Type: Literary Analysis
Pages: 3 | Words: 611
Reading Time: 3 Minutes

‘I Used To Live Here’ is a short story written by Jean Rhys in 1976. It is a story that focuses on one main theme, the theme of death, transmission and alienation. The author has used various aspect of style to clearly communicate this theme. In this essay, we shall concentrate on how the author used the plot of the story and the style of symbolism to communicate his message.

The Plot

This novel open with the author travelling back home in the Caribbean. It is depicted in the novel that the place she was travelling to was familiar to her. The author follows the main character on a journey down a river and on a familiar road. However, due to what has seemed like a long away stay, the main character finds the place to have changed a lot. She notes that the roads she used to use are now wider. She also notes that the sky had a glassy appearance which she did not remember at all. She also reveals that the screw pine was gone. All these reveal that even though it is supposed to be the main character’s home, it is somewhere that she has taken a lot of time off.  Toward the end of the story, the main character reaches a house which is supposed to be her home. She finds two white children playing, but when she tries addressing them, they do not respond. She then tries to move closer to talk to them but they not only fail to respond but they also fail to acknowledge her presence. When she tries to reach out to the kids and touch them, they show her coldness and rush into a house. This is when the main character realizes that she is separated from the other people.

The plot of this story revolves around the author, Jean Rhys. Born of a British father and a Creole mother, Jean, who was considered a white felt alienated from her home people in West Indies. This was because most of the people in the community were black. At the age of 17, the author went to England to study and this further separated her from her home. Even though she might have studied in Europe, she still considered Dominican Republic a very important place in her life since it was her birthplace.


Jean Rhys uses a lot of symbolism to communicate her them of separation, alienation or death in her. First, she notices that things have changed around her, including the road and the ‘glassy sky’. At a certain point, in the first page, we are told that the character crosses a river. Symbolically, crossing over means dying.  When the main character reaches out to the children and tries to address them, we note that they neither fail to nether respond nor acknowledge her presence. First, this may be a symbol of the separation she had from the other people. Secondly it may be because the main character was dead. Dead people cannot communicate with the leaving. When she tries to reach for the children and touch them, they give her a cold reception and even rush into the house. This is as symbol of death. At this point, the main character is represented as a ghost but she does not know. Normally, children are afraid of ghosts and that might be the reason why they rushed into the house.

In connection to Jean Rhys life, she feels like she is alienated from her home people. Hostility shown to her by the kids might be her way of communicating the reception between the white and blacks in West Indies when they associate with each other.

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