Colonialism Fiction

Arrival of the Snake-Woman and Other Stories

Arrival of the Snake-Woman
and Other Stories
Olive SeniorLongman1989

Arrival of the Snake-Woman by Jamaican-born Olive Senior narrates the story of an isolated child who is coming to terms with the strange, harsh ways of the adult world.

From In the story, “snake-woman” is the name given by black Jamaicans to young Asian Indian women because of their litheness and hip movements: “They walk just like a snake and they don’t wear no proper clothes just these thin little clothes-wrap, thinner than cobweb, you can see every line of their body when they walk.”

The story begins in about 1870 in Jamaica. Besides the tale about the woman herself and an interwoven story about the narrator, we are given a social history of nineteenth-century Jamaica. It is a history of radical changes in two contrasting places, each representative of different aspects of the island.

For she acted exactly as she pleased, laughed at his strictures against her behaviour, her friends, his lectures on ‘respectability’. She was the first woman in his existence who had a life of her own, who did things simply because they pleased her, who argued, who asserted herself. There was only one role he was equipped to play which was to resist, to the bitter end, this encroachment as he saw it on his authority, his manhood. And bitter it became.

Olive Senior in Arrival of the Snake-Woman