OMEROS:BOOK ONE

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Book One (Chapters I-XIII)

Chapter I

Part I. While smiling for tourists who are taking his picture, Philoctete* tells them (it seems) the story of the making of the fishermen’s canoes, and also, “for some extra silver,” shows them a scar on his leg made by a rusted anchor. Cutting down the tall cedars from which the canoes were made is described as a murder. An iguana—a significant figure since the island is said to have been originally called “Iounoaloa,” “where the iguana is found,”—witnesses the murder of the trees. The iguana’s gaze takes place “in a pause that lasted for centuries,/ that rose with the Aruac’s smoke till a new race/ unknown to the lizard stood measuring the trees.” The measuring and cutting down of the trees therefore marks the beginnings of colonialism: “These were their pillars that fell, leaving a blue space/ for a single God where the old gods stood before.” The image of the chainsaw killing the trees also indicates that the change taking place here is connected to technological change.

Part II. Achille is the central character in this part. He sees the hole left by a fallen tree. Was he part of the tree-felling crew? Unclear. The destruction of the trees is described as the destruction of a tribe: “The bearded elders endured the decimation/ of their tribe without uttering a syllable….” The poem goes on to describe the journey of the fallen trees—described as dead bodies—on a flat-bed truck; burning out hollows in the trees to form canoes; and a priest blessing the new canoes. The name or inscription on Achille’s canoe is In God We Troust. Achille knows it’s misspelled but says “Is God’ spelling and mine.”

Part III. Achille wakes up when it is still dark, locks his hut, and walks through the town “past sleep tight houses,” counting the stars. He hears the roosters “their cries screeching like red chalk drawing hills on a board,” He arrives at the concrete shed or depot where the canoes are stored. He is described as going to meet the surf; the surf is personified, compared to Achille’s teacher, thus connecting it with the roosters’ cries. The fisherman pass around a flask of absinthe (liquor), and get ready to begin their day.

Overall thoughts: On the surface, the poem is describing an everyday scene, but as it uncovers the history of the canoe, one senses that everyday experience is charged with meaning—with a past that haunts and shapes the feelings and perceptions of the characters. There is a sense, though this is not clear, that we are seeing the world through the eyes of Philoctete and Achille, not seeing them from the outside. At least one connection between Philoctete and his Greek namesake is revealed in this chapter, that is, that they both have festering wounds. Connections between Walcott’s Achille and Homer’s Achilles are not quite clear yet.

Glossary:

Philoctetes: According to Greek mythology, he was an archer who fought in the Trojan War and competed for the hand of Helen. He is characterized by a stinking, festering wound on his foot.

Achilles: Achilles’s story is quite involved; he is the hero of Homer’s Iliad. You can read more about him at www.pantheon.org

Gommier: a traditional canoe from the Antilles. This site has a picture of some half-finished gommiers from St. Lucia.

Chapter II

Part I. Hector and a host of men with "only Christian names" launch their boats together, setting out to sea as they do every day. Going to the sea is like beginning a story, it allows a new tale to begin each time they embrace the sea. First they remove the dead leaves, and then they loose the “flour-sack sails” (9) as Hector makes a ceremonial thanks to the sea. Philoctete, described as having hair like the surf foam, is also in attendance. He bears a wound “like a radiant anemone” (9) that came from an anchor. He sees the canoes off before retreating to Ma Kilman’s shop where she provides him with white rum. He cannot join the other men because of the stench of his sore and the pain it causes him. Meanwhile, the pirogues set out with their various names evident. Hector hopes to return before the “conch-colored dusk low pelicans cross” (11).

Part II. The first time the reader encounters Seven Seas, his resemblance to Homer, or Omeros, is startlingly clear. Seven Seas wakes and sets his saucepan cooking. His actions are described in great detail, particularly in relation to the sounds they make. He sees “with his ears" (11), because he is blind. His dog waits outside while he considers the pirogues at sea and continues cooking. A disease had taken his sight, but his last vision was of the sunset. Now he moves “by a sixth sense” (12), because “his blindness was not the end” (12). “It was not a palm-tree’s dial on the noon sand” (12). In other words, it did not make him into nothing. Instead, he embraced his sixth sense and his hearing, using his body to feel the sunlight and his ears to hear the movements of the world around him. The imagery describing his surroundings is rich and vibrant like the image in his mind’s eye as he reconstructs a vision of his world through his other senses. His eyes are “egg-white” (12) from the blindness. The speaker is born, called forth by the sound of the sunrise’s breath. The speaker invokes Omeros and proceeds to speak of the island in terms of images from the Odyssey as well as the native landscape. He compares the lighthouse to the Cyclops and describes the sea as an atlas. Always appealing to Omeros, the speaker paints a vivid picture of the lighthouse hurling a boulder into the stars. Then he speaks of “a black fisherman” (13) studying the “opening line of our epic horizon” (13) and returns to the canoes, moving inward to the island and its harbor. It was the sound of the name, “Omeros,” (13) that initiated this sight of the island as an epic land. A girl has spoken the name, “Omeros” (13).

Part III. The narrator describes the way hearing a Greek girl say the name "Omeros" instead of Homer affected him. The deep, rich sounds of the name evoked all sorts of memories and connections between the parts of the word, the sea, and the Caribbean. The girl who spoke the name says it once more, “O-meros” (14). She says that his name is such in Greek as she strokes a small bust. The narrator is reminded of Seven Seas. He jokes about how Homer and Virg are the names of farmers in New England and that the “winged horse guards their gas station” (14). When he says, “Omeros,” the “O” is the sound of a “conch-shell’s invocation” (14) while the “mer” was a play on the words for “mother” and “sea” and the “os” was the sound of a bone (14). The name and its hidden meanings stayed with him as he watched the girl, whom he calls Antigone, turn to say that she wanted to leave America to return to Greece. He describes her in terms of the sea and surf, her skirts like the ocean and the bust watching. Below the floor are memories of slavery, manacles and horrors. The speaker says that had the bust known of these things, it might have turned away “to do what the past always does: suffer, and stare” (15). The girl lays down and her face emerges from her black hair as he approaches her. She moans, her throat compared to a vase once more, and the speaker says that the sound is not for “kings floundering in lances of rain” (15) (Odysseus), but for “the prose of abrupt fisherman cursing over canoes” (15).

Overall Thoughts: Part I is the launching of the pirogues, the beginning of the journey. The reader finally sees the canoes reaching their element and the trees are at last vessels on the ocean. More information about Philoctete’s injury and his place in the community is provided, and now we know that he cannot join the other men as they set sail. In Part II, Seven Seas is subject to a similar state of isolation due to his being unable to go out to sea. Although blind, Seven Seas is completely self-sufficient. It seems that his blindness has enabled him to see the world in a completely different way, as the inability to use his sight forces him to pay attention to his other senses to the point that he can “see” with his ears. In a way, he is Seven Sees as well as Seven Seas, because he sees more than any of the sighted people. He is meant to invoke an image of Homer/Omeros. The narrator is born in this chapter as well, right when the invocation to Omeros occurs. “A noun gently exhaled from the palate of the sunrise” (12) because the “I” for at least the rest of the chapter. Part II ends with “Omeros” spoken by a girl, the word “humming in the vase” (13) of her throat, which leads into Part III. Like a memory called forth by saying the name “Omeros” the scene between the Greek girl and the narrator plays out. The narrator describes how he heard the Greek name for Homer and the impact it had on him. The name stayed with him and engendered several new meanings based on the sounds the word holds. Part III also ends with the comparison of the girl’s throat to a vase again, the vase that held the name of “Omeros” (13).

Glossary:

Font: A fountain, a receptacle for holy water.

Amidships: Toward the middle of the boat.

Pirogue: A canoe made from a hollowed tree trunk, a piragua.

Myrmidons: A loyal follower. Also a member of a legendary Thessalian people who accompanied their king Achilles in the Trojan War.

Sea-almond: Tropical almond tree native to New Guinea.

Breadfruit: Pictures.

Antigone: Daughter of Oedipus and Jocasta.

Chapter III

Part I. This chapter opens with Hector yelling at and accusing Achille of stealing or “borrowing” a bailing tin from his canoe. Hector throws several insults at Achille that are chiefly aimed at Achille’s tendency to inflate his self-importance in everyday situations. "Who do you think you are? Logwood Heart?/ You think you’re king of Gros Ilet, you tin-stealer?” (16). Hector challenges Achille and reveals his cutlass causing Achille to put the tin back and draw his blade. The two square off and the villagers come out of the shade to watch and follow the confrontation. It begins to rain as the two face off in the shallows of the ocean and Hector cuts Achille’s shirt near the shoulder. Though no one was really hurt in this tussle it is stated that when Hector cut his shirt he also tore at Achille’s heart. Achilles feels shame in the form of anger towards his fellow fisherman. They fight over a meaningless tin that serves as an outlet for their mounting anger and jealously over Helen. They fight over the idea of her more so than her as an actual living woman, “The duel of these fishermen/ was over a shadow and its name was Helen” (17). She represents their dreams as well as the island itself so to lose her would mean isolation and a meaningless role for them.

Part II. Ma Kilman’s bar, the oldest in the village, is described in vivid detail for us as we get a sense of scene and surroundings. She looks up the street and sees “the blind man” (Seven Seas) sitting in the shade with his dog. The old man appears to be talking to himself and singing and Ma catches bits and pieces but does not understand, “But his words were not clear./ They were Greek to her. Or old African babble” (18). It is discovered that Ma helps Seven Seas to withdraw his Veteran’s Compensation every month and that he has no self-pity or complaints about his situation like other Vets. This act of kindness on Ma’s behalf shows us that she is an attentive and caring woman who notices and knows a lot about people, maybe more than is natural. Soon Philoctete comes hobbling up the street and automatically Ma prepares his “medicine” (flask of white acajou, jar of Vaseline, and a basin of ice) for him as he sits down at the bar. He sits there all day drinking and anointing his wounded shin with Vaseline. We get a glimpse into Ma Kilman’s world and how she is caring and helpful to these old men in the village.

Part III. During this section Philoctete is sitting at Ma’s bar "The No Pain Cafe" and she asks him what is wrong. He states, “I am blest wif this wound/…which will never heal” (18-19). Here again the wound is compared to sea creatures as it has been before which shows Walcott’s connecting themes to the sea. We learn that the injured old man believes that his wound is connected to ancient slave ancestors and the struggle of the black race. “He believed the swelling came from the chained ankles of his grandfathers./ Or else why was there no cure?/ That the cross he carried was not only the anchor’s/ but that of his race” (19). This stresses his desire for a cure and frustration that the wound is making no progress in healing. Soon Philoctete is passed out, no surprise to Ma, and he is compared to “a mummy embalmed in Vaseline and alcohol. She whispers to him about a magical flower or root that her grandmother used that could rid him of his wound and it’s poison, but she does not know where it is. He thanks her and leaves. This interaction provides us with insight into Ma’s utilization of the ancient voodoo ways and may explain how she knows so much about the island and it’s people.

Notes: The beginning of this chapter shows the mounting tensions and battle between Hector and Achille over Helen. We can only assume that the fight is not over yet and that there are more interactions and drama to come. Helen is of the utmost importance to both men and their lives, reputations, and friendships are suffering because of their desire for her. The later parts of this chapter give us a view into Ma Kilman as a character and how she interacts with the villagers. We also get a preview into her reliance on the voodoo ways.

Glossary:

Acajou-A medicinal preparation yielded by the mahogany tree (Oxford English Dictionary)

Gros Islet- The northern most town on the island, a sleepy fishing community. <http://www.guidetostlucia.com/townsandvillages.html> go here for pic and more info on St. Lucia

Logwood Heart- A particular tree which is known in French Creole as the “capeche” (phoetic) tree. It is a very hard wood and nearly impossible to chop down due to the hardness of the wood. Termites are not found on this type of tree at all. It is like a scrub tree, the tallest of which may reach about 15 ft. in height. In addition to the hardness of the wood, its branches are very thorny. In creole the word for heart is “chay” (phonetic) and often a hard hearted person is called “che capeche.”

Chapter IV

Part I: The scene begins in a logwood grove that was once part of an old sugar estate, which is now abandoned; the remains of the estate are described as, "the only ruins/ left here by history, if history is what they are" (20). Philoctete keeps a garden of yams near a stand of cacti, which he gets to by going through the estate, and there are also sheep there, described as "repeating his name" (20). Philoctete, as he moves through the yams, thinks about his future death, and the ant imagery seen previously in the poem reappears when his head is described as "a market of ants" (21). Additionally, the yams leaves are compared to "maps of Africa" (20) in this passage, implying that the natural world is the key to finding a way back to lost ancestral roots. However, Philoctete's wound begins to hurt him badly as he walks and sees distant smoke and the priest, and Philoctete chops the yams down with his cutlass, exclaiming, "you all see what it's like without roots in this world!" (21), implying that the foreign presence destroys any means so simple as following a map to reclaiming culture. Interestingly, he "hack[s] every root at the heel" (21), which could be a subtle nod to the heel as a weakness of Achilles in the Iliad. After the yams are cut down, Philoctete weeps, and the scene (similar to the felling of the trees) is described as a "massacre" (21). The section concludes with Philoctete feeling "an ant crawling across his brow" (21), the breeze, and looking up at the sky as a bird lands on a branch, "without a cry" (21).

Part II: Philoctete is watched by the bird in the opening of this section; it then flies away toward the sea, and Philoctete lies on the ground, looking up at the sky, described as having shifting geography (the clouds): again, the natural world seems to be a kind of map, though here it is inconstant, always changing. Philoctete decides to ask God's pardon, presumably for the killing of the yams– a seemingly ironic choice, as the image of the priest immediately before Philoctete rages and cuts the yams down implies an element of culpability in Christianity. Then, he hears the sound of "warriors rushing towards battle" (22), which is actually the noise of the wind blowing the dead yams, connecting the natural world to war and implying that the old traditions, even rootless, do not give in so easily as it might seem. Herdsmen are then described in a kind of aside as wining no victories and as being the ground, thus connecting the people of the island to it. They are not rooted like plants, but part of the island itself—they are the foundation of it. Finally, Philoctete decides to be patient and endure the pain of his leg. He decides that he’ll put up with it like a horse would put up with a sore, and upon making this decision, his leg, when he tests it, feels weightless.

Part III: This section shifts into first-person narration of a scene at a restaurant as told by the poet. In the scene, a waiter scurries about with drinks, waiting on the tourists until, frustrated, he stops. Then, the narrator catches sight of what he first thinks is a panther. Subsequently, "the mirage/ dissolve[s] to a woman with a madras head-tie" (23), she’s a woman who appears proud and has come to the restaurant looking for a job. A tourist asks who she is, and a waitress, scornfully commenting on the girl's pride, answers that her name is Helen. She is described as being incredibly beautiful, with a face like an "unimagined ebony mask" (24), which implies that she is strongly connected to the African heritage of the island natives. This Helen is both a mundane figure, a woman looking for work, and a mirage—something unreal. She encapsulates the duality of St. Lucia itself, an island sometimes known as the Helen of the Caribbean.

Interpretive Commentary: This chapter talks about Philoctete and his experience out in the logwood groves, which is now abandoned. Here Walcott slows everything down and allows Philoctete to describe the different things that are happening around him. The second section ends with Philoctete’s leg injury and he tries to be strong like a horse, which allows him to forget the pain and make his leg virtually weightless. In the third section, we switch to first person and being outside a restaurant. Walcott allows the reader to view this section from a different perspective.

Glossary:

“Helen of Troy”: Helen in the Homeric epics was the most beautiful woman in the world, the daughter of Zeus and Leda. She was married to Menelaus, but later went to Troy with Paris, a Trojan prince. Menelaus mustered armies to forcibly bring her back to Greece, causing the Trojan War. After Troy fell, Helen returned to Greece with Menelaus. (More information)

“Lawrence of Arabia”: A British military man and diplomat involved in the Arab Wars. Lived 1888-1935. (More information)

“Madras”: A light cotton fabric of various weaves, especially one in multicolored plaid or stripes. (dictionary.com) (Image) http://playingwithscarves.wordpress.com/tag/madras-scarf/ madras head-tie.

“Salope”: French slang, equivalent to "bitch.”


Chapter V

Part I. Major Dennis Plunkett and his wife Maud are introduced into the poem sitting and enjoying their Guinness and ale, while watching "the clouds in fullcanvas steer towards Martinique" (24). The usual silence fills the air as the two sit and contemplate different thoughts. The reader learns that this ex-patriot couple came to St. Lucia since Major Plunkett's wound to his head. Their marriage described as "a silver anniversary of bright water/ that glittered like Glen-da-Lough in Maud's home county?" (25) perhaps illustrates the first reference to Mauds desire to return to Ireland while Dennis finds solace and health amidst the warm sun of St. Lucia. Major Plunkett goes on to recount his nightmarish days from the war, remembering "the dead face down in the sand, beyond Alexandria" (26) and "their corpses black in the shade of shattered tanks/ their bodies dragged like towels to a palm trees shade (26). Plunkett feels as if khaki shorts and relaxed appearance suggest that he has forgotten his service in World War II when the opposite is true. Major Plunkett's narration of his war days is halted when his wife grips his fingers at the sight of tears forming in Dennis's eyes.

Part II. Major Plunkett continues to tell tales of his wartime escapades, in particular, he recalls his memories up until he is injured, though he cannot fully remember all the details. The narration is suddenly interrupted by a note from Walcott exclaiming "This wound I have stitched into Plunkett's character./ He has to be wounded, affliction is one theme/ of this work, this fiction, since every "I" is a/ fiction finally" (28). As Walcott stresses early into the plot, each of his characters is wounded in one way or another because affliction is one theme of this work" and he goes on to admit bluntly that "every 'I'" including the narrator's own "is a fiction." Plunkett then tells of his first sighting of Maud while hospitalized after his war injury. The reader then learns that though the couple has alienated themselves on a foreign island, their only regret is the fact that they have no son.

Part III. This part begins with a narration from Maud's perspective as she takes notice of a familiar black girl in a yellow frock. This figure is Helen, the ever-beautiful girl whom Walcott makes a personification of St. Lucia, the object of his epic. The narration then transitions smoothly into the head of the major once more where connections between the Trojan war at Troy can be made quite easily when compared to the battles fought by both English and French sides in attempt to dominate the island. Historically, Saint Lucia was known as the "Helen of the West Indies." Again, his thought is interrupted by the waiter asking to close the Major's tab. There is a clever comparison between the signing of the cheque and the final peace treaty signed at Versailles while Helen still represents the island of St. Lucia in her beauty and grace, so much so that Helen "seemed to drift like a waif" (29). It is clear that Walcott has made Helen an intensely yearned for object, for "the true bounty was Helen" (32).

Interpretive Commentary:

This chapter has images that also relate to different points in which Africa was occupied such as the Napoleonic cognacs and city of Alexandria continuing on the theme of parallels in the poem. It also sets the stage for future character collapse in the hands of lust and desire. We are given a taste of the sweet and beautiful Helen and can only assume that she will be the demise for many characters to come. Interestingly enough, we begin to see hints of the Major's obsession with Helen in that he decides the history of Helen and her neglected should be recorded: "Helen needed a history,/ that was the pity that Plunkett felt towards her./ Not his, but her story. Not theirs, but Helen's war" (30). Every thought about Helen in the major's head is synonymous with the beauty and splendour of the island on which he finds peace and consolation. The major also gives good imagery that is contrasted between a "class war" he calls the men who sit around and talk, (himself included) and the actual wars that have been fought in. he talks of his valour in the desert in Montgomery, "the dead faced down in the sand, beyond Alexandria. The major makes an interesting comparison with the lifeguards' flags, and how it reminded him of his comrades. The Major also mentions a term "yeoman" a small rank given to those in the military and navy. each of these pose an intersting aspect in the Major Plunkett's mind in how obsessed he is with war, or rather military prowess.

Glossary:

Kraal: a livestock enclosure within an African village

Pro Rommel, pro mori: Latin, meaning 'For Rommel, for death'. Walcott's use of Latin carries echoes of the Aeneid and the foundation of Latin Italy. Erwin Rommel, a German general, led the Afrika Korps in North Africa and was defeated by the British at El Alamein in 1942 (Bib:PWE), (http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/omeros/tag/pro_rommel/)

Tobruk and Alamein: Tobruk is a town, seaport, municipality, and peninsula in northeastern Libya, near the border with Egypt, in North Africa. Alamein is a town in northern Egypt on the Mediterranean Sea coast. It is located 106 kilometres (66 mi) west of Alexandria and 240 kilometres (149 mi) northwest of Cairo. (http://www.wikipedia.org)

Victor Ludorum: Latin, literally 'victor of the games'.(http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/english/victor-ludorum)

Yeoman: A term that described social class in medieval to early modern England. In military context, they are considered third in rank, below knights and squires, but above knaves. also, in naval terminology "Petty officer in charge of supplies." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yeoma

Messerschmitt Gun Image: http://www.warhistoryonline.com/articles/mg-131-machine-gun-installed-messerschmitt-bf-109.html

Chapter VI

Part 1. We are told of Helens rebellious and independent spirit and her unwillingness to be made an object of desire to give the tourists that visit the island a free thrill. This fierce and quick fury at the lack of respect the tourists have for the people of the island is demonstrated in the passage that describes the ingenious and provocative Helen shows he defiance to adhere to the unjust rules of the island that prescribe her to do what the tourists want and not to complain. “…so she tell the cashier that wasn’t part of her focking pay, take off her costume, and walk straight out the hotel naked as God make me…” (33-34, Walcott). This defiance is not sparked out of totally virtuous intentions however, since it is revealed later in this part that Helen is pregnant and doesn’t know who the father is. This pregnancy is what sparks her conversation with some other village women about Helen seeking employment but not being a desired employee by the hotels and restaurants of the island, with the women being seemingly unsurprised by Helens situation.

Part II . is a turning point for Helen, continuing to be interspersed with imagery from Homers Iliad. The smoke that is present in this passage seems to be a precursor to the images of the burning of Troy that is in the next part of the chapter. The passage describing Helen walking along the beach, carelessly singing a song that could be seen as having an overtone of foreboding while, while the smoke swirls around her could be seen as an image of Helens uncaring attitude to her situation and how little she will let the outside world control her life.

Part III. We see this sense of control over her own life in Part three, where after describing what could have also been a battle scene from the Iliad with images of Troy and the village used to parallel one another. The horse on the beach mimics the horses in the battle of Troy, lances of sunlight reflect the actual lances in battle, bronze nuts on the beach become the helmets the soldiers wore, and seaweed washed ashore morphs into the beards of generals in battle. The two worlds are separated by black smoke, acting as a portal between the worlds. As a barrier, the smoke is quite permeable bringing the two worlds closer and more tangible with Helen as the link. Helen's new form of employment is described. She has made herself a hair braider to the tourists among the street vendors of the village, making her own way in the world instead of accepting the fact that no one on the island sees having a forward thinking woman as part of their staff as a good thing. Helen is also compared to a panthress, with sleek and deadly feline grace being attributed to her form as she works, mesmerizing those who watch her as she moves among booths of brightly colored patterns and tourist souvenirs.

Overall Thoughts: This chapter continues the parallels of this poem and the ancient epics of Homer. The battle of Troy, as well as a battle between the namesakes of two great Grecian heroes’ is being fought. The chapter focuses on Helens role in the poem, with the news of her pregnancy perhaps setting up an impending battle over her between Achille and Hector, just as the epic poems of Homer describe. The constant comparisons of life on the island and these poems seem to be a device Walcott is using to show how the western world imposes its beliefs and histories onto those that it conquers and how they allow no room for any other history, a history of the people living in the shadow of this new “modern” civilization, to continue or develop. Now that the history the conquerors have always adhered to is in place, it is expected to continue to be adhered to, as this poem describes. Yet the subtle changes that Walcott makes in the island versions of battles and dilemma’s shows the islands view of the world and how its people feel subservient to the white tourists of the imposed western world, and how they are breaking through these modern ideals to create their own ideas and history once more.

Glossary:

Manchineel: a flowering plant found in the Caribbean

Argonauts: the heroes who sailed with Jason on the Argo in quest of the Golden Fleece

Agamemnon: Agamemnon is a figure in Greek mythology. He is the brother of Menelaus, Helen of Troy's husband, and commander of the Greek army in the Trojan war. When Helen was kidnapped, he led the army to Troy. (http://wikipedia.org)

Scamander: Scamander is also a figure in Greek mythology. He is a river god and a son of Zeus (http://wikipedia.org)

Gros Ilet: A community on the north end of St. Lucia. (http://wikipedia.com)

Chapter VII

Part I. This part opens with the fairly ominous question, “Where did it start?” (37) then goes on to describe a mystical scene of the market. Here we see ordinary Caribbean produce such as melons, bananas, lemons, and cabbages, only each piece contains its own association with empire: “Mohammedan melons”, “bananas from a Pharaoh’s casket,” etc. (37) The speaker explains that the market contains “the fruit of an evil,” (38) and embodies this idea of empire. The speaker then leads us to Helen and Achille arguing over who should carry the basket as they are leaving the market. Achille yells at her, “Look! I not your slave!” but Helen is unaffected by this comment, sauntering off into the crowd while Achille is “feeling like a dog that is left/ to nose the scraps of her footsteps” (38). He suddenly cries out to her, but she does not turn back for him. Her stubbornness drives Achille crazy as he runs after her and they begin to quarrel once more over the basket. This time things get physical as Achille rams Helen into a van (that coincidentally is Hector’s) and releases the wild, clawing panther within her. They bite and rip at each other’s clothes until Hector encages Helen into the car. The crowd moves between the men, and Hector races off in the van with Helen towards the harbor.

Part II. We then move on to the next section, told through Achille’s consciousness as he recalls “the morning when/ he lost faith in [Helen]” (39). He has not told her that they need money, and instead dives for conch shells to illegally sell to tourists on the island. While diving though, he catches a glimpse of Helen’s yellow dress and remains underwater in order to avoid the presence of Hector and Helen. He brings the anchor up but remains in the water and pushes the boat a safe distance away in order to avoid the couple. This is done to avoid the Tourist Board as well, who could take away his license for poaching the conchs. As Achille contemplates how he had suspected Hector was up to something and involved with Helen, the conchs become horned like little devils and he himself becomes “horned like the island” (40). Achille attempts to forget Helen and Hector, and to instead concentrate on getting himself and the conchs a safe distance away. When he reaches this distance, he holds each conch, “considering the deep pain/ of their silence” (41) These conchs are also described in a highly sexual manner, seeming to serve as a representation of Helen, and thus the island as a whole. Instead of selling the conch’s and risking his profession in order to support himself and Helen, he releases them back into the ocean. Though he believes this to be a noble act, “It did not bring him any peace” (41).

Part III. This section is written in the narrator’s perspective as he describes a relationship with an undefined woman, though it is clear that this relationship has since ended. The first few stanzas describe a scene with this lover, a time when the “breezy vows assured me again/ that never in my life had I been happier” (41). The section then moves to a suggestive vision the author has of an “afternoon on a white quilt” (41) and “her parting shell, her forehead glazed with sweat” (42). The narrator then describes waking “troubled and inexact,” (42) drawing the woman near him in bed, then leaving her to walk out onto the veranda and look upon the town. This section serves to link the narrator with Achille, both men, one way or the other, aching from a lost lover.

Interpretive Commentary: Chapter seven focuses on Achille’s crumbling relationship with Helen as Hector moves between them. Images of empire and slavery weave in and out of the narrative, never allowing the reader to forget the state of the island’s past and present. Helen, as a representation of the island itself, is a wild, highly valued woman bouncing from man to man, owner to owner. While she herself burns with a ferocity and independence, she is still described in the context of being caged or owned by either Hector or Achille. Likewise, while the island contains its own uniqueness and sense of culture, it is constantly at the mercy of outside control, whether that be through slavery or modern day tourism. This chapter also serves to in part link the narrator with his characters as we are let in on a glimpse of his own troubled relationship in the third section.

Glossary:

Etruscan: Etruscan civilization is the modern English name given to the culture and way of life of a people of ancient Italy and Corsica whom the ancient Romans called Etrusci or Tusci. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Etruscan_civilization)

The Morne: a mountain or hill. Narrator seems to be using a play on words, “morning” and “the Morne”, in the third section in order to emphasize his mourning of the lost love with this woman. (http://www.dictionary.com)

redoubt: noun:1. A small and usually temporary defensive fortification. 2. A defended position or protective barrier. 3. A secure place of refuge or defense; a stronghold. (http://www.dictionary.com)

Sapodillas: common name for the Manilkara zapota, an evergreen tree native to the Caribbean. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manilkara_zapota)

Chapter VIII

Part I: In the island’s museum there is a wine bottle crusted in fool’s gold from beneath the sea, theorized by experts that it either sank from a ship blown by a hurricane out of Cartagena, or that it came from a sunken ship in the Battle of the Saints. Yet as time goes on, the myth about the relic widens until the bottle was from the sunken Ville de Paris. Even when the experts lost interest, the villagers kept faith in the significance of the bottle and the world it came from. Mythology of wine bottle “widens its rings” grows with every passing generation. Wine bottle including bottle becomes part of landscape. Not believing in the myth of the sunken ship, decided to dive down to find money (or assumedly relics he could sell for money) to win Helen back. The rest of Part I describes him diving down, sinking quickly not only from the cinder block tied to his heel, but his “stone heart” (44) and fears that maybe it was too late for Helen to love him.

Part II: Down in the dark depths of the ocean among turtles and sea horses, Achille questions himself and why he is there. “What on earth had he come for, when he had a good life up there? … Wasn’t love worth more than the coins of light pouring from the galleon’s doors?” (45). The bottom of the ocean was not a world for the living. Achille continues to question his trespass into the world of the dead until he sees the galleon, and sees the coins. But it haunts him and he rises again not only to the surface of the sea but back to the world of the living and back to finding wealth in the world of the living by fishing (“once more the whelk was his coin, his bank the sea conch”). Though he loses faith in the ship below, it stays a “spectre” on his conscience, haunted by the underworld he had seen.

Part III: Philoctete tries to make peace between Hector and Achilles in their conflict over Helen, telling them that they are both men. He tells them that they share their bond with the sea, a force powerful enough to change cedars into canoes. He says that a woman can do what she likes, but men are bound by their work. But neither man listens to Philoctete.


Analysis: The theme of money plays an important role in this chapter. Achille journeys to the bottom of the sea, the metaphorical underworld, in order to find money to win Helen back from Hector: “Money will change her” (44). As Helen is the symbol of the island, this takes on a greater meaning. Money would of course change Helen, but it also was the driving influence behind the colonizing forces on the island, twisting the humanity within both colonizer and colonized. Money has no inherent value in the "underworld" other than the fact that it has been there, and is appropriated as territory, "the dead didn't need money, like him, but perhaps they hated surrendering things their hands had brought" (45). When Achille journeys to this watery underworld, he is haunted by the feeling that the dead are guarding the wealth beneath the sea. It is as though he sees the destruction that money has already caused on the island, and doesn’t want to perpetrate those lingering evils. Are the limitations of money or traditional currency challenged by the fact that the bottle in this chapter is crusted in "fools gold"?


Glossary:

Ville de Paris: a three-decked French flagship. The ship was finished just too late to fight in the Seven Years War. Used in the American War of independence, the ship lasted until the battle of saints in 1782, where she was taken when the British fleet, led by George Rodney, defeated the French Fleet, led by Comte de Grasse.

Cartagena: City on the Northern coast of Colombia, which was a major center of early Spanish settlements in the Americas, and was named after the port of Cartagena in Spain.

Battle of the Saints: Took place April 9-12, 1782 and was a victory of a British fleet over a French fleet in which 1 ship was sunk and there were hundreds of casualties; named after the Saints, a group of islands between Guadeloupe and Dominica.

Chapter IX

Part I. The section begins with the onslaught of the hurricane season in Saint Lucia. The stormy weather seems to parallel Achille’s current status: “when everything is rough, Achille ran out of money” (47). Achille is given work on Plunkett's pig farm along with Philocete, and their chores are laborious, but necessary for money. As Achille makes the walk to the farm, “Rain hissed under black leaves, a white ground mist drifted from the torn pastures, the hillside bamboos were broke as he was,” which could be further evidence of his surrounding environment mirroring his mood (48). Maud sees the rainy weather as dull – the “climates lacked subtlety” (48)-and the monsoon seems to respond to her lament with more rain and stronger gusts. The changes in the environment are also described as “Prognostications* of a grumbling sky that underlined each omen", which indicates both the impending omen of a bad storm, and the impending omens of the hardships that are to come (49). Achille then makes his way to Ma Kilman's shop to get some kerosene for his lamp that illuminates his house. Helen is with Hector, allegedly, and Achille is left with “rain on a galvanized* night” (49). Outside rain pours down and “cloud galleons” (50) fight and then one “galleon” is “sunk”. The ghosts of the galleon, the storm, and Helen keeps Achille awake.

Part II. Instead of being with Helen as Achille had assumed, Hector is out battling the storm that threatens to take away his canoe. The “black rain” (50) sweeps Hector and his canoe away from shore, and his attempts to fight against the raging waters only makes his struggle for survival more desperate. He lets the sea overpower him and separate him from his canoe with the hope that he will be able to make it towards land. This is a “give-and-take” battle between nature and man, as Hector struggles to fight the sea that overwhelms him. However, “Once he caught the beat, he could swim / with the crumbling surf, not against the sea's will” (51). Only after he has accepted that he cannot fight against the natural order - the will of the sea – does he become more in tune to its rhythms, until he finally “felt the swirl of fine sand”, which indicates he has gotten close to shore (51).

Part III. The opening image in this section is “the Cyclone, howling because one of the lances / of a flinging palm has narrowly grazed his one eye” (51), which is relating the power and energy of the storm to the Cyclops from The Odyssey being injured or subdued. The elements (Sun, Ma Rain, and Lightning) are personified and described as doing their jobs-working hard all day. The gods are also conjured up in this section, and the villagers attribute the storm to the god's fete* in the sky and acknowledge their inability to prevent the natural fate of the stormy season: “In the grey vertical forest of the hurricane season, / when the dirty sea returns the wreaths of the dead, / all the village could do was listen to the gods in session” (52).The river begins to flood and flow back into the ocean, and as the storm begins to clear up “They saw the mess the gods made in one night alone, / as Lightning lifted his stilts over the last hill” (54). While the brutality of the storm fractures the village, it also cleanses the land, reasserting how wild it remains in the grand scheme of things, despite colonization. The villagers will start anew in accordance with the natural cycle of life: “There would be brilliant days still, / till the next storm, and their freshness was wonderful” (54).

Interpretive Commentary. This chapter focuses predominantly on man's connection (and disconnection) to the natural order of life, using the environmental phenomenon of monsoon season as the vehicle to illustrate this idea. Characters and scenarios from Homer's the Odyssey are generously referenced in this chapter in order to show how futile it is for man to fight against fate and the gods. For example, Hector's battle against the sea mirrors the imagery of Odysseus on the raft, and Walcott implies that the Cyclone shares some similarity to Polyphemus of the Odyssey. The transition from the calm before the storm, to the brutality of the height of the storm reflects the changes and future hardships that the characters will continue to face in the future. In the third and final section, the destruction caused by the storm is countered by the sense of a hopeful, renewing cleanse that has also washed through the island post-stormy season. The imagery seems to imply that the natural order of life is ultimately in charge and cannot be tamed or controlled by any mortal force.

Glossary:

Following definitions are from Dictionary.com:

Cyclops (Polyphemus): the giant son of Poseidon and Thoosa in Greek Mythology. His name means "abounding in songs and legends". [1]

Fete: to honor (a person) or celebrate (something) with a large party or public celebration

Galleon: a large, multi-decked sailing ship used primarily by European states from the 16th to 18th centuries.[2]

Galvanized: 1. To stimulate or shock with an electric current. 2. To arouse to awareness or action; spur. (Eg: Achille feels this charge in the air caused by the elements while he is simultaneously feeling a stirring of emotions caused by thinking about Helen and Hector. Furthermore, Achille may be experiencing a deeper "pull" from the ghosts of his past and present.)

Liana: a woody climbing plant that hangs from trees, especially in tropical rain forests.

Prognostications: to predict according to present indications or signs; foretell. Not just the foreshadowing of the storm is happening here, but the characters are feeling a change/charge in the air.

Runnel: a narrow channel in the ground for liquid to run through.

Images of Galleons: [3]

Chapter X

Part I. The rainy season has come. Plunkett realizes that he is isolated from the workers, because he owns the place. He is also becoming more isolated from Maud, “in the lamplit house which each horizontal gust/ blew farther from him.” (55) There are repeated images of Maud’s lilies, first as a symbol of forgotten pain, and then personified as choosing death by drowning. She manages to save the lily bulbs, which transitions us to images of artifacts she brought from her home (Ireland) a lamp, a piano and songbook. The piano drove Plunkett crazy, so as an act of retribution he gulped his tea since he knew it particularly bothered her. This section closes with the rain again, but this time the rain is outside, and also the tears both are shedding. Though they are together, they are unable to cry together. They are isolated from each other, even if they are physically near each other.

Part II. Plunkett and Maud explore the island after the rainy season has passed, it is now winter. The word History is capitalized, and of course, it is not the history of the people who live there, but the history imposed on them. Of the inhabitants “Their past was as flat as a postcard, and their future,/ a brighter and flatter postcard…” (57) Only people who were tourists of that culture would be able to see it as a two-dimensional object. Ma Kilman is introduced in this section, a woman known to practice religion that came from Africa. A tour is given of Plunkett and Muad’s explorations. The images presented contrast from bright and sparkling like you would see in an advertisement to dank and dirty reminders of the Holocaust. Their trip stops when the car breaks down, and that place reminds them of a pair of businessmen who had packed up and went home.

Part III. Plunkett relates to the island almost as if he was born there. He has no desire to return to his place of birth, and wonders why anyone would want to. Maud on the other hand cannot find anything to like about it. “The moisture rotting their library; that was the worst./ It seeped through the shawled piano and created/ havoc…” (61) Helen is compared to the shifting patches of sunlight, and then we are taken to Maud’s blooming garden. He sees a butterfly, on a blade (of grass perhaps?) and feels stalked since this reminds him of Helen. He begins to feel oppressed by this paradise. Adam and Eve are mentioned, and they feel like they are in the Garden of Eden before the fall. They took in the moment of peace, and then returned to the real world.

This chapter is important in establishing the relationships. First, the relationship between Maud and Plunkett is seen as lonely. Second, their relationships to the island are dissimilar. Many religious images are brought up; in Part I the original sin is compared to Plunkett’s experience in the war. In Part II, Ma Kilman hesitates before taking communion. In Part III, the place where they stop on their outing across the island is compared to Eden before the original sin, but in the beginning of the section the woodsman was said to be carrying snakeheads.

Glossary:

Plunkett: there was a Saint Plunkett, though I am not sure what the connection would be http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/sainto13.htm

Lily: the following is the detailed and interesting explanation of the meaning of lily: Purity, modesty, virginity, majesty, it's heavenly to be with you. The white lily is linked to Juno, the queen of the gods in Roman mythology, by the story that while nursing her son Hercules, some excess milk fell from the sky creating the group of stars we call the Milky Way, and lilies were created from what milk fell to the earth. The Easter lily is also known as the symbol of the Virgin Mary. http://marriage.about.com/od/flowers/a/flowermean_2.htm

Seychelles: a small island country in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Madagascar http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/se.html

Bendemeer’s stream: an Irish ballad, probably found in a book of sheet music like Airs from Erin http://spikesmusic.spike-jamie.com/irish/13/BENDEMEERS-STREAM.pdf

Anse La Raye: a small village in St. Lucia http://www.anselaraye.com/

Chapter XI

Part I. This section begins with a parallel between pigs and the way the native, lower class, black citizens are forced to live. These citizens were not the ones who had, “designed the Attic ideal of the first slave-settlement”, nor were they the ones who, “laid out narrow-gauge pipes for buckets, but none for sewers”, and finally they were not the ones who, “sucked the cane till sugar was played out” (63). Walcott is here presenting the knowledge that Plunkett is about to unravel; that colonization created an erroneous qualification of society, expanding the ‘swanish empire’, but who would never be resigned to living in it’s pig sties. This point of view is then juxtaposed with that of Maud’s (representing the colonizers), which categorizes the native and the slave as the swine who should be under the empire’s control. The narrative then specifically points out Maud’s view of these traits in Helen, as if the pig had taken over the house. This is started by Helen’s claim to a pale lemon frock dress Maud had supposedly given her but forgot about. Helen is Maud and Plunkett’s maid but “kept the house as if it were her own” (64), thus deepening and manipulating the power struggle between herself and Maud, first placed by the empire. Plunkett decides to stay out of this fight between the two women, but recognizes that the dress, “had an empire’s tag on it”, meaning that like an empire whom steals and enslaves, Helen has taken Maud's belongings and is beginning to dominate the house(64). Plunkett then muses that if history sees the black people of the island as pigs then it is history that made them that way. He compares this oppression of history to Circe, the character in the Odyssey who changed Odysseus’ men into swine. Plunkett decides to research and find Saint Lucia’s “true place in history” for “Helen’s sake”(64).

Part II. Plunkett begins his research and becomes quite withdrawn; his life becomes “increasingly bookish and slippered, like a don’s” (65). Maud worries about how Plunkett’s wound from war is affecting him in the present and brings him tea only to return later and find it untouched. She takes her tea alone in the garden surrounded by her flowers. Maud then returns and sits beside Plunkett, but still says nothing. Maud at this point “had never felt more alone” (65). She leaves Plunkett and goes to work on her needlework alone upstairs.

Part III. This section contains Maud’s musings of what she imagined living in the Caribbean would be like. She imagined a house surrounded “with trees [she’d] read of” (66) and flowers she had never seen. When she arrived she saw the house had an “Unapproachable cliff on one side,” at first seeming foreboding but which then turned to “a nesting place for folding herons and gulls”(66). Her Romantic image is then drawn out and she reminisces on the way she controlled the scene with her decorations that made the place feel like home, “like Remembrance Day”; the way Helen use to serve her, how she would “step back in shadow that blent with her fine skin’s” (66). Maud remembers these things as “clear as a dream but more real” (67). She ponders the memory of smiling at a canoe that read, “In God We Troust”, yet acknowledges,"But then we all trust in Him", noting the absence of peace for her “wandering heart”(67).


Interpretive commentary: Chapter eleven is the first time the reader is shown Maud’s experience since their arrival on St.Helen, as well as her changing emotions towards Helen. The yellow dress is a key part of this chapter in that it symbolizes the change and struggles of power in a stratified society. Walcott manipulates this symbol with his narrative to present both of the woman’s views, showing that the medium within this power struggle is the same: “The price was envy and cunning”(64). Helen is doing onto Maud what colonization has done to St.Helen, by taking her possessions with “an empire’s tag on it”, she forces Maud from “mistress to slave”, rather than “destroying her own possibilities” as in the other sense of mistress. This chapter marks Plunkett’s recognition of the false history placed on the Island, and his new fascination with finding the Islands, “true place in history”(64). This act represents Plunkett’s distancing of himself from his own history and even from his wife Maud. Another important portion of this chapter is the way Plunkett applies the metaphor of the pigs of his farm to history and people. He sees that history has made the black of the island pigs, but in reality, it is the empire that acts swinish. It’s important to note that in part 3 of this chapter, Maud’s reminiscence epitomizes the false pretenses empires tend to impose on Islands; expecting “fresh wreath of orchids” and “huge lily-pad plates”, rather then facing the reality of what they have done as colonizers of these places.

Glossary:

Allamanda: also known as Yellow Bell or Golden Trumpet, is a genus of tropical shrubs or vines with hairy seeds, native to South and Central America. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allamanda)

ikons: icons, or iconography of Catholic idols

Remembrance Day: also known as Poppy Day, Armistice Day (the event it commemorates), or Veterans Day in the United States is a day to commemorate the sacrifices of members of the armed forces and of civilians in times of war, specifically since the First World War. It is observed on 11 November to recall the end of World War I on that date in 1918. The day was specifically dedicated by King George V, on 7 November 1919, to the observance of members of the armed forces who were killed during war; (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remembrance_Day)

Chapter XII

Part I. The author is visiting his old house in the present where a printery existed. He mentions how, for his father, this place was home. The author finds an old self- portrait of his father on a windowsill. In the photo the father is holding a book that the author is familiar with. At this point the father begins talking to the author in a ghost like form. He explains that the verses of his poetry created a path for the author to also become a poet. But a poet nonetheless that "reverses and honours" his fathers work and "blends" the father and son together. The father explains that since the author is twice the age he was at his fathers death, the son's work can now be compared and even confused with his fathers- the author saying "they are one voice". The father of the author (or his ghost) then follows the author downstairs where he explains being raised in a "Caribbean port" by his bastard father whom christened him to his father's name Warwick. The father goes on to explain his amateur writing that didn't allow for him to feel one with the "foreign machine" of literature. The father then directs his speech to the author in saying "It's that Will you inherit". The Will referred to is not the literal will of a dying man, but the first name of Shakespeare: Will or William. The father then explains his death through the lens of Shakespeare's Hamlet. The father dies on Shakespeare's birthday seemingly the same way that Hamlet's father is poisoned through the ear. His death is paralleled with Hamlet, the father saying that this must have gave the author some sort of peace through "Death imitating Art, eh?" The father and son reminisce about grapes that the father grew outside by the door. The author then asks aloud "What was Warwick doing transplanting Warwickshire?" and then explains how he saw his ghost-like father "patterned in shade" with leaves throughout his hair and his "lucent" body.

Part II. The author, still with his ghost father, explains an observation of the town. An observation of the white/pale town hidden behind shutters and blinds in their windows that "framed their unshifting lives". Those viewers also see their "high brown life as a souvenir" while the barefoot blacks walk in the streets. The Angelus bell rings at noon and nobody seems to notice the Author and his father (whom is wearing a whit suit) because everyone is lost in their own thoughts.

Part III. In this part, the author mentions "passing brown phantoms in white-drill suits" on their way to work, while the author and his ghost father head to a garden, "a green square cut into smaller squares./ And the light from a bluer postcard filled its sky/ and it seemed, from his steps, that water sprang in plumes/ from the curled iron green fountain at its centre," which is later referred to as paradise. The author doesn't ask his father about the after life because the image the author has of the white man's world seems to be similar to heaven, however "vague in its origin and thin as belief" the author may feel afterlife is.

Interpretive Commentary: The chapter begins with the author reminiscing about his past childhood and how he is connected to his father. The connections between the author's father and Shakespeare are used as a way to make poetry and verse the center of the connection between the father and the author. Shakespeare's Hamlet, specifically, plays a huge role in this section especially through the ghost like form that the author's father comes to him as (just like Hamlet's father returns as a ghost). Then he also draws the paralell that he is not like his fathers father, they lived in two different worlds, one is 'warwickshre' and the other an 'obscure Caribbean port.' Worlds that will never be able to assimilate completely. Then he makes a commentary on the way the social construction of the town is currently. The whites and pale skin's look out upon the blacks from their windows and are relieved of the life they live. Then the author explores the white mans world, a 'paradise,' but one that the author had to believe existed ( maybe he is implying it is a paradise of mental construction). Despite the exploration, the author wishes to not question about the other life.

This chapter signifies the beginning of finding a new history for the author, he is trying to remember his past and assimilate it into his world that is now. And what is happening in his world now is the two cultures converging and each trying to be part of each other; Maud and Plunkett exploring the island, Hector working on the white mans land, Ma Kilman craftily ignoring the white woman (Maud?). I was kind of confused about the voice in this chapter, especially Part I, it took a while to figure out who was speaking.

Glossary: Warwick This is the name passed down to the author's father from his bastard father, as well as the birthplace of Shakespeare.

Shakespeare's Hamlet The use of the play in the text is to parallel the death of the author's father with Hamlet's father. Hamlet's father was poisoned through the ear. This reference also insinuates a parallel between the father's life and Shakespeare's, having died on the same day.

Portia: Character in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice. She is a wealthy heiress from Belmont. Portia’s beauty is matched only by her intelligence. Bound by a clause in her father’s will that forces her to marry whichever suitor chooses correctly among three caskets, Portia is nonetheless able to marry her true love, Bassanio. Far and away the most clever of the play’s characters, it is Portia, in the disguise of a young law clerk, who saves Antonio from Shylock’s knife.

Angelus: The Angelus (lat. Angel) is a Christian devotion in memory of the Incarnation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angelus)

Veni Creator: One of the most widely used hymns in the Church, Veni, Creator Spiritus (www.preces-latinae.org/thesaurus/Hymni/VeniCreator.html)

Chapter XIII

Part I. This chapter continues on from the previous with the unnamed narrator who is actually Walcott. He is describing his childhood, where he lived – “where alleys ended in a harbour/ and Infinity wasn’t the name of our street;” (71), and memories he has of time spent with his father at the barbershop. The barbershop plays an important role for the town. Not only is it where men go to get cuts and shaves, but also it is a source for knowledge: book knowledge, history, and politics. The Barber is the “town anarchist,” apparently from another small island that the colonizers refused to recognize as a “nation or a people” (72). The Barber is the Macandal (Alejo Carpentier’s Kingdom of This World)-type figure, trying to raise the people’s awareness of their right to live a better life, to fight against colonialism. “When he raged, his indignation/ jabbed the air with his scissors, a swift catching flies, / as he pumped the throne serenely round to his view” (72). To further explain the injustice done to the blacks, the Barber quotes Shylock from Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice.”

Part II. Father and son are at the wharf watching a massive ocean liner/cruise ship. The liner signifies colonization, corruption and the awful ways the blacks have been forced to undertake in order to make a living. The young boys float along side the ship doing tricks for the tourists and fighting for the coins they throw. The tourists take pleasure in this like watching hungry dogs fight over a scraps of meat. Warwick talks about “Helens from an earlier time” (73) - the women who carry baskets of coal up the smokestacks for practically slave labor. Walcott’s father watched them as a child “climb/ like ants up a white flower-pot, baskets of coal/ balanced on their torchoned heads” (73). He describes these scenes as his first glimpse into hell. It is a scene that continues into the present time in which his son lives.

Part III. Walcott is older now. Warwick is making a parallel between the work of the women walking and carrying endless buckets of coal to the work of his son, writing page after page. Warwick tells his son the horror of watching these women, seeing how retched their lives are, and the image that “will stay in your head/ as long as a question you have no right to ask” (74). Because of the horrible situation the people are in and the impact viewing these women has on Warwick and his son, he asks is son to honor them in his writing, “your own work owes them/ because the couplet of those multiplying feet/ made your first rhymes” (75). Turn the energy and pain of the women into words and it will be, “the chance you have now, to give those feet a voice” (76). The father concludes by kissing his son and saying he is off to the barber for a “good talk and serious trim” (76).

This chapter signifies the beginning of action by the colonized. People are becoming aware that a revolution is in order. Through things such as writing, they are hoping to get the word out about how bad the situation is, and also to give the people strength and hope. The position of the narrator in this chapter is interesting as he is definitely part of the same community and time/situation of the other characters, but is also omniscient about the other characters not included in his chapters. This gives Walcott an interesting position as he is a character in his book but also constructing it, hence acting as the poet/narrator. At this point in the poem, only the previous chapter is told from this specific narrator’s point of view.

Glossary:

Terza rima: Walcott’s Omeros is written as an epic poem in three line stanzas, reminiscent of Dante’s form in The Inferno. http://www.english.emory.edu/classes/Handbook/terzarima.html

Shylock's quote: The quote from Shylock in Part I is significant because in The Merchant of Venice Shylock is outraged that he being discriminated against because he is a Jew in a Christian setting. This is an interesting connection as the Barber identifies with Shylock’s outrage at being discriminated against, and takes his feelings of equality a step further by the fact that he is an Adventist and is identifying with a Jew.

To bait fish withal: if it will feed nothing else, it will
feed my revenge. He hath disgrac'd me and hind'red me half a
million; laugh'd at my losses, mock'd at my gains, scorned my
nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine
enemies.And what's his reason? I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes?
Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections,
passions, fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons,
subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed
and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is?
If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh?
If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we
not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you
in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility?
Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance
be by Christian example? Why, revenge. The villainy you teach me
I will execute; and it shall go hard but I will better the
instruction. (The Merchant of Venice, III, i, 60-63)

Garvey: Black Nationalist from Jamaica. [FILL IN DETAILS ABOUT PHOTO OF GARVEY AND INSERT PHOTO]