Two Postcolonial Childhoods:
Merle Hodge's Crick Crack, Monkey
and Simi Bedford's Yoruba Girl Dancing


Martin Japtok

West Virginia State College, Institute WV

Copyright © 2001 by Martin Japtok, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. Copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that the editors are notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.

  1. Though Merle Hodge, in her 1970 classic Crick Crack, Monkey, describes a West Indian childhood and Simi Bedford a Nigerian and British one in Yoruba Girl Dancing (1991), England's empire casts a long shadow over both novels, revealing that both child protagonists have to overcome a "colonization of the mind," to reverse Ngugi wa Thiong'o's famous phrase. At an early age, Bedford's protagonist is cast into a British boarding school as the only African student. Lacking a cultural matrix, she is forced to invent an Afro-British identity for herself that relies heavily on the British colonialist imagination -- conveyed through media and stereotypes -- for its imagery. The Africa she knows and the Africa Great Britain imagines clash in her mind, and it is not until her late adolescence and the arrival of her family and friends from Nigeria that she is able to arrive at a more secure and de-colonized self-image. Although Hodge's protagonist does not leave the West Indies (Trinidad) until the very end of the novel, she experiences a similarly jarring psychological alienation. Taken from her working-class aunt's home, she is "adopted" by a middle-class aunt whose ideas of culture, education, and socialization are rigidly Anglocentric. As a result, the protagonist is made to feel ashamed of anything that connects her to her folk heritage. Though, unlike in Yoruba Girl Dancing, the agents of socialization are not British, their impact is not any less severe. A comparison of these narratives highlights a bitter irony of colonization: the indirect cultural impact of the colonizer may at times prove more destructive than direct cultural exposure.

  2. "Coming-of-age" stories, or Bildungsromane, are particularly well suited to study the impact of empire. Such texts often emphasize the protagonist's growing awareness of her ethnicity, its social significance, or its meaning. Ethnic literature in the U.S. has frequently turned to the Bildungsroman to explore such questions, as has Jewish Diaspora literature -- a kind of postcolonial literature in its own right. As Naomi Solokoff has said, "the most important characteristic of Jewishness in modern literature is the very struggle with the issue of identity itself. Narratives of childhood, concerned with a young figure's search for a personal voice, are keenly attuned to such matters" (xi). The struggle for identity is what characterizes both Crick Crack, Monkey and Yoruba Girl Dancing, since both are narratives in which identity is under assault from "Englishness" at a time (approximately the 1950s) when such a cultural imposition was still less questioned than after the wave of decolonizations in the 1960s. Though located in culturally specific locales -- the Afro-Indian-Anglo Caribbean culture of Trinidad, the Yoruba culture of Nigeria, and England -- both narratives are characterized by their focus on what happens to children when cultural definitions are imposed through education, both social and formal, by the metropolis. In other words, such education produces a sense of growing up elsewhere, whether one is literally sent away to school or alienated at "home."

  3. Crick Crack, Monkey starts with the funeral of the protagonist's mother, in a house "full of people" (3), and the sense of always being surrounded by people pervades the passages describing her life at Tantie's (her aunt's) house; as the protagonist-narrator Tee tells us, "Tantie's company was loud and hilarious" (4), and if there is no company in the house, Tee mingles with other children or spends time at her grandmother's house, where a whole "multitude" of children lives (13). Her life in these environs appears happy and content, and the dramas of everyday life, even the death of her mother and her father's departure for England, are absorbed in sociability. As Yakini Kemp notes, "she [Tee] is moving progressively toward the development of a positive self-image while she resides with Tantie" (24).

  4. However, working-class Caribbean life is hardly isolated from Western cultural influences, and thus one sees how working-class adolescents are affected by colonialist views through "last weekend's Tarzan picture or Western" (6/7). Their conversations as rendered in the novel betray that they identify with the white "heroes" of those movies and enjoy their genocidal victories over indigenous people. This leads to ironic situations. For example, Krishna, an East Indian -- whose very presence on Trinidad is a result of British imperial settlement policies after the abolition of slavery in the 1830s, leading to the transportation of East Indian laborers to the Caribbean -- relishes a Western "hero's" killing of Native Americans, who are victims, like himself, of the same global movement of European expansion; he describes a scene from a movie to his peers: "'An' then the other guys reach, an' then, ol'-man, then yu jus' see Red-Indian fallin-dong all over the place -- ba-da-da-da-da -- pretty, boy, pretty!'" (8). The adolescents' identification with American movie heroes goes so far that a number of them have adopted the names of movie stars such as "Rock-Hudson " and "Gary-Cooper" (8). Where does such an uncritical acceptance of the colonizers' ideals come from?

  5. The novel highlights the degree to which the school system is responsible for such an internalization of a Westernized worldview. In Third Standard, the teacher reads to the students "tales of unvanquished knights with valiant swords and trusty steeds" (55), immersing them in European legends. The results of "the evils of schooling derived from imported metropolitan conceptions of education" (Narinesingh x) become clear soon enough. Even before having been brought to her Aunt Beatrice's anglophile middle-class home, Tee has learned what she is to regard as the standards by which the world is measured:
    Books transported you always into the familiar solidity of chimneys and apple trees, the enviable normality of real Girls and Boys who went a-sleighing and built snowmen, ate potatoes, not rice, went about in socks and shoes from morning until night and called things by their proper names, never saying "washicong" for plimsoll or "crapaud" when they meant a frog. Books transported you always into reality and Rightness, which were to be found Abroad. (61)
    Tee's so-called education thus puts her in an intolerable situation: since her own world does not have the same cultural referents as the one she is taught to regard as "correct," she is forever trying to "catch up," always seeing herself in terms of a world which can never be her own because it is always elsewhere. Indeed, her whole socialization process comes to affirm that however many of the cultural standards prescribed by the educational system, her teachers, or Aunt Beatrice she adopts, she always falls short -- and so do her teachers and Aunt Beatrice, who are similarly caught in a cycle of self-denial and self-hatred.

  6. Tantie warns Tee not to be affected by such colonialist indoctrination: "'jus' you remember you going there to learn book do' let them put no blasted shit in yu head" (23). The warning is apt and timely. A description of Tee's teacher, Mr. Hinds, alerts the reader to what Tee will be up against when entering school: "He had a greying twirly mustache and wore a brown suit. . . . [H]e frequently flapped his jacket and mopped his head but however hot it became never did it seem to occur to Mr. Hinds to remove his jacket"(23/24). Mr. Hinds is bent on living an English reality in the face of the facts of the Caribbean because he holds Englishness as the highest value in his life, and so it is not surprising that "[e]veryone knew that Mr. Hinds had been up to England" because he is eager to let everyone know about it. His devotion to the metropolis assumes a worshipful attitude illustrated by his "daily endeavor to bring the boys to a state of reverence" towards a "large framed portrait of Churchill" (24). Similarly, the colonial education he administers has little to do with Caribbean realities but instills English cultural knowledge in students -- from apples to Christmas to snow and the haystacks the children learn about in their school primers -- who do not have any lived knowledge of England, thus attempting to erase Caribbeanness in them as it has been erased in him.

  7. C. L. R. James has described his own experiences of schooling in terms that give credence to the verisimilitude of the character of Mr. Hinds:
    [O]ur masters, our curriculum, our code of morals, everything began from the basis that Britain was the source of all light and leading, and our business was to admire, wonder, imitate, learn; our criterion of success was to have succeeded in approaching that distant ideal-to attain it was, of course, impossible. (qtd. in Ngugi 97)
    The latter is a conclusion Tee reaches implicitly as well. The result of such indoctrination, of course, is to inscribe Caribbean subjects into an English reality, and make them objects of English power. The educational system can thus usefully be seen as an imposition of power in a Foucauldian sense. As Bart Moore-Gilbert has explained, "Foucault sees power as an 'impersonal' force operating through a multiplicity of sites and channels. . . through which it seeks to control its subjects by 're(-)forming' them, and in so doing, making them conform to their place in the social system as objects of power" (36). But Caribbean subjects are not likely to feel fully validated as objects of British power, as Crick Crack, Monkey shows (as does Yoruba Girl Dancing for Nigerian subjects in England); since they will not receive the full legal-economic-emotional-psychological benefits of citizenship, the "re-formation" from Caribbeanness to Englishness does not yield a satisfying self-image.

  8. In its stead reigns self-hatred. In one of his fits of frustration with his students, Mr. Hinds thunders, "'Here I stand, trying to teach you to read and write the English language, trying to teach confounded piccaninnies to read and write. . . . I who have marched to glory side by side with His Majesty's bravest men -- I don't have to stand here and busy myself with . . . little black nincompoops" (29). The passage is rich in implications. For one, it addresses the issue of language. The duality of language use in the novel reflects "the general idea of the interdependence of language and identity -- you are the way you speak" (Ashcroft 54) -- and in this context, it is significant that the protagonist does not speak with the inflection of her working-class community as narrator, the narration being in British English. Having undergone an indoctrination similar to Mr. Hinds' she has come to reject the vernacular as Mr. Hinds has. Nonetheless, through its insertion into the novel by way of dialogue, the use of the vernacular highlights cultural specificity. The text "employ[s] vernacular as a linguistic variant to signify the insertion of the outsider into the discourse" (Ashcroft 57). The very rendering of the vernacular in written English gives it equal status to "mainstream" English and linguistically symbolizes an act of resistance and a cultural alternative -- Creole culture -- that, in the plot of the novel, is marked by a relative wholeness when juxtaposed to Mr. Hinds' and Aunt Beatrice's self-alienation, which is expressed in the above passage through Mr. Hinds' concern with having his students learn "proper" English.

  9. Secondly, in adopting demeaning epithets from slavery days, Mr. Hinds appears to disassociate himself from his students in a complete denial of their shared Caribbeanness. Frantz Fanon illuminates the dynamics at play here:
    Every colonized people -- in other words, every people in whose soul an inferiority complex has been created by the death and burial of its local cultural originality -- finds itself face to face with the language of the civilizing nation; that is, with the culture of the mother country. The colonized is elevated above his jungle status in proportion to his adoption of the mother country's cultural standards. He becomes whiter as he renounces his blackness, his jungle. (18)
    Creating barriers upon barriers between himself and the children, Mr. Hinds paradoxically wants to make them like himself while despising them. Rejecting his own blackness, he condemns it in them; attempting to make them like himself, with language as a primary standard of culture, he also tries to prove his own cultural "redeemability," the possibility of becoming English. As one can see, it is for good reason that Tantie warns Tee of such indoctrination in the vernacular, since the vernacular is the only cultural basis for Tantie (and potentially for Tee) from which to launch a defense. But Mr. Hinds' lessons serve to prepare Tee for what awaits her in Aunt Beatrice's household.

  10. In the interest of her schooling, Tantie decides to let Tee stay with her Aunt Beatrice, who has been attempting to "kidnap" the child repeatedly, insisting that only her house provides the "proper" environment for her deceased sister's child. Aunt Beatrice's oldest daughter begins what will become a concerted attempt by all family members to make Tee and the people she loves feel inadequate when she comments on Tee's brother Toddan's features: "She objected to Toddan's nose -- she said it was too flat, and she took to calling him Flat-Nose" (34). Not only color and features are under scrutiny concerning their similarities and dissimilarities to European beauty standards, but so are clothes, as Tee finds out when her cousins inspect her wardrobe soon after her (second) arrival: ". . . I began to unpack. Soon I discovered that there was a muffled giggling at each garment I drew out of the suitcase. I was completely disconcerted. . . . I wondered how in the world I had ever thought to approach these young ladies, far less beat them up, a few years before" (70). Tee's observation is instructive: on her first stay with Aunt Beatrice, Tee had been fully immersed in Tantie's world and had not yet acquired "double consciousness," to use Du Bois' term, had not yet learned "this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity" (Du Bois 3). The bitter irony here, of course, is that Tee has developed a sort of "triple consciousness." While Du Bois speaks of African Americans looking at themselves through the eyes of racist whites, Tee looks at herself through the eyes of her cousins, who have so thoroughly imbibed a British colonialist world view that nothing appears to exist resembling even remnants of a Caribbean identity. Through school and reading, Tee has already been indoctrinated into standards of "Reality and Rightness" and she recognizes her cousins as being closer to the Anglophile standards instilled in her, quelling the resistance against their denigration that was still available to her when she drew her world view and strength from Tantie's cultural orb.

  11. In her new Anglophile world, everything connected to African ancestry is denigrated; for instance, dresses bought for her by Tantie are dismissed as "niggery" (77) by Aunt Beatrice who, like Mr. Hinds, adopts the racist vocabulary of the slavery system in complete and apparently unaware acceptance of its self-denigrating force. In a complementary gesture, everything white is extolled. The best representation of Aunt Beatrice's internalization of a belief in white supremacy is the altar-like presentation, in her home, of a photograph of "The White Ancestress," which is "encircled in a heavy frame of gilded foliage" and hanging "high up on the wall" in order to command "the attention of all who entered the livingroom" (81). Such veneration of "white blood" illustrates that Aunt Beatrice does not merely admire and strive to emulate English culture, but that her Anglophilia is ultimately rooted in racist and Darwinist beliefs in the superiority of bloodlines and "races." Thus, in her eyes, African ancestry in and of itself is a liability, not merely African culturally acquired styles and behaviors. This explains her manic attempt to erase everything in herself, in her daughters, and in Tee, reminiscent of such ancestry, which puts her in the same self-destructive bind as Mr. Hinds. She is determined, just as is Mr. Hinds, to pass on this self-alienated psychological legacy to Tee.

  12. As a result, Tee is made to feel utterly inadequate when it comes to speech, color, features, and dress. As Ketu Katrak has said, "Beatrice cultivates bourgeois values that despise blackness in every form -- skin color, speech patterns, food" (66), and this is a legacy from which Tee cannot escape. Her alienation from Tantie becomes complete, as becomes woefully clear when Tantie visits her and she regards her through the lens of Aunt Beatrice's value system, pronouncing the food she brings to be "all manner of ordinary nastiness," and worrying about her cousins "giggling helplessly in their hiding places" (106/107) as an expression of amused contempt for their relatives. The final scene demonstrates that Tee now lives between the worlds, not belonging to either. Unable ever to be accepted fully into Aunt Beatrice's household and Englishness, she is also alien to Tantie's world. Tee assesses her own situation in this way as she spends a last day in Tantie's household before flying to England to join her father: "Everything was changing, unrecognizable, pushing me out. This was as it should be, since I had moved up and no longer had any place here" (110/111).

  13. Her education, both in school and in Aunt Beatrice's household, has had the desired effect. Ketu Katrak explains that
    Colonized people's mental colonizations through English language education, British values, and culture result in states of exclusion and alienation. Such alienations are experienced in conditions of mental exile within one's own culture to which, given one's education, one un-belongs." (62)
    Tee's education now puts her above the "ordinariness" of Tantie's household, but at the same time, it does not make her belong anywhere. As Sophia Lehmann aptly puts it, "The paradox of assimilation is that it tends to exacerbate rather than alleviate the sense of marginality for which it was supposed to be the cure" (102). However, assimilation only became needed as "cure" once Tee was feeling marginalized, a condition she did not know before her schooling or her stay at Aunt Beatrice's. Thus, the colonized middle class passes on its own sense of marginalization, which results in an endless cycle of attempted assimilation as supposed resolution to a state brought about by the desire for education -- and education then makes the feeling of marginalization more acute. For Tee, this closed circle of alienation leads to such feelings of hopelessness that "her sense of unworthiness expresses itself in a desire for annihilation" (Thorpe 37): "I wanted to shrink, to disappear. . . . I felt that the very sight of me was an affront to common decency. I wished that my body could shrivel up and fall away, that I could step out new and acceptable" (97). Though she does not actually contemplate killing herself, her self-hatred and eagerness to assimilate are the cultural equivalent of suicide. Trinidad seems to offer no escape from this condition for Tee, and so it is that both Tee and the reader suspect that Tantie has instigated Tee's father in England to send for her as a means of saving her from Aunt Beatrice's self-negating and self-hating cultural influence. The novel thus ends on an ironic note: to save Tee, who is unable to return to the Caribbeanness she has known in Tantie's household through having become socialized in the worship of Englishness, Tantie sends her to the ultimate source of this cultural negation: to the metropolis, to England.

  14. Though this ending certainly is an ironic one, it appears to be less so when read against Yoruba Girl Dancing. Like Tee, Remi Foster, the novel's protagonist and narrator, grows up in an environment full of adults and children and, unlike in Western-style nuclear families, she is constantly surrounded by them. As in Crick Crack, Monkey, the child narrator, early in the novel, experiences "crowd scenes" in which she is immersed in family and friends. In both novels, these scenes set up a contrast to the loneliness the narrator-protagonists will experience once removed from their original environment and placed into a Western or Western-aspiring one. What Marjorie Thorpe has said about Crick Crack, Monkey thus can also be said for Bedford's novel: "Throughout the novel Hodge contrasts the warmth and congeniality of Tantie's household with the loneliness and isolation which Tee experiences at Aunt Beatrice's" (36). Isolation becomes thus associated not only with the state of cultural alienation but also with the West as such. In Remi Foster's case, the protagonist is witness to both a wedding and a funeral (that of her grandfather) early in the novel, and both occasions allow the reader insights into the fullness of her life. But there is a crucial difference to Tee's childhood here: while Tee grows up in working-class surroundings, Remi lives in the house of a grandfather who is "the richest man in Lagos" (5) and thus lives in a palace-like structure humming with servants to take care of all needs, including those of the children. However, as in Tee's case, one sees an extended family structure at work in which children, without apparently experiencing any traumatic psychological dislocations, live in households other than those of the parents. Such similarities in family structures are explained by Bedford's novel as it shows continuities between Africa and its Diaspora.

  15. Remi's grandfather's father had been one of the Africans from the U.S. resettled in Sierra Leone as reward for their fight with British troops in the Revolutionary War. Resettling in Nigeria, he became a wealthy trader. What all this means for Remi is that she grows up a Christian in a mansion built "in the European style" (5). In effect, her mode of life is far more luxurious than the one she is about to experience in England. Her cultural hybridity parallels Tee's to some extent: both live in African-descent communities already impacted by Europe. However, in Tee's world, wealth and privilege are associated with Englishness and/or whiteness, while Remi's class status, and the fact that England is never mystical, far away, and a site of privilege -- since almost all grown members of her household have studied there -- prepare her better for the encounter with Englishness. As a result, she is somewhat more inured to the stereotypes of Africa England will confront her with and less likely to expect England to be a land of wonders. Indeed, in her cultural context, Europeans are outsiders, and not necessarily privileged ones: it is explained to her that her step-grandmother, an Englishwoman, "would have been unacceptable to Grandpa's family on account of her being a foreigner and white" (41). Unlike in Tee's world, whiteness is neither desirable nor the measure of beauty and value.

  16. Because of her cultural and class-based security, Remi's initial encounters with racism leave little impression on her, since she does not have a matrix in which to fit remarks implicitly or explicitly denigrating her Africanness. Thus, when Mrs. Smith, her self-appointed caretaker on the journey from Nigeria to boarding school in England, refers to her as "a little savage" (50) and tells Remi, "You will find that English girls are very advanced in their lessons, you will have difficulty, I imagine, keeping up with them" (53), Remi is little impressed as she finds the tasks Miss Smith gives her so easy "a baby could have done them" (54). Even when she first meets her boarding school classmates and they tease her cruelly about her skin color, claiming that it will rub off, she is dismayed but does not fully understand the pejorative cultural context of such a remark in which "blackness" is understood as a kind of contamination.

  17. However, constant assault in and of her social surroundings shakes her composure. There are the "Tarzan games" in the street into which Remi is incorporated and in which she learns to accommodate English expectations by changing her "father into a tribal chieftain whose frequent duty it was to leave his house in Lagos in order to make ceremonial visits to his ancestral village deep in the heart of the jungle" (91). There is also social ostracism at school, all of which leads to her recognition of racism: "I now understood what a darkie was and a native and a savage" (98). As in Tee's case, Remi's protective shield, forged from positive immersion in the culture now under assault, wears thin as it is not re-enforced by continued contact with it. But as in Tee's first visit to Aunt Beatrice, during which she would still attack her cousins when they attempt to denigrate her, Remi's secure position in her home culture initially gives her a basis from which to contest white supremacy; Remi is able to puncture the supremacist balloon when, for example, remarking, in history class, "that Mungo Park might have fared better in his voyage down the Niger if he'd asked the way from the people already there" (98/99).

  18. But constant denigration grinds down Remi's resistance. Like the adolescents in Tee's Trinidad, Remi, too, comes to see Tarzan movies through Western eyes. At an earlier viewing, she had found the native bearers' flight upon the approach of dangerous animals sensible and "prudent"; now she comes to "[resent] their behavior, because this kind of sensible precaution was considered cowardly in Croydon," the neighborhood she spends her school vacations in (115). Because Africa and her family are becoming more and more like "figments of my imagination" (119), as she confesses, her prime wish becomes that of Tee in Aunt Beatrice's Anglophile household: to assimilate.

  19. Thus, she declares, "From now on I am going to behave as Miss Bowles [one of her teachers] says I should, as a perfect ambassador for my race. Except, of course, that I am English now" (123). Here is, of course, the central paradox: Remi becomes an ambassador by giving up what differentiates her, by making Englishness her prime goal. This exacts, as its cost, her willing participation, for all intents and purposes, in the denigration of Africa: "Indeed so keen was I now not to be regarded as different from everyone else, I made no demur when in a discussion with Miss Miles during a history lesson on the slave trade, Heidi Goodchild said it had been authoritatively proved that Africans had smaller brains" (125). Unlike Tee, who completely internalizes the Anglophile values and self-hatred of her middle class relatives and teachers, Remi is conscious of the falsehoods of the denigrations she endures. Though she remains silent, she makes, also unlike Tee, a conscious choice to go along by pretending to accede to white supremacy in exchange for an elusive Englishness -- elusive because occasional racist comments by students or teachers remind her that she may act as if she is British though she may never be British. To that extent, her dilemma is identical to that of Tee and Aunt Beatrice.

  20. One might say that Remi actually encounters Aunt Beatrice. Going to church, she is fascinated by a group of Jamaicans whose style of worship reminds her strongly of Nigeria. She approaches them, commenting on how much their singing and clapping "'sounded just like home. Jamaica must be exactly like Africa. Is it?'" Upon which she receives the reply that "'The West Indies is not like Africa at all. . . . It just like England in Jamaica'" (150). Here one might usefully quote Frantz Fanon who reminisces, in Black Skin, White Masks, that "I have known, and I still know, Antilles Negroes who are annoyed when they are suspected of being Senegalese" (Fanon 25/26). In Yoruba Girl Dancing, such a cultural attitude on the part of the Jamaicans Remi sees provides proof of the power of the metropolis to control images of Africa. The Jamaicans depicted here reject their obvious African ties as much as the middle-class Trinidadians of Crick Crack, Monkey reject their Caribbeanness and African ancestry.

  21. Unlike these Jamaicans, Remi is always able to preserve some sense of ironic distance to her own predicament. In effect, she develops what is closer to a kind of Du Boisian "double-consciousness" than to Aunt Beatrice's or Tee's restricted vision, which allows her to see how she herself is seen; however, she usually remains aware of the ironies and falsities of that representation. She experiences a kind of epiphany when reading that most English of all authors, Shakespeare. Realizing that her own situation is not unlike Othello's, she interprets the play in this manner when talking to an English friend -- and unlike Tee, she has English friends she can talk to, and she is able to verbalize her predicament while going through it:
    "Othello was destroyed. . . because his marrying Desdemona was seen an attempt to become a Venetian, and the Venetians could not tolerate this in a black man. It has become increasingly obvious to me that if I do the same thing by trying to become one of you, I am likely to receive the same treatment. All this time I've been living in a fool's paradise and now I don't know who I am." (173)
    Unlike Tee, for whom "literacy is a form of mastery that is achieved at the expense of the self which. . . becomes alienated in the modes of representation which were supposed to empower it" (26/27), as Simon Gikandi has noted, Remi is able to use her education in her own service. Though, on the surface, she appears like Tee to be similarly suspended between two worlds, belonging to neither, she is able to theorize her own situation and thus gain a measure of control over it. The realization of her perpetual outsider status, which is her assessment of English culture rather than of English individuals, also enables her to make a relatively easy transition to a kind of cultural return. This return becomes a possibility when she goes to college and finds some of her Nigerian childhood friends there, as well as students from India, Iran, and Belize. Having graduated from Du Boisian double-consciousness, she now enters the Du Boisian world of Dark Princess, which envisions Pan-African and world-wide alliances of people of color from around the globe. Liberated from her cultural otherness, she now experiences her Africanness with joy.

  22. Nonetheless, one of the last scenes of the novel makes clear that even her new state of psychological freedom is to some extent predicated on her outsiderdom, which has now become a kind of valued commodity:
    After three years of being outsiders the thrill of belonging made us irrepressibly lighthearted; lightheaded, Derin's mother said. We dressed to look alike deliberately and we didn't care who stared at us now, protected by our identical beehives and dark glasses. When asked who we were and where we were from, we smiled mysteriously and moved on, languidly swinging our hips, all of us in our high, high heels and our tight, tight skirts. (184)
    The very declaration that "we didn't care who stared at us" underlines, of course, that they do, and rather than escaping Western colonialist preoccupations, it appears Remi has now entered another enclave of exoticism (and it may be relevant here that Simi Bedford worked as a model, as a biographical note preceding the novel informs), only that the trappings are those of late teenagehood. Still, Remi is now less seeking Englishness than enjoying the company of other Africans, thus escaping the alienation in which Tee is trapped. Since Crick Crack, Monkey ends with Tee's imminent departure for England, one wonders whether she will stroll down the street with Remi, after having rid herself of the notion of Englishness -- or follow the path of denying Africa like the Jamaicans Remi encounters. That the former is a likelihood has been noted by Simon Gikandi who comments that, in Hodge's novel, "the narrating self. . . has, presumably, overcome its alienation by mastering its history through narration" (24). Similarly, Marjorie Thorpe holds out the possibility that, "in a foreign country, away from the pressures of her own society, Tee might in time be able to reconcile the two cultural traditions which she has inherited." However, as Thorpe also notes, Tee's alienation might become even deeper: "like the school-master Mr. Hinds, her sojourn in the metropolis [might] merely aggravate her contempt for the local black Creole culture, thus removing her permanently to the ranks of the culturally displaced" (32).

  23. What is to be learned, then, from the juxtaposition of these two novels? For Tee, the absent colonizer is almost worse than a physically present one; he assumes mythical proportions, becomes an unattainable measure, a standard against which one is never "good enough." The flaws and contradictions of metropolitan society are out of sight and cannot be examined by Tee. Those Trinidadians who have lived in England and have returned home have a vested interest in denying or downplaying such flaws and contradictions as well, since the very fact of having lived in the metropolis bolsters their status in island society. As Frantz Fanon has said, the returnee becomes a "demigod" (19) and is likely to adopt "a critical attitude towards his compatriots" (24) as a sign of the "superiority" acquired through prolonged contact with the colonizer. Thus, what remains, for Tee, are only voices telling her that her very being is an affront to "Englishness."

  24. Remi, however, sees the English in their weaknesses, in their human and flawed reality. While for several years, with an increasing distance to any alternative value system, she must accommodate herself to "Englishness" and become a part of it, it appears that she has some underlying, subterranean awareness that her consciousness is "false." One is tempted to say here that, since "the function of ideology, also, is to legitimate the power of the ruling class in society[,] in the last analysis, the dominant ideas of a society are the ideas of its ruling class," as Terry Eagleton has affirmed, paraphrasing Marx (5). Remi's consciousness is false, then, to the extent that her first-hand knowledge of Africa becomes (almost) replaced by the lies, errors, and distortions English colonial power (as ruling class) has invented to justify its colonization of parts of Africa. However, Remi only partially succumbs to this ideology.

  25. In the case of Tee, an "authentic" knowledge of Caribbeanness also becomes replaced by "false consciousness" in the form of a veneration of Englishness. This happens once her alternative, Creole consciousness, existing and functional despite the presence of a colonized middle class which acts in relation to her as a ruling class, becomes crowded out by a systematic barrage of denigration against which her ego attempts to shore up its defenses but fails. She fails because she can neither join the middle class (her working-class Creole background and her color are always held against her) nor easily return to her working-class roots, since she has adopted the revulsion of the middle classes against Caribbeanness. To use Gordon Allport's terms, her in-group has been replaced by her reference group, the group of her birthright and allegiance has given way to the dominant group.

  26. For Remi, the process is similar. The thinner the real, lived ties to Nigeria, the more her view of Africa becomes the one predominant in Great Britain. Having barely had time to develop a consciousness of herself as Nigerian (or Yoruban), she becomes British out of a lack of other options. Once she has other options, however, she quickly and joyfully embraces them. Yoruba Girl Dancing illustrates, to some extent, the irony of "Caribbean and African people going to Europe and discovering there that all they'd been told about their own countries was a lot of hogwash, and that their own culture was valid," as Merle Hodge has noted when describing her own political development in a 1989 interview (Balutansky 654).

  27. What do these narratives accomplish, then? They explore the powerful psychological impact of Western educational systems on the minds of children and thus on the minds of societies. As Merle Hodge has said in the same interview,
    What is very interesting is that so many people, not just in the Caribbean but also in Africa. . . have chosen that device of a child narrator or protagonist. . . . these novels aren't really novels about children. . . . I think that to a large extent it was a stock-taking and validation of our culture. . . . So the impact of the educational system on the child is really an exploration of the impact of the educational system on the budding culture. (Balutansky 653)
    Since the novels depict the indoctrination of children with a vested interest in resisting it, it should not be surprising that such indoctrination is equally successful with the British children of Yoruba Girl Dancing, who then, in turn, serve as agents of colonialism. Despite differences in class provenance of their protagonists and the maybe related difference in tone and mood -- Crick Crack, Monkey, especially in its second half, is more somber than Yoruba Girl Dancing which, despite its seriousness, is full of often sarcastic humor -- both novels show themselves to be postcolonial classics, exposing Western educational systems as what they were designed, in part, to be: weapons meant to defend the continued dominance of whites on the globe and to instill in children of African descent a feeling of cultural alienation, of having grown up elsewhere.

    Works Cited

    Allport, Gordon. "Formation of In-Groups." Rereading America. Cultural Contexts for Critical Reading and Thinking. 2nd ed. Eds. Gary Colombo, Robert Cullen, and Bonnie Lisle. Boston: Bedford, 1992: 292-306.

    Ashcroft, Bill, Gareth Grffiths, and Helen Tiffin. The Empire Writes Back. Theory and Practice in Post-Colonial Literatures. London: Routledge, 1989.

    Balutansky, Kathleen M. "We Are All Activists: An Interview with Merle Hodge." Callaloo 12.4 (Fall 1989): 651-662.

    Bedford, Simi. Yoruba Girl Dancing. New York: Penguin, 1991.

    Du Bois, W.E.B. The Souls of Black Folk. (1903). New York: Bantam, 1989.

    Eagleton, Terry. Marxism and Literary Criticism. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976.

    Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks. (1952). Trans. Charles Lam Markham. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1982.

    Gikandi, Simon. "Narration in the Post-Colonial Moment: Merle Hodge's Crick Crack Monkey." ARIEL 20.4 (1989): 18-30.

    Hodge, Merle. Crick Crack, Monkey. (1970). London: Heinemann, 1981.

    Katrak, Ketu H. "'This Englishness Will Kill You': Colonial[ist] Education and Female Socialization in Merle Hodge's Crick Crack, Monkey and Bessie Head's Maru." College Literature 22.1 (1995): 62-77. EBSCOhost. 28 Nov. 2000.

    Kemp, Yakini. "Woman and Womanchild: Bonding and Selfhood in Three West Indian Novels." SAGE 2.1 (1985): 24-27.

    Lehmann, Sophia. "In Search of a Mother Tongue: Locating Home in Diaspora." MELUS 23.4 (1998): 101-115. Infotrac. 28 Nov. 2000.

    Moore-Gilbert, Bart. Postcolonial Theory. Contexts, Practices, Politics. London, New York: Verso, 1997.

    Narinesingh, Roy. "Introduction." Crick Crack, Monkey. Merle Hodge. London: Heinemann, 1981: vii-xiv.

    Ngugi Wa Thiong'o. Homecoming. (1972). Westport: Lawrence Hill, 1983.

    Sokoloff, Naomi. Imagining the child in Modern Jewish Literature. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins UP, 1992.

    Thorpe, Marjorie. "The Problem of Cultural Identification in Crick Crack, Monkey." Savacou 13 (Gemini 1977): 31-38.

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