Small Island is structured around four competing narratives each claiming historical truth and experience through shifts in setting and time. Levee’s historical novel Is told through a series of extended analysis that move back and forth between 1924 and 1948 as well as across national borders and cultures. Written more than fifty years after the first Wildness arrival, It creates a common narrative of nation and Identity In order to understand the experiences of Black people In Post-colonial Britain.
Yet she frames these experiences within those of the British in order to acknowledge all satirical truth and to not establish a singular articulation of the experience of migration and empire. Through the alternative narratives Levy attempts to fill the historical gaps and articulate a renegotiation of identity as after World War Two the sun has finally set on the Empire, we are now having to face up to all of these realities. Throughout the novel Levy invites the reader to experience moments of encounter and how people had to negotiate nationhood, citizenship and culture in different settings. This Is firstly illustrated within the significant interaction between Queen and the exhibited African man within the Prologue. Queen describes him through a series of superlatives, referring to his lips as ‘bike trees’, reinforcing the notion of the other’. She describes him as a ‘black man who looked to be carved from melting chocolate. [… ]Blacker than when you smudge your face with a soot cork. Quinine’s use of contrast and extended complex sentences demonstrates her attempt to negotiate the other’ through common ground. She deconstructs the African man by using images that are familiar to her such as ‘chocolate’ and ‘soot’ and Hereford through her own narrative creates an identity for him in which she is comfortable. Levy does this to allow the reader to consider the notion of discursive identify through the encounter with others and therefore how necessary it was at this time for people to accommodate difference.
Yet she also refers to his lips and how they Were brown, not pink like they should be’ and how the sweat on his brow ‘glistened Like Jewels’. The reader Is confronted with personal and historical truth must be acknowledged?refuses to establish a singular articulation of the experience of migration and empire. In this essay, I focus on discrete moments in the “Prologue” in Levee’s Small Island in order to think through the formation of discursive identity through the encounter with others and the necessity of accommodating difference.
Yet, through the space of writing, she also invites the reader to experience moments of encounter and negotiate the often competing claims on nationhood, citizenship, and culture. The brief but significant interaction in the “Prologue” not only structures Quinine’s personal narrative but also tells part of a greater story of historical encounters in Britain and throughout empire. Levee’s novel is “essentially an essay about the inescapable hybrids and intermixed of ideas. Less testimony about her father’s arrival places emphasis on hybrids, foliation, and the notion of empire as a “family of nations. ” Small Island is structured around four competing personal narratives?each laying claim to historical truth?and temporal shifts through space and time. Less novel takes place during two time periods: “Before,” a nebulous period of time before World War II, and “1948,” a year that raked the advent of multiple ethnic immigrations to Great Britain from her current and former colonies.
The novelistic discourse traverses multiple geographic locations, including Jamaica, the racially segregated United States, India, and London. This accumulative and overlapping approach to time and space defies a singular articulation of the experience of migration and empire while suggesting instead a plurality of moments, locations, and perspectives. The form of the novel, with its shifting perspectives, does not privilege a particular subject position over another.
The novel tells the story of interracial encounters and brings together disparate perspectives?voiced by black and white characters?but it resists the tendency to suggest a seamless collective. Instead, this structuring device calls attention to the gaps, fissures, and differences that underpin race thinking. Identity is seen as a provisional and negotiated construct, shaped by the pressure of political necessity, an ever-changing product of cultural encounters. Reflective of the instabilities of identity formation, Levee’s novel moves through space, occupies contested locations, and stands in the intervals.