Small Island By Andrea Levy Essay

Small Island By Andrea Levy Essay

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The novel, Small Island, by the contemporary writer, Andrea Levy chronicles the lives of a handful of British individuals in the years following the Second World War. The characters and their interactions make up the entirety of the plot, with their interactions whole-heartedly representing post World War Two cultural and political change. The main characters represent certain aspects of this change that occurred in post-war British society. Hortense Gilbert represents a pretentious, romanticized, fleeting vision of the Empire in which Britain once found much pride. Queenie Bligh is a worldly, open minded woman who foreshadows the politically and socially progressive Britain, which is on the horizon for herself and her contemporaries. Alike, Levy employs her jovial character Joseph Gilbert as a contrast to the qualms and the uneasiness of postwar racial progress possessed by many people at the time in which the novel takes place. Consequently, Gilbert and Michael Roberts symbolize the natural progression of such change, for they are both affirmative characters in Small Island. Lastly, Queenie’s husband, Robert represents the ‘old guard’ of Britain and its deeply rooted sentiments against diversity and similar issues. Small Island provides for an all-encompassing look into the social changes of post-1945 Britain through the point of view of each of these characters in the form of personal narratives. Through the analysis and comparison of the individual narratives, the overarching themes that concern social change—race, prejudice, and identity—reign supreme in this novel of great contemporary significance.
Hortense Gilbert is a black woman who moves from her home in the British colony of Jamaica to London in hopes of becoming a ...


... middle of paper ...


...he changes that were occurring in the society around him and the ideological death of the patriarchal white dominated British society that once ruled the world.
In conclusion, Small Island addresses post-war Britain in a way unlike before, bringing an emotional and personable aspect to the most pressing issues of British society following the Second World War. In the novel, the character Hortense’s embodiment of the positive, nostalgically cherished traditions of the British Empire represents the things British citizens can always take pride in. In contrast, Levy’s ‘antagonist’ Bernard brings to light the less desirable characteristics of the classic Empire. Consequently, Queenie represents the clash between the aspects of the ‘olden’ days—along with Gilbert and Michael—and the move towards progress and social equality which forms British society as we know it today.

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