M asaryk University Faculty of Arts Department of English and American Studies

Andrea Levy, Fruit of the Lemon: Second-Generation, Born and Bred in Britain

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3.2Andrea Levy, Fruit of the Lemon: Second-Generation, Born and Bred in Britain

3.2.1Racism, Discrimination and Prejudice

As prejudice is the underlying force fuelling antagonism, the cases of it are to be found in Levy's Fruit of the Lemon. As Faith is born in Britain to West Indian parents, she is a second-generation Briton. Despite that, she faces mockery since the early age as schoolchildren sneer at her parents who came to Britain on a banana boat and she is called a ´darkie´ (16). Hiro mentions a sociological study conducted in the Midlands in 1963 which looked at school integration and found out that if there were any black-white relationships, they were not continued outside the school and most of them did not continue beyond puberty while it was almost always whites who rejected the bond (Hiro 56). Such early experience of being differentiated creates identity anxieties and it is also a theme Caryl Phillips develops in The European Tribe.

The spatial segregation creates anxiety if one is forced to enter a zone one is not used to. When Faith and her brother need to go to a neighborhood full of houses "made from cream-colored icing sugar" (Fruit of the Lemon 134), they do so reluctantly and with apprehension. Although Britain was not as segregated as the USA, a degree of it was visible in the cities. Faith's brother Carl suspects, manifesting anxious reflexivity that the lady they have come to ask about a car thinks they have come to mug her (139), which her careful conduct suggests. Yet such impression can be magnified by the apprehension Carl feels towards whites and the way he expects them to look at him: "The woman looked at him startled, as if she didn't expect him to be able to speak" (140). However, they deal with suspicious stares of a neighbor with humor and detachment: "'Shall we put a brick through the windscreen - make his day?'"(149-50).

Levy shows how one can be prejudiced and yet like the personified representatives of one's prejudice. Marion, a friend of Faith, has a racist father who argues that he likes Faith since she is different (217) but he stays racist to other people of color, calling them 'coons' or 'gorillas'.

Since a couple of decades have passed since the Empire Windrush, the discrimination has transformed from overt to subtler practices, all hand in hand with positive discrimination. While Faith's parents heard other people shout racial slurs at them on a daily basis and see other people refuse to live with them in the same street, Faith's story is different. She gets a degree at art college or lives with her (white) friends. Faith gets a job as a dresser in TV even though rumor has it that lack of black people in that department is a result of discrimination. She secures the job because she asks about the alleged discrimination during the job interview which, due to the existence of unions and organizations such as the Commission for Racial Equality, means the presence of black employees would be desirable. However, her question comes only after she is asked about her attitude since the report from a previous job mentions her slow walking pace (248) which, whether Faith walks slowly or not, suggests the slowness stereotype stemming from slavery. On the other hand, she is not allowed to do much in the job which creates an insurmountable ceiling.

However, positive discrimination is not only about complying with unions. Faith is able to secure her first job thanks to her 'exoticised' background when she is approached at the degree show: "Your work has an ethnicity which shines through" (74) which puzzles Faith since she grew up similarly to British children: "As I was born and bred in Haringey I could only suppose that I had some sort of collective unconscious that was coming through from my slave ancestry" (74).

There is one aspect of race which cannot be diminished since the visibility concurs with racial awareness. Depending on the level of society's openness, racial awareness influences how one expects to be dealt with. Racial awareness is also in close connection to group representation especially if representatives of a certain group are in a minority. When Faith assists at an evening and a black poet comes on the stage, she realises she is the only black person in the room and starts to hope the poet will be good: "The poet became my dad, my brother, he was the old man on the bus who called me sister, the man in the bank with the strong Trinidadian accent . . . He was every black man - ever" (215) which again displays anxious reflexivity stemming from group belonging which is influenced by the generalisations confined to collective identities (see Tajfel 29).

As Faith leaves the familiarity of multicultural London and arrives in a village that her friend Simon calls "quintessentially English" (265), she is scared that Simon's mother "would look at my face, gasp for air whilst grabbing her pearl necklace" (274). Such cultural landscape is a bit unusual for her since she is used to diverse London, a condition familiar to many West Indians. As of 1991, black West Indians were much less segregated from whites than some other groups even though they have remained predominantly urban (Ratcliffe 65). Faith is always aware of her race and she is often reminded of it – whether that means being a witness to an attack on a leftie bookshop by National Front supporters (Fruit of the Lemon 355) or being fancied by a boy who wanted to provoke his parents: "I knew the only reason he fancied me was the thought of the look on his parents' faces if he took a black girl home" (54). Faith finally reaches a point of a breakdown after all her experiences and covers the mirrors with towels (371) which carries a symbolic value - a refusal of one's ego as a consequence of refusing to identify oneself with the image when the subjectivity of the mirror is rejected even though it is impossible to escape. The situation brings symbolically Jacques Lacan´s mirror stage which “typifies an essential libidinal relationship with the body-image” (Lacan 216). Frantz Fanon spoke of similar rejection of one´s image as a result of its boundedness to value judgments: "I am the slave not of the idea that others have of me but of my own appearance" (116). Such reflexivity and consciousness of being imprisoned in one´s body is essentially limiting: "When people like me, they tell me it is in spite of my color. When they dislike me, they point out that it is not because of my color. Either way, I am locked . . . " (Fanon 116).

Her racial awareness is in contrast to what she experiences on a family-reunion vacation in Jamaica: "No one noticed me. I smiled at anyone who looked in my direction. But no one did . . . It was wonderful . . . And no one stared at me or whispered, 'Who is she?'" (Fruit of the Lemon 662-3).

Therefore, as a result of its arbitrariness, race creates different expectations in different places. Faith's relative Constance in Jamaica, a white-looking Jamaican, became so imbibed in her 'white' appearance that she started to act like a white woman (707) which shows how social constructs exerted influence on one´s self-perception and expectations of a society. Consequently the identity of a white woman in Jamaica seems to have very clear boundaries. Mangoes or bananas would be cut with knife and fork, tea would be served in china with milk (709). Such a situation presupposes that the society in Jamaica has (sub)conscious knowledge of how white or people of different pigmentation hues should act or which class they belong to, which illustrates the power of social constructs. When Constance is sent to England to her grandparents, they are delighted: "She was so pretty, so fair, so polite, with only a few strange habits - like eating lemons and insisting on spelling their noble name only with one b [their surname was 'Nobble' but Constance preferred the 'Noble' version]" (711).

3.2.2Caribbean and British Identities

Several aspects of the Caribbean and British identities have much in common with those presented in Phillips' or Cliff's novels: the presence of British teachers in schools in Jamaica (Fruit of the Lemon 22), the stress in education on the identification with Britain as the 'Mother Country' (22), the desire to escape the limited boundaries and limited anonymity of the Caribbean (24) or the typical jobs West Indians secured in postwar Britain – be it construction, painting or nursing (31). In Fruit of the Lemon, there is another important aspect and that is religion. Faith's parents are practising Christians. Religion has been very important in Jamaica or Barbados and almost 70% of the people in the West Indies went to church on Sundays in the fifties (Hiro 32). As a consequence, West Indians coming to Britain were puzzled about Britain's indifference to religion (ibid., 32) but the British identity has become largely secular by then (Bruce 124).

The Caribbean and Britain are tied together through history. While a passerby in a British pub may find the sameness of last names in Britain and the Caribbean highly amusing, Faith does not since that could mean that the Briton's family once owned the ancestors of the people in the Caribbean (Fruit of the Lemon 303). As Faith discovers the history of her family, the diaspora aspect of the Caribbean is exposed - an aunt may be in Bronx, a cousin in Canada or ancestors in Panama.

Whereas Faith's parents were raising their children to be and feel British, Carl's (white) girlfriend tries to persuade them to be more radical:

According to her, I am a poor black woman. And I tell her enough of the poor. Your dad and me work very hard. And the good Lord bless us. We not rich people but we not poor. She sucked her teeth and muttered, 'Poor black woman. The girl don't know she's born. I know poor . . . 'I making roast lamb with roast potatoes and mint sauce. She ask me where is the rice and peas. I say I fed up with it, and she tell me I should be proud of me black food. Your dad nearly choke . . . And it's your dad's favourite. (334)

Faith's parents are inclined to favour integration to strict assimilation and they recognise gratitude for being able to raise their children in Britain (754).

The higher classes in Jamaica also reveal a lot about class in Britain. Favouring lighter and white skin, they would organize garden parties with servants in white uniform serving tea while the guests would chat in perfect non-accented English (639) and people would be expected to mix for the purpose of future business (641). A relationship with someone of darker skin was not desirable and investigation could be carried out to find out whether someone was a quadroon, an octoroon, a half-breed or black (650). In this respect, the Caribbean presents itself as a twisted version of Britain' reverence of the class system with the application of rigidly structured colour prejudice, a British 'Frankenstein'.

3.2.3Belonging and Roots

The notion of home is complex for Faith. As a second-generation Briton for whom Jamaica is more of a foreign faraway land, she does not escape her ancestry as she is often reminded she comes from the place where she had never been before because people would insist to know where she is really from (Fruit of the Lemon 301) which confirms the common association of nationality to race. It is this fluidity which links Levy's novels to other minority writers:

Though Levy writes specifically about black Jamaican Britons and their struggles to be acknowledged as full members of the larger society, her novel illuminates the general situation facing all children of postcolonial immigrants across the West, from the banlieue of France to the Islamic neighborhoods of New York to the Hispanic ghettos of Los Angeles. Throughout the world, unwritten policies of exclusion have created a ferocious discontent among citizens of some nations - who know where they come from, even if they aren't made to feel as if it's home. (Iweala)

In an attempt to provide some sense of the past and continuity to Faith, her parents send her to Jamaica to meet the family her parents had almost never spoken of. As Faith's mother puts it, Faith was "running around like one of my grandmother's headless chickens" (Fruit of the Lemon 748). Faith's notion of history before her visit to Jamaica was limited to history lessons where they had to draw diagrams of the triangular slave trade (18) and shaped by encounters in Britain. However, Jamaica and the relatives help her reconcile and change her notion of ´home´:

. . . They laid a past out in front of me," Faith says of her relatives. "They wrapped me in a family history and swaddled me tight in its stories. And I was taking back that family to England. But it would not fit in a suitcase - I was smuggling it home. (740)

Even though the quote clarifies that ´home´ is unquestionably Britain, the roots of the Caribbean ass to her complex identity.

After Faith's parents inform her of their plans to move back home, she is perplexed since the first mental image that comes to her is their council flat in Britain (105). She is wondering why is Jamaica home, especially if her parents loved snow, tea by the coal fire, automatic washing machine, peanut brittle and family vacations in Scotland or Wales (108-9).

3.2.4First and Second Generation

The interaction between Faith and her parents reveals a lot about her parents' beliefs, upbringing and different experiences of a second-generation.

First, Faith could attend college and thus faces brighter job prospects (altogether with subtle racism or positive discrimination), which shows signs of upward mobility. Her social circle is mainly composed of whites, which, given her minority status at school or work, is only logical but she has, unlike her parents, white friends. When her brother Carl comments that she never goes out with black men (330), it seems that Faith is consciously trying to blend in the white-majority society she grew up in since she hates to stand out.

As for her parents, they have a set of preferences for their daughter - they even try to match-make her with a black co-worker of her father and ideally, Faith would choose a Christian from the West Indies (48). It may be noteworthy to remind how Victorian social values were profoundly ingrained in the Caribbean as "church marriage, marital fidelity, dressing for dinner, chivalry to the 'ladies', social snobbery and formality in conduct" were all part of the Caribbean upbringing of that period (Hiro 21) which refers to the first generation of West Indians in Britain. Even though her parents avoided Jamaica in Faith's upbringing, they would also like to see her friends with other black people (Fruit of the Lemon 70).

The first generation of West Indians was known to be more docile and less likely to protest against endured injustices. When Faith confides in her mother that the TV department does not like to hire black dressers, her mother had a look "that pleaded, 'you can hate me but please love my children´" (172) which amply encapsulates the generational shift.

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