13 September 2009 A Spirit in the Mix: An Analysis of “I Used to Live Here Once” For the story, “I Used to Live Here Once” by Jean Rhys, we could argue that the story is about a woman who moved away from her homeland to go to a new place and now returns home for a reason not stated. The two children who are playing outside the woman’s old house in the sunshine ignore her. It may be possible that the two children ignore the woman because she left the West Indies to live somewhere else and therefore they believe that she does not exist. Is this what is going on?
I believe there is a bigger picture here. The speaker tells us in paragraph three that “that the sky had a glassy look…. ” This may be because the woman visitor does not see with her own eyes any more, or it could be that she does see with her own eyes and can see the true nature of the sky. The speaker tells us in paragraph five that the woman sees two children outside her home playing. The woman calls to them but “they didn’t answer…” her. In the next two paragraphs, the speaker tells us that the woman calls out to the children two more times but still they did not reply.
We can assume that the children ignore the woman because the children do not know her, or because the woman left her home and has not returned until now. In paragraph eight, the storyteller tells us that the woman is near the two children and they get a sudden chill. This changes the argument that the woman was ignored because she left her home. The woman is ignored not because she left the West Indies, but rather because she does not exist. The woman existed at one point or another, but now she is not at the home that she used to live in physically, meaning she is a spirit, a ghost.
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She is supernatural. The woman traveler is visiting the West Indies and her home for the last time. She has unfinished duties to perform before she moves on to her next destination. She visits the home because she will depart from there never to return. It may be that visiting her home was her unfinished task. I believe that the woman is a spirit because of the following evidence. The first evidence is, “The only thing was that the sky had a glassy look that she didn’t remember,” implying that she no longer sees it with physical eyes.
The second evidence is, “There were two children under the mango tree, a boy and a little girl, and she waved to them and called ’Hello’ but they didn’t answer her or turn their heads,” as if they are not able to hear her. The last evidence is the detail that the children have a sudden chill. The boy says, “Hasn’t it gone cold all of a sudden. ” In all the books that I have read dealing with the supernatural, it is common for people get a sudden chill when a spirit is in the mix. All of this evidence points to the fact that the woman is a supernatural being.
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