Literary Studies – Postcolonialism – 2011

Ian Fleming, Doctor No.


Quarrel had been with Bond on his last adventure in Jamaica. He was an invaluable handyman with all the fine seaman’s qualities of the Cayman Islander, and he was a passport into the lower strata of coloured life, which would otherwise be closed to Bond. Everybody loved him and he was a splendid companion. Bond knew that Quarrel was vital if he was to get anywhere on the Strangways case – whether it was a case or just a scandal. Then Bond had asked for a single room and shower at the Blue Hills Hotel, for the loan of a car and for Quarrel to meet him with the car at the airport. Most of this had been wrong. In particular Bond should have taken a taxi to his hotel and made contact with Quarrel later. Then he would have seen the car and had a chance to change it.

As it was, reflected Bond, he might just as well have advertised his visit and its purpose in the Gleaner. He sighed.                                                                                                           (p.36)

Quarrel had said that whenever he wanted to enjoy himself in Kingston he went to a waterfront nightspot called The Joy Boat.

 ‘Hit no great shakes, cap’n,’ he had said apologetically, ‘but da food an’ drinks an’ music is good and I got a good fren’ dere. Him owns de joint. Dey calls him “Pus-Feller” seein’ how him once fought wit’ a big hoc-topus.’

Bond smiled to himself at the way Quarrel, like most West Indians, added an ‘h’ when it wasn’t needed and took it off when it was. (p.38) 

Doctor No, Ian Flemings’ sixth book of the Bond series, demonstrates imperial assumptions, racial issues, and British settler culture, when analysed through a Post-colonial lens. On the third page of the book, Fleming (a wealthy British Caucasian from London) describes a group of Chinese Negroes (Chigroes), as bulky, beggars and “in this quiet rich unempty street, they made an unpleasant impression”. Fleming himself was writing during a period of Civil Rights Movements (1958), where ‘coloured people’ were still treated as inferior in many white cultures.

James Bond is a British spy in the exact interpretation of the white colonisers persona: he is refined, tasteful, and intelligent. Fleming’s writing style such as “Bond reflected” separates Bond from lower class, showing that he has a higher sense of class and properness. Since Bond is working on a case in the Caribbean (colonised by Europeans in the 16th century), Bond must seek assistance from a coloured man, Quarrel. While Bond is dependent on Quarrel, reversing the traditional binaries, Quarrel is still portrayed as of lower intelligence and style: Quarrel makes mistakes with the style of car.


Fleming has created a wide distinction between Bond and the coloured locals, which is why he needs assistance from Quarrel. Bond needs information from the Negroes, but because they would not understand Bond, he must seek a more educated Negro to help: “he was a passport to the lower strata of coloured life”. Fleming is blatantly obvious in his position towards other races, suggesting that locals are subordinate. On page 38 Fleming makes obvious that Bond is more intelligent than Quarrel: “Bond smiled at the way that Quarrel, like most West Indians, added ‘h’ when it wasn’t needed and took it off when it was”. This reinforces the idea that others are inept at the English language and over the course of the book, Bond must ‘colonise’ and help educate these people. It is not dissimilar to the Imperialist writing of Shakespeare, Defoe, and Kipling, which imply that it is the duty of the British white cultures to colonise and civilise the minorities. Quarrel is aware that Bond is higher maintenance (‘Hit no great shakes, cap’n’) and Bond is evidently wealthier than the West Indians.


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