OMEROS:BOOK FOUR

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Book Four (Chapters XXXIII-XXXVI)

Chapter XXXIII

Part I. The poet-narrator describes scenes of empire, though this empire is built of such things as circuses and fair attractions. It has a tune of summer insects and the sea. However, the empire is decaying and falling in on itself. "From the provincial edge of an atlas, from the hem/of a frayed empire, a man stops" (170). He then goes on to say that is not for nationality, but for something more by using the image of the national anthem as compared to the sound of the sea. Everything is starting to go to seed, from the "stubborn lovers" to the fields (170). What more the poet-narrator is looking for in this section is left ambiguous. He uses language that invokes rich imagery and to reveal that the character is watching two young lovers. This is seen when he says ‘They live by an unceasing self-deceit in an eternal rebuilding” (169) and “Now the bleachers are too cold except for stubborn lovers who think that the night will say its stars for the first time” (170).

Overall analysis The rich imagery is meant as metaphor for the many themes of section. One of them is idea of an end to things. The narrator describes the areas of beauty by comparing to the lovers he is watching. The idea that he wants to show is that all of this beauty eventually ends, but is still beautiful.


Part II. In this section we find that the decay spoken of in Part I indicates the poet-narrator's failed relationship. The section opens with him in a Chinese restaurant, eating the same thing everyday and hiding "the smell of failure" from the crowd (171). He remarks that he has grown used to solitude, though he still feels and acts like the abandoned Philoctetes, "the hermit who did not know the war was over,/or refused to believe it" (171). The poet-narrator searches for a letter, waits for the phone to ring and mimics the feel of his old lover's waist with a pillow in his arms at night. He says "castaways make friends with the sea" but he imagines the woman everywhere: supermarkets, alleys and a chair in his house (171). He wishes this phantom would stand up and open the door for him, because although he is going home, he feels himself lost.Through his observations he mentions the Greek literature character off Philocetes who seems to also reflect his solitary life. Once he leaves he begins compare NY streets with Caribbean images. He says, “The heat stayed in the concrete pavement while the fan whirred its steel blades (171), and “I reached my raft and reconnected the phone. In its clicking oarlocks, it idled, my one oar” (171).

Overall analysis This section separated into two parts. The first involves the narrator trying to escape from the outside world in the Chinese restaurant. The Japanese comparison could be because he is an invader in the Chinese shop, or it could because he trying to distance himself from everyone. The second half is the narrators to his home. Here the author uses Caribbean images of sand, the trade winds, and others as way to show how the character seems to miss the his home.


Part III. The house where the poet-narrator and his lover lived is described. It is cold, lonely and empty. References are made to mundane things such as cable and toothbrushes, along with noteworthy things such as Poe and the Bible (Onan). The poet-narrator sums up the mood of the place with the lines "I do not live in you, I bear/my house inside me" (173). The section concludes with the hope of the house becoming a home. Interestingly enough, the section is done in couplets, a form that implies conclusion and closure from its contained rhymes.The narrator creates a poem based around Edgar Allan Poe’s “The House of Usher.” He uses the ideas of the story to relate his own problems and views of his lifestyle as oppressive.

Overall Thoughts: The entire chapter is very somber in tone, remarking on both the failure of love and conquest. These two may seem like disparate subjects, but by talking about both, the poet-narrator has drawn the colonizer and the colonized together in a way through their common experience. Both parties have failed at love, and in a way, civilization. Parallels can be drawn between the poet-narrator and the sailors, both of whom has lost the love of Helen. Also the parallel can be drawn between the poet-narrator and Philoctetes, discussed above as an endless waiting and refusal to believe.

Glossary:

Allan Poe: Edgar Allan Poe, nineteenth-century American writer of the macabre.

Barrel-organ: a musical instrument which takes in air from bellows and plays a tune by means of a rotating cylinder studded with pins.

Brookline: a Massachusetts town near Boston.

Fin-de-siecle: a French term meaning end of the century. It is often related to the end of the 19th century, and connotes decadence.

Guywires: tensioned cable that adds support to a structure.

Long Island Sound: an estuary, or place where salt water and fresh water mix, in New York. It is home to diverse animals and plant life. It is unique because two rivers connect it to the ocean-the Race River and the East River.

Marie Celeste: a short story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle about a ship, the Mary Celeste, which was found abandoned in the Bay of Gibraltar off the Spanish coast

Mayakovsky: Soviet poet who was deeply allied with Futurism, which rebelled against nearly everything in the past, and Communism. One of his early poems is titled "The Cloud in Trousers."

Onan's stain: in the book of Genesis in the Bible, Onan is slain by God for "spilling his seed," or practicing coitus interruptus. This passage has been read as condemning not only this practice, but masturbation and all but sexual practices that cannot lead to conception as well.

Sidereal: related to stars or constellations.

Vallombrosa: a village southeast of Florence, in the Tuscany region of Italy. In the village there is an eleventh-century Benedictine abbey. The seventeenth-century buildings house rich art work.

Vernal: related to spring

Umbrage: annoyance, offense, displeasure; indication or suspicion that something bad is going to happen; shade

Sources:

Chapter XXXIV

Part I:This chapter is in Walcott's perspective. He describes a series of images of the American west and the native Americans, beginning with the figure of a a Crow horseman. Wallcot follows the changes of the frontier; through the arrival of settlers and their domination over the Native American territory. It is unclear whether this is simply a journey of the imagination; or if Walcott is in a museum of history, observing the different historical exhibits. He notes the detail of the terrain," under the crumbling floes/ of a gliding Arctic were dams large as our cities,/ and the icy contrails scratched on the Plexiglas/ hung like white comets left by their seraphic skis" (175). The reference to Plexiglas could verify the theory that Walcott is actually examining the landscape while flying above it. Regardless, this section is full of movement. There is also reference to the American dream; which reflects the ideology of Manifest Destiny. This pursuit of settling The Frontier was at the expense of the Native Americans: "Our contracts/ were torn like clouds, like treaties with the Indians,/ but with mutual treachery... Manifest Destiny was behind me now./ My face frozen in the ice-cream paradiso/ of the American dream, like the Sioux in the Snow" (175). This isn't explicitly explained in this section but the imagery alludes to the opposing forces. in this way the reader is reminded of the history of the Caribbean itself.

Part II:Walcott continues his observations concerning white colonization over The Frontier. This can be verified by the description of The Union Pacific Railroad. He describes the American army coming to destroy the Native American's culture, Lances, the shattering silver of cavalry fording a stream, as oxen wheels/ grooved the Republic towards her. A spike hammered into the heart of their country as the Sioux looked on (175). Walcott relates it to the Caribbean's loss of culture at the hands of the white colonizer. "Their stunned, anachronistic faces/ moved through the crowd, or stood, with the same expression/ that I saw in my own when I looked through the glass,/ for a land that was lost, a woman who was gone" (175). A connection is made between the experiences of the Native Americans and the characters of Omeros; when he references Achille's hallucination,"The wandering smoke below me was like Achille's/ hallucination"(175). One gets the sense that Walcott might be trying to extend the term of "Creoleness" to not just Caribbeans; but all people who have had their identity taken away by colonization.

Part III: The scene is set at the Parkin Farm with the character of Catherine Weldon. The imagery depicted of the country side is beautiful, peaceful, yet powerful and almost menacing and ominous with its imagery of "the prophetic cries/ of multiplying hawks" and "thunderheads rumbled like wagons,/ to which the hawk held the rights" (176). This section of the chapter predicts the disappearance of the tribes with their land as industrialization and the building of railroads strip them of their land:"What would not remain/ was not only the season but the tribes themselves" (176). One should also note that the diction used here describes the conceptualized "American Dream"; which is placed in juxtaposition with Section Two.

Notes: The references made to Native American tribes in this chapter refer to the Sioux and various conflicts over land, most specifically the Battle at Wounded Knee which resulted in the death of over 150 Sioux men, women, and children, and at least 25 troopers. Many others are suspected to have died of hypothermia after fleeing.

Glossary:

Marram- type of grass

Chapter XXXV

Part I: The first section of this chapter also begins in the perspective of Walcott as he is narrating a journey with a trail guide into Georgia. His guide tells him "Somewhere over there...the Trail of Tears/ started" (177). The writer uses a lot of metaphors and images of other historical situations, which the Trail of Tears is a part of. This provides further thought and emotion to the idea the writer is trying to convey. This commences a string of imagery involving the sound of the creek they are walking by makes Walcott reflect on the nature of the south and Greek revival in the architecture and "how Greek it was, the necessary evil/ of slavery" (177). He continues to recognize the presence of "the Jeffersonian ideal in/ plantations with its Hectors and Achilleses", referencing again the Greek tradition. This continues with the acknowledgment of towns with Greek names: "Helen, Athens, Sparta, Troy" (177). Then, there is a transition to a discussion on slavery, which moves back to the Trail of Tears with a reference to Seven Seas. This could provide the reader with a connection between the South and the Caribbean.

Part II: There is no clear narrator for this section in the chapter which is probable to assume that this is in the perspective of Catherine Weldon, but it is never entirely clear. This is a narration of a life changed by the loss of land in the expansion of America and also the loss of those "we still love"(179). She tracks the history of her life and interactions between the Indians "as a hand in colonel Cody's circus" (179). This section is full of the imagery of nature and the fragility of life. The narrator even mentions the death of her son and her husband, which she is still hurting for.

Part III:This section is about Catherine Weldon and her reflection on everything that has happened to the tribes of Indians, and the deceit and treachery of white men to obtain their land. The play on the word "peace" in the "white peace of paper so ornately signed" (180) represents the way in which peace treaties were often signed in order to obtain land, not really with peace as the intention and promises of treatment peacefully were often empty: "Empires practiced their abstract universals/ of deceit: treaties signed with a wink of a pen's/ eye dipped in an inkhorn" (180). The word “white” has a double meaning. The “white church” (182) was then compared to the “blood that we drink”(182) maybe signifying the fact that it isn’t as pure as we all think it to be.


Analysis: Colonel Cody's circus is in reference Buffalo Bill and his Wild West show The Trail of Tears was the forced relocation of Indians from their native lands for the purpose of expansion and to "preserve" the tribes from going "extinct". This harsh trek to Oklahoma was made by the Creek, the Choctaw, and the Cherokee. Many suffered and died from dehydration and starvation on the way.

Glossary:

Belfries: A bell tower, especially one attached to a building.

Pheasant: Any of various Old World birds of the family Phasianidae, especially the ring-necked pheasant introduced in North America, characteristically having long tails and, in the males of many species, brilliantly colored plumage.

Chapter XXXVI

Part I: In part one the poet-narrator is inside the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston looking at a painting of Julius Caesar. He leaves the painting and the museum and has a smoke outside, thinking about how the outside world becomes a museum. Reentering the museum, the poet-narrator comes across Achille in the painting The Gulf Stream. He talks about Herman Melville and “de whiteness ob de whale” (184) referring to Moby Dick. The poet-narrator stands between the Greek columns of the museum trying to catch a cab, but because he is black they pass him and he is left in front of the now-closed museum.

Part II: This section is very short but tells how the poet-narrator knows he is different from other people because of the color of his skin. “New England [has] raked the leaves of the tribe into one fire on the lawn back of the carport” (185) shows how the narrator feels that all people of color have been grouped together and treated as the same. When he steps “out of a streetlight” (185) a woman, presumably white, greets him with an alarmed look, a smile “like a shark’s” (185) that hides her fear.

Part III: Part three opens with white sanderlings darting away from waves on the Marblehead, MA beach. The narrator describes the scene of people walking along the beach, dogs sniffing the surf, and birds puffing out their chest. The wind whips scarves about like the lifeguard’s flag and makes a loud noise like “a paper-bag thwacked open” (186). The leaves underfoot make a crunchy sound as the narrator walks down the sidewalk. He meets his father who is wearing a white drill suit, and they talk. His father talks about the postcards that he sent to family and friends, his travels, and how the island “became [his] fortress and retreat” (187). He tells his son, the poet-narrator, that no matter where he travels he should “cherish our island for its green simplicities” (187), because although he might feel trapped by the island, it will forever be his home and he can find solitude on it.

Glossary:

[1]

Picture of Gulf Stream

Picture of Sanderlings

Picture of Marblehead

Picture of Greek Columns

Sic transit Gloria: Sic transit gloria mundi (Latin: "Thus passes the glory of the world"). Wikipedia

Moby Dick