Document Type

Undergraduate Project

Publication Date



In lieu of an abstract, below is the essay's first paragraph.

Abeng by Michelle Cliff is a coming- of-age novel set in colonial Jamaica. The heroine, Clare, struggles with defining herself across the lines of gender, race, class, and sexuality. Intertwined with Clare’s journey to find herself is a large discussion of Jamaica’s history as a colonial territory as well as the permanent effects of English colonization on the island. Cliff recognizes that the typical European history of Jamaica is told through the eyes of superior white male colonizers and it most commonly shows that all things native and/or black are perceived as bad. Cliff challenges the master narrative and tries to rewrite Jamaica’s colonial history with the untold stories of the island’s past. Through discussion of mixed race heritage, female leadership, and resistance, Cliff tries to rewrite Jamaica’s past to embrace the forgotten stories that are full of pride and strength, which gives the colonized subjects a voice in their own history. She uses Clare Savage as a metaphor for the island, her resistance as a representation of Jamaica’s new history. Cliff recognizes that the past cannot be erased, however, she believes that history can be retold to more fully explain the strength, resilience, and power within the Jamaican community. Her ultimate goal is to tell a powerful story of Jamaica’s history, a new history that has been untold and kept secret for many years. Clare’s resistance is the catalyst of change in Cliff’s retelling of Jamaica’s past, and she helps to create a sense of hope that the stories that have been hidden for so long will be unveiled and celebrated by the Jamaican people.


Paper from Dr. Deborah Uman's English Senior Seminar course, Fall 2012.

Additional Files

Poster-Petta.pdf (529 kB)