After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie: The Search for Maternal Presence

  • Anne B. Simpson


After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie offers an austere yet resonating treatment of a pathology conditioned by loss, as Rhys continues to investigate the inner world of the child whose mother is irrevocably out of reach. While protagonist Julia Martin wanders across a ravaged landscape, from Paris to London to Paris again, geographic dislocations serve as external markers of her vacillating internal states. Although she enacts her distress in successive relationships with men—she is a woman, like all other Rhys heroines, who depends on male favor for her survival—at the center of this text lies the ailing body of the mother, whose physical sickness tropes the emotional malady of her relationship with her daughter. Rhys s consideration of the mother–daughter pair as source of subsequent misadjustments in adulthood invites a reading of pre-Oedipal connection as the dominating paradigm for human intimacy in this early work, published in 1930. Rhys also inscribes in this narrative a different kind of Modernism, one that is distinctively inflected by feminine concerns and the attempt to replicate maternal–infant modes of communication, in its injunctions that author and reader unite in cocreation of the text.


External Reality Ontic Status Successive Relationship Daughter Pair Depressive Position 
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© Anne B. Simpson 2005

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  • Anne B. Simpson

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