In this essay, I want to set up a dialogue between two works to generate readings of each that help both to describe and to question inscriptions of power and colonial history. I work on the idea that post-coloniality is a matter of textual structuring as well as reading strategy. Reading (and writing) ‘against the grain’ implies that there is a grain to work against. This entails the problem of counterdiscourse, which preserves a binary opposition and perpetuates the privileging of one of the poles even as it seeks to complicate and dismantle the basis for discriminatory contrast. With Foucault’s ideas on discourse in mind (1981), I explore the mutual exposure of opposing uses of silence in Dickens’ Oliver Twist (1839) and Caryl Phillips’s Cambridge (1991).1