The Chosen Place, the Timeless People

Ethnicity and the Other in Marshall and Phillips

If a novel is indeed grounded in a vision of the world, how do authors who find themselves essentially "groundless", caught in a web of shifting homes, cultural allegiances, and ethnic identities find their unique vision? Paule Marshall and Caryl Phillips, both authors of Caribbean descent (St. Kitts and Barbados, respectively) raised in distant countries (Marshall in Leeds, and Phillips in Brooklyn) attempt to articulate the shifting identity that stems from such diaspora. Marshall explores ethnic identity in Barbados through the struggles of its people, the survivors of imperialism. In The Chosen Place, The Timeless People, Marshall uses the conflict in Bournehills to represent conflict on a historic and global scale. Phillips examines his own ethnic identity in The Nature of Blood through stories about European citizens, the imperialists themselves. He writes on a grand scale; his works cover six centuries. Phillips thus employs a technique entirely opposite to Marshall's, who personalizes the historic and contains his story within a single continent. Both authors utilize silence and space to examine the characters' sense of self and otherness. History manifests itself in both novels as an important force...

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