Treasure Island

Innocent Masina Nkhonyo

a summary of Bella makes life ENG 102


The short story is about Bella, a married black woman, who goes to New York leaving her homeland, Jamaica. While there in the States Bella goes through a drastic change after being exposed to the Western culture. Her dramatic alteration tortures her husband, Joseph, psychologically.

In the first part of the short story Bella is being introduced as a loving and caring wife, guided by the principles and norms of Jamaican culture. The genesis of her transformation is being triggered by her first visit to the States. While there Bella secures a job and works hard but at the same time she is being immersed deep into the Western culture. She writes her husband back home, sharing with him how life is like in the States. The second letter she writes sends some ripples of fear in Joseph’s spine. His wife’s life has changed, he can tell from the language in the letter. After a year Bella comes back home, a great change can effortlessly be noted in her appearance. Her regalia speak volumes of how life in the States has corrupted her mind. Her character has changed really. She becomes too mobile and has making money as her principal gist of her presence on earth. She does not have time for her husband who has now been reduced to a neighborhood joke. Needless to say her two children are being denied the motherly love they rightly deserve.

Without spending much time at home, Bella goes back to the States and while there the change in her conduct is taken to another level and hence it is not difficult for people at home including her husband to notice it when she comes back. This second time she is coming home her behavior is even worse. It appears the Western luxurious life has taken the best of Bella. She is too busy than ever; making money. On some occasions she makes some attempts to plant the western mentality on her two children. This irritates Joseph very much and can no longer tie his tongue, he speaks out his mind but his concerns are being ushered into hell. It is too late to convince Bella. She feels Joseph is outdated and just hell bent to frustrate her efforts. All this torment triggers Joseph’s interest in one other Miss Blossom. This Miss Blossom becomes part of the equation; taking care of Joseph and his two children when Bella is away in the States.

Joseph’s frustrations become worse when it dawns on him that Miss Blossom has also started dancing to the tunes of Western culture as evidenced in her dressing. The woman he has been hoping for to heal the wounds of love in his heart caused by Bella, has also gone astray.

He feels defeated when he sees his wife and Miss Blossom being divorced from the realities of Jamaican wisdom and culture and seeing these women he trusted squarely opting for western culture. He finally resolves to marry an American woman who can lead a simple life.


In this short story Olive Senior writes about a transformation that a girl who is a product of a Black father and a Colored mother goes through. The girl’s beginning seems to be not so much rooted in the Western culture. She is in fact being guided in the traditional way of life by her Black paternal grandmother, Del. As a little girl the narrator finds no problems with her paternal grandmother’s way of life hence though she comes from town, she readily accepts most of the things Del, the paternal grandmother, puts forward to her whenever she visits the grandmother’s home during holidays. Most of grandma Del’s actions show that she is patriotic and leads a simple life. The girl transformation vividly comes to one’s consciousness as the girl narrates all her story to her mother.

Conversely the narrator notices some differences when she visits her colored maternal grandmother, Elaine. Unlike grandma Del’s simple life, Grandma Elaine leads a very luxurious life, changes boyfriends any how and prefers to be called Towser and not grandmother. This maternal grandmother does not like grandma Del’s way of life to be planted on the narrator’s way of life hence she discourages the narrator from taking what grandma Del says serious because grandma Del is too old and primitive. The narrator is of course not happy with these remarks. Grandma Elaine continues with expressing her discomfort with the black people’s features in the narrator’s physical appearance. Consequently she suggests what can be done to improve the narrator’s appearance. Grandma Elaine does not like Black skin and tough hair because she is colored herself.

As time goes the narrator’s perception of reality changes. She has been exposed to many luxurious things associated with white people. Grandma Elaine’s luxurious life has greatly influenced the narrator and the narrator feels anything associated with grandma Del, ranging from habitation to people’s way of life back in the village is primitive and boring. Most of the things that the narrator initially hates become of great significance to her now. She also becomes conscious of her real status in the society of Blacks, Coloreds, and Whites. She notices that her paternal grandmother’s skin is black, different from her maternal grandmother’s, Elaine. Her own skin is different from her mother’s, Aunt Rota’s (a sister to the narrator’s mother) and Jason’s and Maureen’s (the narrator’s cousins) . Her own cousin Maureen victimizes her about her skin. The narrator too turns onto her own people back in the village describing them as black people who do not know anything; they are dirty and awful looking. This Domingo effect kind of a scenario; White, Colored, Black comes about as a reaction to the narrator’s realization of her position in the society of Blacks, Coloreds and whites.

This realization poses a dilemma to the narrator’s life. She starts aspiring to have a light complexion like that of her mother and her mother’s relatives. It is a journey towards the White race.






REG. #: EH/44/07





Submitted: Wednesday, December 17, 2008

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