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For the last decade, Britain's legacy has been noticeable around the globe, according to Toplu (1). The contribution of people from former British colonies, including Asians and Blacks from South Asia, West and East Africa, and the West Indies, has been heavily emphasized. These individuals not only promoted the notion of 'Britishness' and multiculturalism, but they also introduced western culture to Britain. However, Britain has yet to accept the realities of multiculturalism and the issues that arise from a post-imperial multi-racial culture. Andrea Levy's novel - Fruit of the Lemon – provides a remarkable view of the existing problem in Britain evident through the hybridized cultural forms. This paper analyzes the cultural identity in different locations examined in the novel. The article will further investigate any suggestion made from the novel regarding any form culture being truer. It will also determine whether Faith could have resolved her issues in England without necessarily moving to Jamaica.
Novel’s Production of Cultural Identity in Different Locations
The novel begins with describing several cultural elements that characterized England. These elements were observed by the West Indian immigrants during their first visit to England in the late 1950s. Faith, a critical character in the novel, and her parents were among the immigrants who arrived in the country originally from Jamaica. Upon the docking of the ship carrying the immigrants, Faith’s parents heard the whistle and pop sound of crackers coming from fireworks which lit the sky. Faith’s mum stated, “At first we didn’t know what it was for. In Jamaica you only get fireworks at Christmas. Your dad thought it might have been a welcome for us, having come so far and England needing us” (Levy, 8). Faith's parents faced terrible cultural conditions in the country before they afforded a decent life. They had arrived in the country at a time it was marred by racist violence, overcrowding, unemployment, and poverty. Racist persecution was majorly practiced within the school environment and it mostly affected the multicultural children. Levy explained that the “bully boys” made fun at Faith in primary school by referring to something she did not have a clue about: “Your mum and dad came on a banana boat” (3). On the other hand, Faith described the boys as “the boys with unruly hair, short trousers and dimpled knees that went bright red in the cold” (3). The better first part of the novel dwells on Faith's life at college, living together with three white friends after leaving her home, and the attempt to come into terms with the syncretic culture in the country.
The novel shifted focus on British culture upon the request of Faith’s parents to her to visit her aunt in Jamaica. Levy presented the first impression of Jamaicans almost similar to their colonizers, the British. In the Jamaican Airlines, Faith described the Jamaicans as "shabby-looking black people, with men dressed in baggy trousers…women with huge bottoms in tight-fitting skirts with no tights and sandals on their feet" (166). To faith, these people appeared too poor to fly. Upon arrival, Faith stated that everywhere she turned, there were black faces. She experienced culture shock. She said that she felt as if she was out of place. It was like a dream. She remained prejudice about Jamaica as she admitted at one point that she had an image of mud huts with dirt floors and stick roof in her mind. However, she gradually adopted the Jamaican culture with time. She changed the way of clothing. She began wearing cotton skirts and blouses. She put on sandals and made a bun of her hair on the top of her head.
Suggestion of Truer Culture
It is important to note that the author of the novel does not appear to provide a suggestion that any form of culture is truer or more satisfying than another. Throughout the story, Levy maintained an optimistic and positive stance from a contextual and textual point of view. Contextually, Levy tried to demonstrate that the state of hybrid culture that does not discriminate on any person because of their color or background of origin (Toplu, 10). She juxtaposed the concept of motherland and homeland which yielded a global hybrid identity for Faith. This identity was the future of multiculturalism that will be observed in Britain. Textually, Levy manages to depict the problems emanating from perceiving a culture as superior to others. Faith and her family, as well as the immigrants, experienced racial discrimination in Britain. This made their life difficult in the country. Additionally, the perceived British superior culture made Faith to almost deny her identity after visiting her ancestral home.
Possibility of Faith Solving her Problems in England without Travelling to Jamaica
From the story, it would not possible for Faith to solve her problems before traveling to her ancestral land. This is because of the nature of her problems. She struggled to come to terms with her identity. She denied her Jamaican background and yearned to be considered white. The major challenge that faced not only Faith but all the immigrants was racism. Faith faced sporadic fights triggered by racism, especially pertaining to her job promotion (Toplu, 7). This fuelled Faith’s desire to transform his identity. However, this could not be easy because the people around her still saw her as black and Jamaican. Therefore, she had to accept her origin first to solve her identity problem. By her traveling to Jamaica, she was able to gain identity consciousness and became happy.
Relationship between Culture and Identity in the Novel and Conclusion
Although the novel illustrates a robust relationship between culture and identity, it does not provide an ultimate comment regarding the same. Levy used Faith as an example to show how culture influences individuals to transform their identities. The problems experienced by immigrants in England during the 1940s and 1950s necessitated the need for them to change their identities (Toplu, 2). However, it would be difficult to change one’s identity as evident in Faith’s case scenario because of the effects of racism. Faith tried to deny her origin and background but she faced several challenges including the remarks and questions from friends and neighbors who enquired from her about her background status. They wanted to know whether she had grandparents, uncles, and aunties in Jamaica. She repeatedly answered, “I think so,” “I don’t know,” “I’m not sure” (132). In the second part of the novel, Faith is relieved, although after a while, upon visiting her family in Jamaica. She became attached to the Jamaican culture through the dressing code and behavior. It is through this way that she settles her identity crisis problem.
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Levy, Andrea. Fruit of the Lemon. Headline, 2011.
Toplu, Şebnem. "Home (land) or ‘Motherland’: Translational Identities in Andrea Levy’s Fruit of the Lemon." Anthurium: A Caribbean Studies Journal 3.1 (2005): 1-11.
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