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The Fashionable Lack of Nourishment in Jean Rhys’ The Left Bank Short Stories.

2nd October 2020

Jennifer Cameron, University of Hertfordshire

Jean Rhys is not an author who immediately springs to mind when discussing food – alcohol maybe, but not food. However, her protagonists are often portrayed as lacking in food and this is a key factor in Rhys’ depiction of the fashionable, ‘chic’ modern woman. The 1920s were a period of significant technological and social change and in such a fast-paced, visual culture the concept of being fashionable and ‘of the moment’ was highly desirable. Fashion evolved as rapidly as society itself with a new sporty, modern silhouette which was slim-hipped, flat-chested and androgynous, and to achieve this fashionable shape without a corset, a culture of dieting arose. The 1920s saw the birth of many new diet and exercise regimes; the American Tobacco Company ran a campaign for its cigarettes, Lucky Strikes, suggesting ‘Reach for a Lucky instead of a Sweet’; and Dr Lulu Hunt Peters’ diet book, Diet and Health: With Key to the Calories (1918)was a bestselling success with over two million copies sold by 1939 in more than fifty-five editions.[1] [2]

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