Hibridity in Walcott poetry and drama

Introduction

Walcott’s poetry harnesses the metaphorical play of resemblance in all his works to amplify the trans-racial relationship that existed between the black and white cultures in pre-colonial periods. The dramatic monologue offered the poem published in Omeros and Dream of Monkey Mountain offers paradoxically and objectifies the ideal embodiment of metaphoric conjuncture.

Following the description of physiognomy in Walcott’s characters, the poet reinforces the symbolic connection of racial and cultural consideration as Western colonial figures.

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Walcott struggles with race and discrimination and continues to search for his identity through the character of Achille. The thematic suggestion of conflict depicted in Achille’s relationship with Helen broaden’s the conflicts that stems from cultural contextualization of post-colonial period.

Once again, Walcott uses the cultural predicaments to resolve his question about the correct expression of hybrid identity and uses Achille character to contemplate his African and British inheritances. In historical perspective, the poet literature celebrates the Caribbean culture and the same time tries to resolves the question of Western colonial figure by finding a common ground between the Africa and the British cultures which are not united in his identity.

Walcott influential negritude in Omeros represent slaves inherent histories of excruciating pain, cruelty and abuse and his regional designation are reductive since he considers the assumption that Omero simply transports the classical Philoctetes among other types of Homeric types of the Caribbean in exemplifying the direction and polyvalence of his poetic discourse.

Neither of the paragrims offers the definitive solution to the implicit question of Walcott’s hybridity. It may be equally plausible to argue that the author complicates the relationships of the slavery descendants by oscillating between North and South, West and East, Europe, and the Caribbean.

Ramazan argues that before we dwell on Walcott’s metonymic family we must first ask ourselves, “where does Philoctetes come from? (61).To answer this question, Ramazan describes Philoctetes as “they come from a rusty anchor, and the allegory, from slavery” (61).

In historical perspective, The P in Philoctetes is depicted to mean the origins of multiples. That brings us to the second question of whether the word comes from the wounded black body of the Afro-Carribean negritude, the Euromodernist, Caribean Caliban or the Greek Philoctetes. The poet regional designations are reductive in the sense that they do not distinctively define the regions and exhibits the structural doubleness tht confuses the reader.

A cultural analysis places the Caribbean Caliba to be coming from the West and the negritude developed from the inter-mixture of the dialectical reversal of Western colonialist stereotypes. Here, Walcott thickens the cultural hybridity by mixing the Caribbean and the European paradigrim. In his poet efforts, Walcott’s does nothing to purifying the dialect of the tribe but instead accelerates, complicates and widens the gap (Ramazan 61: Ramazani (b). 416)

Another one of Walcott’s recurrent metaphors of cultural hybridity occurs where he uses “the scar” to represent the wound in comparing the cultural heterogeneity of the Antilles. He depicts black wounds to mean pain inflicted on them while the white scars represent restoration.

Ramazan laments that “if the pieces are disparate, ill-fitting, they contain more pain than their original sculpture” (61). The scars in Walcott’s Omeros represent the wounds left by the slavemanship in the Caribbean combination of black and white skins of the Northern and Southern Hemisphere. Ramazan describes the relation as “the monumental groaning and soldering of two great worlds. Like the halves of a fruit seamed by its own bitter juice” (62).

Walcott’s description of bitterness and pain is nothing that can be repaired at all, the black communities suffering demonstrates all the kinds of transgression they encountered in the generic privileges of post-colonial. In Omeros intercultural labor of his poem is represented in the personifications of characters in cultural and racial hybridity. Walcott’s and many of the characters names are taken from the culture of the colonizer, and the slavery wounded bodies represent their allegorizing cruelty.

The Caribbean poet brings the mixed cultural inheritances and Walcott’s work revolves from Eurocentrism literary to Afro-centrism, denies and embraces African cultures in his Caribbean art. In exploring the Philoctetes, he illustrates their wounds by bringing out the two opposites of the Eurocentric and Afrocentric contemporary world (Terada 190).

His black literature asserts Walcott’s isolation and regards metaphor and post-coloniality differences in composing the visions of the black characters in the metaphoric and narrative style on the journey towards self-realization. He traces the cross-cultural literacy genealogies of the wound and its bearers (the slaves) in Omeros. The wounds once gain encodes the unambiguously of the painful experience inherent within the Afro-Caribbean legacy of colonialism.

He uses wound motif to show the extend of black experience. The wound also symbolizes a trope of polymorphous diversity within the text. Ramazan argues that Walcott’s poet introduces the wound motif associated with black experience before he introduces the principle of white character and the black man here is associated with wound because of the poems cross-cultural thematics (Ramazan 64).

Affliction is another of his themes which also represents black people’s pain. Plunkett wound in the head is inflicted by an explosion during the North African campaign of World War II which demonstrates the black people’s wounds inherent within the European colonialism. The character Philoctetes introduces spasm of uncontrollable pain which expresses the nature of suffering the white man inflicted on black man in the aftermath of colonialism.

This shows that the relationship between the colonizer and the colonized inherit a legacy of affliction in the Caribbean. Philoctetes is rendered impotent and blames his temper on the injury. The wound offers the reader an entry way into Afro-Caribbean experience as they cannot fully comprehend the local burden of historical pain (Ramazan 66).

The metaphor of light is also used to symbolize the authoritative power the white man had over the blacks and the wound represented here by Walcott (270) describes the wound as radiant. It demonstrates how European languages, a colonial language had impacted on West Indies.

Omeros refers to the wound of language he would wish to remove after Plunkett mimic the upper-class accents in a linguistic charade. The upper class language here is represented to mean the colonial language, and the blacks become radiant when they speak the language.

Themes like wound, weapon and cure fall into metonymic family that represents the metaphoric and the narrative styles of the poet throughout the poem. By means of wound trope, Walcott crosses and re-crosses the lines of race, nation and gender. He compares himself with characters in the play stipulating that they share one wound and the same cure.

Although Walcott’s post-universal sensibilities bridles at some assertions of character identity, his narratives and poets clearly incorporate elements of genre to bring broader perspective of the traditional heroic of the classical literature epics.

He signals the distance transverse by trope in describing different lifestyles of the poor man, now the slave and the rich man. He provides an example of a fisherman who lives in a poor village while a poet lives at a hotel. The poet, primarily the wound bearer, embodies the principle of metaphorical coupling, mediating between Greek and Africa, white and black, wound and cure and Achille and Hector (Ramazan 66)

Plunkett is afflicted with another wound of the death of his wife in (Walcott 309) and at Saint Lucia, fisherman suffers the wound made from loving the sea over their country. The poet images in describing the wound flickers between black and white, the living and the dead, the real and the fantastic ( Walcott 286). Also, the movement of metaphor across ethnic, regional and gender boundaries openly show Walcott’s hybridity of post-conialism which finds its fullest articulation in poetry.

Forced and voluntary migration, crossing of people, linguistic creolization and racial miscegenation are among the poetic metaphors that encodes the fabric of postcolonial text. In Omeros, Walcott’s wound motif helps the reader discover the creation resemblance in confronting tribal, ethic or national issues. Omeros remembers and repeats the word wound over and over, or otherwise known to the Greeks as ‘Trauma”, to reinforce the Afro-Caribbean story.

The play is set on an African cultural scene with primitive dances, musical instruments, and tools to represent the St. Lucian customs and devices. Combined with Afolable and village griot, the story sets the historical amnesia of the African diaspora in the displacement of Native Americans and Africans in the new world (Walcott Book three).

In Book four, genocidal policies of white men led to the massacre of more than three hundred families who had camped along Wounded Knee Creek. Plunkett is represents two personalities in Walcotts’s play Omeros, first; she is emblematic of her race and tries to identify with her own race and class to escape from ‘’from people who have been deprived of their own history” (Book four).

Achilles journey back to Africa represents the Black people’s journey towards self-realization and establishes some sense of pride in him though Africa is not his home and self-determination here is not guaranteed as a cultural independence. Omeros forces the hegemonic power, deprivation, colonial neglect in the third world countries to describe the poet’s hybridity in recording his people’s struggle with identity, self esteem and independence.

The writing is purely a narration of peasants engaged in great battles of the West colonizers. The setting of Omeros takes place in post colonial St. Lucia, North America and some European capitals. And the West Indies have been identified with alien races and cultures, though elusive at some point, the story revolves around personal problems the poet (Ismond 60).

Dream on Monkey Mountain

Walcott’s Dream on Monkey Mountain uses dialects as metaphors to illustrate how hybridity was applied in the play. Vernacular languages used here signify the poet’s struggle to establish the discourse that is internally persuasive. Hybridity and thematic suggestions represents the social situation of the colonial in the West Indies.

The poet’s paragrims shifts between the cultural predicaments of the black skin, white, Negro and language in conveying the cultural impediments of the characters. West Indies search of identity and the damage the colonial spirit did to their soles reinforces the symbolic connection of the slavemanship and colonization.

In Walcott’s Dream on Monkey Mountain, all the actors in the play seem to be undergoing some sought of identification. They are often trying to find meaning of their culture and they all seem to be going through an upheaval in identifying their physiognomy. They believe by doing this they will be shaking off the stereotypes that have been imposed on them for centuries (Sinnewe 42).

Colonial spirit is represented in the book to mean the curse that was laid upon on black people in the metaphoric webbing of Western colonization language. They believe the curse was laid upon them since they had to be transported from colonization, and language was the vehicle of language to break through slavery. Walcott identifies secular, religion, and language as a metaphoric power in explaining his hybridity.

And he believes power over the colonized people can be maintained through the language of the law, the legal and the religious register upheld through the language of colonizer and the Roman law which represents the bible and all combined form an authoritative discourse of power. Authoritative language here is the Standard English imported by a colonizer which the poet refers to as internal persuasive discourse. The contrast of languages and the concepts they are made provides the central analysis of the play (Kelly 57).

In a chorus, Walcott introduces a scene of prison on West Indies Island with a song complaining the imprisonment of his mother’s son with a song. Another song is introduced by two felons; Tigre and Souris singing as they watch Corporal Lestrade locking up the charcoal burner, Makak.

Both the corporal and the two felons speak the language of islander which is a vernacular English and he easily shifts to standard English immediately while using the legal register. Here Sinnewe assumes the legal register language to be the language of a colonizer and when Corporal uses it in addressing his subject; he depicts Walcott hybridity of colonialism. For example, the Corporal when addressing Makak he uses words such as (Sinnewe) “Now before I bring a specific charge against you, I require certain particulars (42).

The Corporal linguistic superiority heightens the levels of discrimination in black communities. He refers to prisons as animals since they behave and act like them and since he comes from a mixed race, he places status in the superiority category. The Corporal sees himself as a traitor of their entire race when he equates Negroes with apes. Walcott categorizes race in this book in two levels, the level of content and the level of linguistics.

In the level of content for instance, Lestrade equates Negros with Apes and the second level in using lingustics “the Negro is an ape”’ to refer to their intellectual inferiority that all Negros can do is imitate, or most obey orders. Inferiority of negros can also be shown to be social reality, after all, they are all prisoners subjected to the civil law (Walcott 217).

Since inmates know that an never be equals to the Whites, they only use religion to escape from this situation, the bible offers then redemption, and Tigres finds solace in religious song which delineated from the original authoritative discourse of the colonizer world. In Walcott…

When the roll

Is called up yonder.

When the roll is called up yonder,

I ain’t going!

[ .…] And nobody else here going, you all too black, except possibly the Corporal..(217).

We can see here that the language is broken into religious and authoritative discourse which Tigres believes that black equates badness bearing no redemption. Religion here is imported religion from the whites and offers no solace to black souls. The authoritative language used in the song means the colonizers words cannot be interpreted to solve the situation of blacks.

The issues of race either from the religious discourse or the secular point of view are bound by the problems of language and manifest itself in the language characters use to illustrate Walcott hybridity themes. For example, when Lestrade interviews Makak, Lastrade asks him questions that seem stereotypical of what authoritative power assumes Black people to be. He is not let to answer what his residential place is as the corporal suggests Africa, but Makak corrects him in Walcott dialogue lamenting that

Makak: Sur Morne Macaque

Corporal [infuriated] English, English, English! For we are observing the principle of Roman Law, and Roman law is English law…”(219).

Corporal English is equated with proper language to be used, legal register of Standard English which is not understood by Makak and asks for elaboration.

Makak does not understand the language of power and remains silent when Corporal asks him questions and only speaks in his vernacular language. The corporal is a representative of the colonial law and Makak suffers from Inferiority complex. Lestrade by renouncing his blackness, his jungle nature, assumes a language presumed to be colonial language, adopts the culture and identity of a white man.

Makak however remains black such that he is in need of an interpreter , Souris whose role is to translate the Corporal questions into French Creole Makak can understand plays the role of translator which heighten his status since he can understand the master’s colonized language (Sinnewe 44).

Linguistic Manifestation of the Racial Hierarchy

At the bottom of linguistic hierarchy you can find Makak, the dirty charcoal burner, black and has similarities of a gorilla according to Souris description and resembles an ape in physical features and name. He never speaks and when he does it’s only in vernacular English, French Creole and portrays the Standard English to be a colonizer’s language in the legal register and he requires translation (Sinnewe 44).

At the top of social and linguistic hierarchy are the colonial masters, Corporal Lestrade, who is half white which Tigres describes him as closet to redemption. He switches easily between the languages of a colonizaer and a vernacular English. He has mastered the discourse of a colonizer.

The middle of the hierarchy lies Tigres and Souris, though prisoners like Makak but since he plays the translator role, and Tigres associate judge, are elevated above animal status according to Lestrade description though they only relate to each other through vernacular English admiring the Lestrade good command of authoritative language of power (Ismond 60).

Quest for identity

Walcott hibridity in Dream on Monkey Mountain is directly linked to the search of identity in race and racism and Makak predicaments are related to his status as a man of African descent. Possession of cultural identity is displays in Walcott hibridity’s characters. On an interview of Makak and Lestrade, Makak claims to have forgotten his name and forgotten his identity and has been nicknamed Makak though his real name is Macaque, a name that provides him a subhuman identification rather than human identity (Walcott 235).

Lestrade in his function as a legal representative of the white ruling class gives him the impression that negro equals ape and Makak’s name suits him well. Makak’s physiognomy of ugliness has been imposed on him and the White Goddess he meets in his dream tells him he comes from a family of lions and kings and his return to Africa will help him find his true identity. Walcott comments that ”Makak will walk like he used to in Africa, when his name was lion (240).

Moustique character is introduced in the book to represent the practical realist, he balances Makak’s dream of pride and aloof self-esteem with down to earth realism. He reacts by Makak dream by saying (Walcott) “Well, you lucky. (Rises wearily) Me and Berthilia have three bags of coal to try and sell in the market this morning. (..) You had a bad dream, or you sleep outside and the dew seize you” (237).

The theme of Walcott’s hybridity is represented where the alienated black man longing for whiteness equates power, for example Makak’s dreams can only be fulfilled by possession of a white woman. Moustique mistakes Makak’s dream as sexual longing for a white woman rather than his dream for freedom. By finding a white mask Makak declares (Walcott) “She leave her face behind, she leave the wrong thing.

Ah, Mon Dieu. [ he sits by the fire, puffing his pipe angrily, pokes the fire] And the dammned fire out” (240). Moustique’s definition of self-esteem is depicted to mean an economic basis imposed by a colonizer. Makak provided him the self-esteem when they first met that stems from social basis. He laments that Makak made him believe his black skin and barefoot could go somewhere in life (Walcott 234).

He uses the word to go somewhere as a metaphor for social mobility and Makak uses the word to mean to go to Africa, finding his roots that would allow him a rise in his self-esteem other than climbing up a white social ladder. Moustique’s value system and ideology of the colonizer are only valid in the public (the social field) but it when it comes to spiritual matters, his self-esteem remains within the value of colonizer though it means self-betrayal.

Moustiques repeats the words of “those white colonizer” when they were trying to convert the native tribes to Christianity that claimed that only the savagers believed in signs such as spiders and white eggs. This view adopts him an imported value and beliefs system of the colonizer.

Since his value system is basically white, which its origins lie in an authoritarian imposition rather than a persuasive adoption. This means that its authority will be diminished to the same level as its usefulness in relation to situations of blacks, and for this case, Moustique is diminished (Sinnewe 49). Coming down to Monkey Mountain, protagonist are flooded with white moonlight, setting the scene of the forging authoritarian (inspection) imposition of white concept on the blacks.

Spiritual and Material Aspect of Identity

In the second scene, Walcott brings three avenues of religion as a component part of one’s identity. The scene is set in moonlight, enhancing the whiteness of the robes won by members of the sisterhood. The theme introduced here is Christianity, imposed by most parts of colonized world.

The authoritative formalization of the words in the Lord’s Prayer which Moustique recites, are interpreted in vernacular English, they re-evaluate and re-interpret against the back drop of vernacular folk language. The heavily styles English of the Lord’s prayer and the vernacular language of Makak characterizes parody as Walcott’s hybrid, where languages are criss-crossed which serve as rejoinders of dialogue. The two languages relate to each other as rejoinders are evinced in Walcott as

First peasant: [Keeping the whisper] where do you come from, stranger…now and at the hour of our death, amen

Moustiquel [Whispering] From Monkey Mountain, in Forestiere quarter….and forgive us our trespasses…amen […] (244)

The word forgive us our trespasses line reads similar to the answer of the first peasant’s question “where do you come from” and being descendants from Monkey mountain, their origin was almost as a sin that had to be forgiven. But Moustique’s prayer for bread is not answered or his pledge for it is met for those who pray in Christian way.

Tigres argues that since Prologue of Christianity did not provide solace for him, the Negro is therefore not any better than white since both their prayers are not met. The first peasant asks in Walcott “he’s say he angry, and could we spare him some food? the woman have began rubbing the sick man” (246) and the second Peasant in Walcott answers “I have only enough for us here, brother” (246).

And only after when Moustique offers Makak help for curing the sick man is when he is given some food. The white prayers as Moustique calls them did not help the sick man. Makak prayer claim that God planted him on the Monkey Mountain and those he sees there are “….like a forest with no roots” (Walcott 248).

When Josephus eventually gets well, Moustique shows the avenues Makak or any west Indies may take on search for an identity of his own Moustique laments in Walcott that [….] White medicine, bush medicine, not one of them work! White prayers, black prayers, and still no delieverance! And who heal the man? Makak Makak! […] (251).

Medicine here is used to represent the public and prayers the private sphere of life, which is neither exclusive to the white nor the blacks and helps us define the identity the concept of identity in Makak’s or West Indies eyes.

It is as Makak says in Sinnewe that “the belief is one self, the belief in an identity of ones own, neither purely based on white concepts nor purely on black ones which promises the delivery from the sickness of imposed concepts of identity” ( 50).

While Moustique is meant to believe in Makak prayers, it represents yet another religion, With Makak as the new prophet and himself as a practical realist as its Secretary Treasurer (Walcot 251).

The man from the stretcher, a peasant is dying from a snake bite and the women continue to sing and dance around him as they have no other medicinal cure either than entertain him. He only needs to sweat to break free the snake’s vermin off his body.

Makak comes in offers his prayers but the Peasants are too tired to believe in anything. The character of Moustique is again introduced in Makak’s search for identity, his dream, a social reality of the blacks and their efforts to regain identity and self-respect lies within the established white hierarchy which seems fruitless.

Moustique comments in Walcott that “.. [….] But look at that moon, and it like a plate that a dog lick clean, bright as florin, but dogs chase me out of people yard when I go round begging. […]” (255). Moustique sheds the social reality of poverty and he has to overcome it before gains any self-respect and identity of ones own can be achieved.

Dream of Monkey Mountain is a poetic text that brings out the visual images of classical tradition and African elements, elements bound together into the author’s British colonial childhood. Makak illustrates the conflict between black roots and white culture. The book often deals with racial complexities of the West Indies islands and his own heritage in defining his hybridity.

Dream on Monkey Mountain scene opens in a small jail is West Indies, and the Corporal Lestrade who is the official representative brings Makak in for being drunk and compares the two inmates to animals. In (Walcott Scene one), Makak’s elusive dream believes that the white woman in her dream wanted to come home with him and that would nolonger make him live in a hut-a substandard house anymore because he comes to from the royal lineage.

This makes him refuse to accompany Moustique, his business partner to the market to sell charcoal. Moustique finds a white masks under a bench and Makak accuses Makak of being elusive, and his dream with the white woman is only sexual and nothing to base his dreams on (Hamner 37; Walcott (b) 207).

Scene Two, Moustique comes upon a family of a sick man, he joins them in prayers while asking them for bread. Moustique convince them to let Makak help them in exchange for bread. They kneel around the sick man and pray and nothing happens though they are given food for their effort and as they are about to leave, the sick man’s sweat started to break loose and heals.

Scene three, In a social gathering, Moustique claims to be Makak and asks money in exchange for prayers for his trip to Africa though he doesn’t get any money since the crowd aren’t convinced enough to be the man he claims to be. In Scene four; Tigres convinces Makak to kill the corporal and escape together, they stab him and declaring his freedom.

Part I; The two cages at the stage represents the subhuman housing condition the slaves live in, and the light that illuminates the cages and the black men inside represents the power white power have over them. Corporal comments on a biblical story of creation how God created all the apes and the ones that were left behind become “niggers (Walcott Scene four).

Conclusion

The play setting is a cultural tradition in which dance, music, and visual narrative which represents the African slavemanship in pre-colonial period. The chorus song about the jailed son, displays Walcott hybridity that black people are always in jail.

Lestrade commends in Walcott (b) that “Black people caged before us somehow missed on God’s blessing, they are not only treated like animals but they are also given names like animals”(215) Tigres for instance in a native French language means a Tiger, Souris, for means mouse while Moustique is a French name for mosquito and Makak is a monkey species. This suggests that the play theme is centralized to the issues of racism.

Makak and Moustique perceive themselves as outcast since they are both physically handicapped, Makak’s ugliness and Moustique handicapped foot. When Makak gets out fetch some coal, Moustique comments to himself on the misery black people have to live with while looking for a sack to put things in when he gets bitten by a spider. He accuses Makak for living like animals and believing in signs.

Makak and Moustique are identified as black to show misery suffered by black people which brings deeper meaning to the book’s themes. Their journey to finding their true identity in Africa represents their journey towards freedom and independence, away from being treated as animals. Makak journey is inspired by a white woman, or at least a woman with a white mask

Walcott in (Scene 1) makes a point of human nature to be also animal nature. Makak is described as pacing his cage, the same way animal zoo acts, circling within their confines of their existence until they become frustrated and result to violence, the same way Maka acts in the prison. The actions that follows him through the rest of the act where he stubs the Corporal, Makak’s escape makes the thematic change that fighting changes their living situation and erected bars represent fear and hatred.

Walcott’s Dream of Monkey hibridity is represented where the black characters in the play continually search for identity. Makak claims that he deosny know his race never seen himself in the mirror for thirty year and his journey to Africa will lead to self discovery. The corporal Mullato also has identity issues, he identifies himself with whites and speaks only in the authoritative language in embraces Roman law (Scobie 1174).

Works Cited

Hamner, Robert D., “Mythological Aspects of Derek Walcott’s Drama,” in Ariel. July (19770): 35-58.

Ismond, Patricia. “Self-Portrait of an Island: St. Lucia Through The Eyes of its

Writers”. Journal of West India Literature, vol. 1 no.1, (1986): 59-73.

Kelly, Kevin, “The Poetic Power of Walcott’s Dream,” in Boston Globe, July 26(1994): 57.

Ramazani, Jahan. The Hybrid muse: Postcolonial poetry in English. Gale and Gale Cengage, 2002.

Ramazan, Jahan (b). “The Wound of History: Walcott’s Omeros and the Postcolomal Poetics of Affliction.” PMIA , vol112, No 3 (1997): 405-18

Scobie, William. I., “The West Coast Scene,” in National Review. November 3 (1970); 1174.

Terada, Rei. Omeros, in her Derek Walcolt’s Poetry: American Mimicry, Northeastern University Press, 1992.

Walcott, Derek. Omeros. Gale and Gale Cengage, 2002

Walcott, Derek (a). Dream on Monkey Mountain and other plays. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1995.

Walcott, Derek (b). Dream on Monkey Mountain, in Dream on Monkey Mountain and Other Plays. Farrar, Straus, 1970.

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