Sugar and Slate

Topics: Wales, Black people, Guyana Pages: 6 (2527 words) Published: May 7, 2012

This essay shall explore the identity of Charlotte and her Father as presented in Sugar and Slate, Williams, C (2002), Wales: Planet, and how their experiences of Africa, Guyana and Wales have shaped their personal identities as black people. Charlotte’s Mother is Welsh and her Father Guyanese, this heritage that has been bequeathed upon her has presented itself as a conflict of identities. Her Father leaves his family in a quest to pursue his own identity in Africa, creating a further struggle for Charlotte in discovering her own identity. Charlotte’s identity is presented as fragmented particularly when she discusses her early life in Wales and Africa. ‘…the Africa thing hung about me like a Welsh Not, a heavy encumbrance on my soul; a Not-identity; an awkward reminder of what I was or what I wasn’t’ Williams, C (2002, p. 1), Sugar and Slate, Wales: Planet. In Wales she feels like an outsider because of her appearance. She mentions in her book about using a hot comb to straighten her hair and how it is a secret. It seems as though she is almost ashamed of her Guyanese heritage and wishes to hide it from the world and even herself. This is quite apparent as Charlotte states that encountering her sisters at school ‘…was only to see things about my shameful difference’ Williams, C (2002, p. 38), Sugar and Slate, Wales: Planet. She refers to herself as Alice during her earlier School life as in Alice from ‘Alice in Wonderland’. She does this because like the character of Alice she finds herself in a world that she does not fit into and that does not make any sense. Additionally Charlotte desires her appearance to mirror that of Alice’s. She describes the girls in her class as being ‘…the natural angels and fairies, the fairy-tale princesses. They were beautiful.’ Williams, C (2002, p. 40), Sugar and Slate, Wales: Planet. Charlotte also makes references to life as being ‘tospy turvey’ several times when mentioning this period of her life much like ‘Wonderland’. Within the passages about Africa within her book Charlotte wishes to identify primarily with Africa. ‘It would have been so much easier if I had been able to say “I come from Africa”. Williams, C (2002, p. 1), Sugar and Slate, Wales: Planet. Essentially her reasoning for this is because she is half caste and at this time believes that she would have a greater grasp on her identity being able to say this. ‘There was no such thing as ‘black’ where I grew up’ Williams, C (2002, p. 48), Sugar and Slate, Wales: Planet. This is emphasised even more so by the assumption the colour of her skin gave to her peers ‘If you were black you must be from Africa’. Williams, C (2002, p. 44), Sugar and Slate, Wales: Planet. Throughout these passages it is apparent that Charlotte is in a continuous conflicting struggle with her black heritage. ‘I both loved and hated him like the bits of me that were black’ Williams, C (2002, p. 43), Sugar and Slate, Wales: Planet. ‘…any associated reference to blackness haunted me.’ Williams, C (2002, p. 43), Sugar and Slate, Wales: Planet. Charlotte began to feel she was drawing nearer to her identity whilst in Africa ‘Its colours and its contours make no sense in this place yet it is warm and familiar’ Williams, C (2002, p. 16), Sugar and Slate, Wales: Planet. Yet she was described by the residents as being white, inimically causing her to once again question her identity. ‘In Africa we were white and in Wales we weren’t.’ Williams, C (2002, p. 37), Sugar and Slate, Wales: Planet. She begins to describe Africa rather negatively by stating ‘Africa was the real stranger’ Williams, C (2002, p. 13), Sugar and Slate, Wales: Planet. Charlotte describes Africa as ‘the Dark Continent’ numerous times implying that this is where ‘dark people’ meaning black people live. Yet there she is seen as white making her identity all the more unidentifiable to her. In her passages about Guyana, Charlotte’s identity is presented all the more confused. Despite it...

References: Sugar and Slate, Williams, C (2002), Wales: Planet
Sugar and Slate, Williams, C (2002), Wales: Planet
Other Leopards, Williams, D (1963), London: Heinemann
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