freed from jail, gets a new room to live in, and the job she wanted, altering ladies’ dresses. The narrator is “not frightened of them any more…[she knows] what to say and everything go like a clock works,” but in losing the ability to express her opinion, she accepts her status as a second-class citizen with