The Past Still Present: Gender, Racial Identity, and Double Colonialism in Doris Lessing’s The Grass is Singing and Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea


  • NUHA BAAQEEL Taibah University



Gender, racial identity, double colonialism, post colonialism, hybridity.


The themes of gender and racial identity and their treatment in Doris Lessing’s The Grass is Singing and Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea fundamentally inform both novels in uneasy ways that this essay argues hold enormous contemporary importance. In particular, the authors’ use of the framework of colonialism produce what, when read from postcolonial perspectives, necessarily creates tensions in the novels between characters that represent the colonists and those of the indigenous characters. These tensions are analyzed through postcolonial theories of hybridity and notions of Other to consider the impacts of these tensions and whether these still exist. However, aligned with these gender and racial tensions is the way the novels’ treatment of gender specific consciousnesses, in terms of racial identity, become evident as female characters are made to suffer a double sense of oppression within post-colonial narratives, a condition which I term here “double colonialism,” a condition which this essay further argues still lingers today. 


Acheraiou, Amar. (2008). Rethinking postcolonialism: Colonialist discourse in modern literatures and the legacy of classical writers. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Ahmad, Aijaz. (1992). In theory: Classes, nations, literatures. London: Verso.

Ashcroft, Bill, Griffiths, Gareth, & Tiffin, Helen. (2002). The empire writes back: Theory and practice in postcolonial literatures. London: Routledge.

Ashcroft, Bill, Griffiths, Gareth, & Tiffin, Helen. (1995). The post-colonial studies reader. Abingdon: Routledge.

Bakhtin, Mikhail. (2004). The dialogic imagination. Austin, TX: The University of Texas Press.

Bhabha, Homi K. (1994, 2005). The location of culture. New York: Routledge.

Bronte, Charlotte. (2006). Jane Eyre. London: Penguin.

Chapman, Michael. (1996). Southern African literatures. London: Michael Chapman.

Fanon, Frantz. (2008). Black skin, white masks. London: Pluto Press.

Fister, Barbara. (1995). Third world women's literatures: A dictionary and guide to materials in English. (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Foucault, Michel. (1998). The history of sexuality: The will to knowledge. London: Penguin, 1998.

Gregg, Veronica Marie. (1995). Jean Rhys's historical imagination: Reading and writing the Creole. Chapel Hill, NY: University of North Carolina Press.

Gilbert, Sandra M., & Gubar, Susan. (2000). The madwoman in the attic: The woman writer and the nineteenth-century literary imagination. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Hall, Stuart, & Du Gay, Paul. (1996, 2003). Questions of cultural identity. London: Sage.

Lessing, Doris. (2007). The grass is singing. London: Harper.

Parry, Benita. (2009). Aspects of peripheral modernisms. ARIEL, 40, 1, 2009, 27-56.

Makdisi, Saree. (1992). The empire renarrated: Season of migration to the north and the reinvention of the present. Critical Inquiry, 18 (4), 804-820. <> accessed: 10.03.19.

Makdisi, Saree. (1995). “Postcolonial” literature in a neocolonial world: Modern Arabic culture and the end of modernity. boundary 2, 22 (1), 85-115.

< > accessed: 10.04.19.

Parry, Benita. (2009). Aspects of peripheral modernisms. ARIEL, 40 (1), 27-56.

Rhys, Jean. (2001). Wide Sargasso Sea. London: Penguin.

Said, Edward W. (1994). Culture & imperialism. London: Vintage.

Said, Edward W. (2003). Orientalism. London: Penguin.

Savory, Elaine. (2008). Jean Rhys. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Showalter, Elaine. (1995). A literature of their own: British women novelists from Bronte to Lessing. London: Virago.

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. (1995). Can the subaltern speak? In: Ashcroft, Bill, Griffiths, Gareth, & Tiffin, Helen (Ed.), The post-colonial studies reader, Abingdon: Routledge.