An Interpretation of Jean Rhys' Used to Live Here Once
Jean Rhys’ “I Used to Live Here Once” is a very well written and thought through short story. Rhy is very descriptive about all of the surroundings in the story. She makes sure to leave out no details regardless if the reader realizes it or not. That is why I say Jean Rhys’ “I Used to Live Here Once” is not about where “she” use to live, it is about a woman remembering the first time she knew that she was dead.
The story begins with her standing on the bank, staring and “remembering” each “stepping stone” (Rhys 358). Everything was just as she remembered at the river. As well as it should have been, for that is where she died, and her spirit has remained until she decided to go home. The last stone she remembered is a very important element of the story. She remembers that, “The next wasn’t so safe for when the river was full the water flowed over it and even when it showed dry it was slippery. But after that it was easy and soon she was standing on the other side” (358). The importance is that the unsafe rock was what caused her death. She slipped on it and fell into the river and lay dead beneath the water for many years. Now her spirit has returned and she is trying to go home. She knows that it “was” easy after this stone, because she had done this several times before (358).
When she saw the road, she immediately realized that it was wider than before. At this point everything around her was familiar but damaged. The road was wider, but it was poorly done. The trees were still there, but they were lying on the ground. The bushes were still there, but they “looked trampled” (358). Although everything was not exactly as she remembered, she remembered everything. The discrepancies did not bother her at all. As she walked down that poorly widened road, she felt “extraordinarily happy” (358).
In the third paragraph I realized that the narrator is the same girl in the story. The second sentence says, “The only thing was that the sky had a glassy look that she didn’t remember” (358). Rhy reiterates the importance of the “glassy sky”, by saying that “glassy” “was the only word she could think of” (358). The sky is “glassy” now because she is dead and that is why she did not remember it. The narrator is on the other side of that “glassy sky” telling the story of “the first time she knew” (359).
As she walked along she noticed...