Jean Rhys by Sylvie Maurel (auth.)

By Sylvie Maurel (auth.)

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Here After Leaving Mr Mackenzie ostentatiously loops the loop, representing its own closure. On the other hand, the title of the novel, an unfinished sentence, as well as the last sentence, with its shadowy connotations, are both indicative of a desire for inconclusiveness. The markers of transience and indeterminacy compete with the markers of closure. One aspect of this twilight zone is the way in which After Leaving Mr Mackenzie plays with the notion of irreversibility. The irreversible quality of the traditional plot is ironically challenged by the introduction of chance and unpredictability, notions which preside over Julia's existence.

She is defined by what she lacks and enters history with a piece missing. Such conception of an incomplete other subordinated to a masculine self is the point of departure of Luce Irigaray's Speculum de l'autre femme. 3 In her reading of Freud's lecture on femininity, she points out that, for Freud, sexual difference comes down to the simple fact that the male has an obvious sex organ, not the female. Female difference is then perceived as an absence or the negative of the male norm. Woman is not only the other but man's other, his negative or mirror-image, man's specularized other which has meaning only in relation to him.

An elusive figure cast adrift in Paris and London after the break-up of her relationship with the eponymous character, she baffles those who come across her and defeats any attempt they might make to define her. An exile in every possible way, she is cut off from her relatives, lives outside her country as a social outcast, and cannot be incorporated into known categories. A borderline character, 'between dog and wolf', to borrow the novel's last words, she is destined for marginal existence and indeterminacy.

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