Postcolonial literature addresses the problems and promises of decolonization, the process of non-western countries in Asia, the Pacific, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and the Caribbean becoming independent from western control. It is the literature of people trying to reclaim their freedom and their new identities after struggling for independence.
Some of the themes of postcolonial literature include re-asserting the identity of the indigenous culture, revisiting and revising colonial history, and providing fuller descriptions of the people created by colonialism and the way in which their lives reflect both cultures. Many postcolonial authors also use hybrid dialects to reflect the intertwining of western and non-western languages.
Jean Rhys's 1966 novel Wide Saragasso Sea is an example of postcolonial literature. Rhys, who was born in Dominica, imagines the earlier marriage of Mr. Rochester of Jane Eyre. The main character, Antoinette Cosway, is torn between her identity as a white creole in Jamaica and her married life in England. The author writes about the confusion of having a mixed identity. Antoinette is declared mad, a comment on the tendency of western cultures to identify what they don't understand as mental illness and the tendency of colonialism to produced fissured and conflicting identities. Things Fall Apart by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe is another example of a postcolonial work in which the main character, Okonkwo, witnesses the dissolution of the traditional Igbo culture with the introduction of Christian missionaries. In both novels, the protagonists are raised in the non-western cultures and are exposed to the confusion of dealing with a western culture that does not recognize their values or identities.