[Caribbean Literature]

Textual Doubles

Part Six of The Double and the Center

David P. Lichtenstein '99, Brown University, Contributing Editor, Caribbean Web

Caryl Phillips employs another structural tactic to challenge constructed notions of center like those of Father's authority or the newspaper writer's credibility. For each segment of his text (both individual narratives and the newspaper account) forms a pastiche of historical documents, assembled with striking correspondence to texts like slave narratives or Victorian women's travelogues. In effect, Phillips' text itself forms a double with these documents, which it calls into question by setting the "facts" contained in each at odds with each other, and noting the suspect second hand knowledge on which their authority rested (statements like "I have been led to believe (67)" crop up all over the novel). Phillips makes his readers aware of the power of these documents to create history, to build up the center whose interests they represent. Therefore, by challenging the authenticity of these pseudo-historical documents, Phillips thus once again questions the validity of the center itself. He has left readers only with three different conflicting stories and a shadowy awareness of their roots. Phillips has furthermore allowed immorality to pervade such formerly fixed categories as colonizer and colonized. It soon becomes clear that reality can only be determined from the perspective of whoever narrates, that one person's historical account exists more as story than factual document. Phillips has allowed no ground for the center to stand on, for in such a relativist schema no one could possibly achieve a single unfiying account, as the flawed news article proves.

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