Hortense Small Island Essay

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In Small Island, Hortense is ridiculed in London by the host society for her aspirations despite being a Black woman. Hortense trained as a teacher in Jamaica and ‘was the talk of the college for several weeks.’ Hortense’s privileged upbringing is a reflection of her high hopes for England and the educational advantages she feels she will be entitled to in Britain. Although, Hortense is well-respected feelings of superiority often interject Hortense’s outlook on the opportunities available to her in Britain. Thus, she is alienated in the British educational system due to institutionalised racism and nowhere will hire her because she is black. Hortense attempts to acquire a teaching job whilst in London and is dismissed on the grounds of her race. In chapter fifty, the racial attitudes of 1950s Britain are made apparent: ‘The letters don’t matter,’ she told …show more content…

You’re not qualified to teach here in England.’ When Hortense attempts to challenge the white lady she is shunned immediately and asked to leave, she is rejected for teaching on the basis of her race. Hortense contests normalised racial views that ‘Blacks should similarly occupy a lower position in the class structure since their biology or culture limits their skills, education and interests.’ Despite Hortense’s teacher training in Jamaica she is deemed inadequate to teach in England because she is not white or essentially ‘British’. An unsuccessful attempt to elevate her educational prospects is a means to subvert racial expectations and beliefs which are upheld about Black women. Historically, black women do not conform to the dominant discourse in education, similarly, Gilroy argues that black struggles for educational opportunities are a ‘resistance to domination’. Despite Hortense’s previous education in Jamaica, she is considered inferior in London, due to the fact she cannot prosper or obtain a job due to the racial attitudes which were prevalent in 1950’s

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