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A GEM IN THE CARIBBEAN

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A GEM IN THE CARIBBEAN; EARL LOVELACE FROM A LITERARY
PERSPECTIVE.
[email protected]
Adetunji Adelokun
PhD student University of Ibadan, Ibadan Nigeria.
Introduction
The development of a literary tradition in a region whose foundation was laid by sailors, saltfish
merchants, displaced criminals, yellow-fever victims, slaves in the cane-fields and maroon in the
bush, is no doubt worthy of critical and scholarly interventions. The Caribbean literary corpus,
which this study seeks to beam a critical searchlight on, through the selection of one of her
significant post-independence representative, is a tradition which draws considerable wealth of
influence from the Caribbean historical milieu. Consequently, the literature of the Caribbean
society is one which can be averred to have passed through stages of apparent silence to
assimilation, imitation, and apology, and on to innovation, affirmation, and transformation.
(Dance 1986:1)
Chronicling a Tradition
The development of Caribbean literary tradition cannot be discussed without a recourse to the
sociological and historical undertones that guides the construct of the tradition. According to
Julia Udofia (2013), the events that shaped(s) the thematic preoccupation of this tradition
includes:
i.
Slavery in the Caribbean
ii.
Abolition of slavery
iii.
Post-emancipation Caribbean (57&58)
Consequently, the evolution of Caribbean literature which can also be regarded as a literature of
a faction of slave ancestry can be traced to the foremost epoch of oral tradition which
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incorporated folklore of the plantation era. (1). The literature of the Caribbean is peculiar for her
assertive and unflinching resolve to typify and identify with the struggle against the nefarious
and despicable motif of racism. Francis Williams, a Jamaican by descent but Greek by literary
indoctrination, was one of the foremost writers who committed creative prowess into voicing
their utter displeasure for racism by advocating a common humanity of mankind. This gave
impetus to other writers especially those of Guyana descent to document their own concerns and
experiences. (2). This stage was also remarkable and memorable in the Caribbean literary
history, as it marked the foremost period of the incorporation of traditional aesthetics like the
indigenous linguistic and cultural codes especially in the poetry genre.
The trend did not halt at this point; the Caribbean literary tradition was constructed as a counter
discourse to the sinister effect of the operation of colonialism on the Caribbean island. It is thus
not misconstrued to aver that writers recognised the need to contribute their quota to the
reconfiguration of the maligned Caribbean society.
This standpoint assumed by the writers to portray their milieu is lent credence to by what Plato
regards as an ideal republic. This confers literary acts, as vanguards of to showcase the sociocultural realities of their societies. This they engage in so as to: entrench the values; consolidate
on the values and many a time, critically lampoon the vices. The Caribbean literary tradition is
not alien to the literary configuration which exerts the ethos of societal realities in the construct
of her literature.
In reconstructing the fast eroding cultural values, the Caribbean writer is saddled with the duty of
showcasing the effect of the plantation and colonialist experiences on the social and
psychological configuration of the Caribbean populace. The uniqueness of this tradition spurs
from the concentration of the writers on social awareness. This position maintained in the
Caribbean literary tradition which is evident in the literary outputs of this region can be said to
be given considerable impetus by the historical experience of the Caribbean people. These
variegated degrees of culturally and traditionally debilitating experiences i.e. slavery and
colonialism, no doubt, contributed immensely to the thematic preoccupation of Caribbean
literature. This study will consequently, explicate these inextricable shades of Caribbean
historical and sociopolitical development through the bibliographical consideration of Earl
Lovelace’s oeuvre.
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With the foregoing, the study is commissioned to conduct an exposition into the life of Earl
Lovelace as a writer and a vanguard of the Caribbean life. By implication, this bibliographical
exposition into the oeuvre of writings of Earl Lovelace, will concert efforts into espousing his
postcolonial writing tradition. so as not to engage an eclectic review of Caribbean literary space,
the study has chosen to constrain itself to focus on the relevance of Earl Lovelace in the
Caribbean literary tradition.
The study has consciously chosen to highlight the impact and endearing effects of Earl Lovelace
through the following considerations:
 A biographical exposition into Earl Lovelace life as a literary and social critic.
 An investigation into his writing tradition.
 An exposition into Earl Lovelace literary contemporaries and their works.
 A critical understanding of his oeuvre with emphasis on his magnum opus.
 An extensive critique of his thematic preoccupation.
 A consideration of critical voices about Earl Lovelace.
At the end of this study, it is expected that it is able to offer insightful knowledge into Earl
Lovelace literary productivity.
Biographical Account
The contemporary Caribbean literary canon cannot be comprehensively discussed without a
mention of the postcolonial Anglophone literary sage known as Earl Lovelace. Born in Toco in
1935, a community in Trinidad, Earl Lovelace’s childhood was spent with his maternal
grandparents on the Island of Tobago where he got his first taste of formal education in Port of
Spain, before venturing abroad to further his education. At this point, Earl Lovelace
psychological renaissance is set in motion as he returns to his country home after a long but
fruitful stay in Europe. This decision was borne out of the need to contribute his quota to the
development of his homeland, which at the point, was in the process of reconfiguring and reestablishing her fragmented cultural and traditional aspirations.
The productive effect of this selfless decision to jettison the comfy life he was afforded abroad
for a return to his home, gave rise to the churning out of creative works. These works were
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essentially written to capture the historical and cultural sensibilities of the Caribbean society. It
became very glaring that the Caribbean society had to undergo cultural and traditional
reconfiguration processes.
So, Earl Lovelace’s contributions like; critical essays of his thoughts on the postcolonial and
post-independence West Indian society and dramatic works which captures the postcolonial and
post-independence experiences to a considerable length were churned out to address this reality.
Literary Biography
Earl Lovelace’s literary inputs have a considerable impact on the Caribbean literary tradition.
This submission is buttressed by the qualitative and quantitative churning out of literary works
that span from prose to dramatic texts and even seminal essays. His dexterity in the construct of
captivating and enthralling short stories cannot also be over-emphasized. The quality of these
works is lent credence by the variegated recognitions that the works have commanded.
His descriptive prowess in the creation of vivid representation of the realities of the postindependence Caribbean society is brought to limelight through novels like:
 While Gods are Falling
 The Dragon Can’t Dance
 Wine of Astonishment
 The Schoolmaster
 Salt
 Is Just a Movie
Other literary works from Earl Lovelace include: A Brief Conversion and other Stories (1988);
Jestina’s Calypso and Other Plays (1984); Growing in the Dark ; selected essays(2003)
His efforts in the representation of the Caribbean post-independence era through these
highlighted works did not go unnoticed. This is evident by the literary recognitions and awards
that Earl Lovelace has over the years amassed. Some of these awards include:
i.
Trinidad and Tobago Independence Literary competition by British Petroleum (1963While Gods are falling)
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ii.
Pegagus Literary Award, 1966- contributions to the arts in Trinidad and Tobago
iii.
Commonwealth Writer’s prize for overall Winner, Best Book (1997- Salt.)
iv.
OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean literary Award. Lifetime literary Award from the
National Library and information system authority (NALIS), Trinidad, 2012)
Having glossed over some of the awards that Earl Lovelace has amassed through his works, it is
pertinent to establish the fact that Ernest Hemmingway and William Faulkner’s works were
major childhood influences in helping Lovelace’s crave for creative writing. He attributes these
two literary icons as individuals from whom he drew a lot of ‘self-education’. Also, there is a
peculiar inter-textual relationship between Earl Lovelace and his post-independence
contemporaries. It would not be out of place to emphasize that Earl Lovelace’s works were
modeled from the works of the likes of George Lamming, V.S. Naipaul and V.S. Reid. It is
thereby not farfetched to witness the manifestations of the themes espoused by writers like
George Lamming, V.S Naipaul, and V.S Reid in their early post-independence works in Earl
Lovelace’s writings.
Through New Day, V.S. Reid presents the Caribbean society from the Jamaican traditional
perspective. As he, judiciously employs a technique which accentuates the struggles and
revolutionary undertones that the Jamaican independence is premised upon. At such, Reid draws
from a considerable wealth of indigenous and traditional aesthetics in his diction and narrative
pattern. What is more, Reid venerates the martyrs who helped forge a new Jamaican society. The
traces and underpinnings of Reid’s narrative perspective is equally an underlying factor in Earl’s
Lovelace narration of the Trinidadian struggle against colonialism.
The recourse to indigenous narrative pattern which involves, the incorporation of language
aesthetics like the oral tradition, is also a factor that connects these early post-independence
writers. The adherence to the oral tradition is evident in the works of these writers.
A vivid depiction of this technique is evident in the manner in which the nation’s indigenous
linguistic pattern is employed in Reid’s New Day;
Father stopped quick, his breadth going with rush. Surprise there
was on him, which made me wonder why; for Naomi and me knew
well about Moses and sis Ruthie. When we reached home, I asked
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Naomi why surprise should ha’ taken Father, but she laughed and
said all men folk... (1949:20).
The perpetual search for cultural relevance and identity reclamation is another motif that recurs
in the works of the writers of this period of Caribbean literature. Thus, the presentation of
characters that are alienated from their indigenous cultural ethos as a result of colonialism and
slavery is negotiated in their works. Essentially, there is a recurrent metaphorical depiction of the
struggle to establish a link with indigenous cultural values and belief system through their
character invention.
Periodic Delineation
Earl Lovelace’s ardent commitment to the exposition of the sinister effects of colonialism, which
is more often than not harnessed through the explications of post-independence realities in his
literary outputs, positions him in the crux of postcolonial or post independent writers. The
postcolonial period in the literature of the Caribbean can be said to be a very cogent epoch in the
discourse of Caribbean literary tradition as a corpus.
Evidently, the importance of this period in the Caribbean literary tradition makes it pertinent to
note at this juncture that writers like; Sam Selvon (through, Lonely Londoners) V.S Reid
(through, New Day), George Lamming (through, In the Castle of My Skin), V.S Naipaul
(through, House of Mr Biswas), were essential in the evolution set in motion by this period in
Caribbean literature. By implication, these pioneers of the postcolonial epoch of Caribbean
literature were unflinching in their resolve to emphasise through their works, an unflinching
resolve towards the reclamation of the Caribbean consciousness. The significant nature of this
epoch was such which granted a lot of impetus for the development of new breed of Caribbean
writers. They also discovered the need to contribute their quota to the restructuring and
reclamation of the essential elements in the culture of a maligned society. As a result, writers like
Edgar Mittleholzer, Roger Mais, Martin Carter, Samuel Selvon, Wilson Harris, Derek Walcott,
Micheal Anthony, Edward Kamau Brathwaite and contextually important, Earl Lovelace to
mention but a dominant few, churned out creative and literary works to accentuate the need for
cultural reconfiguration and reclamation.
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Consequently, the literary dexterity of the aforementioned writers was conditioned towards
espousing the pristine nature of Caribbean identity or consciousness before colonial infiltration
and the imminent colonial pollution. So, the postcolonial temper which dominated the literary
discourse during this era, lends credence to the assertion which encapsulates and vividly presents
the dedication and consciousness of the writers of this period as;
...a concern only with the national culture after the departure of
the imperial power... to cover all the culture affected by the
imperial process from the moment of colonization to the present
day. This is because there is a continuity of preoccupations
throughout the historical process initiated by European imperial
aggression.... Ashcroft, Bill, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin (
1989:1&2).
In a bid to reclaim the ethos of the pristine Caribbean cultural and traditional grandeur, writers
were vehemently critical and assertive in their bid to reject and relegate all colonial legacies. As
a result, they sought to background the idiosyncrasies of the colonial operation in the Caribbean
Island and imminently foreground the distinct Caribbean consciousness. A vivid instance is
found in A House for Mr Biswas, a novel which relates the experience of a protagonist whose
unflinching search for epiphany creates layers of conflicts he contends with in the narrative.
Apart from this, Naipaul’s dedication to the accentuation of the norm of creolisation’ (a process
of mixing old traditional cultures with new modern elements of an inherited culture.) is also a
dominant feature of this narrative. The significant effect of the doctrine of making a recourse to
indigenous cultural aesthetics like language in the construct of texts is often found in the
provision of succinct and highly metaphoric presentation of characters.
The need to surmount the problems heralded by the dichotomy that exists between the creole
which evidently was more popular and the English language also conferred the onus on
Caribbean writers to be strident in their decision to go for a less-glamorous exclusively creole
writing. Many a time, these writers adopt a medium known as creolisation as a means of
nativisation by code-mixing or code-switching between the Creole and the English language.
There is a constant interplay between the creole and the English Language which was more
dominant compared with other existent global languages like; the Spanish, French.
Some authors expatiate further:
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Caribbean literary discourse explores the language choices that
preoccupy creative writers in whose work vernacular discourse
displays its multiplicity of origins, its elusive boundaries... the
authors address the degree to which language choice highlights
political loyalties and tensions; the politics of identity, self
representation and nationalism.... Barbara Lalla, Jean
D’Costa,Velma Pollard (2014:3)
Literary Indoctrination
The inextricable relationship that exists between literature and the society it is churned out from
is a fact that has been widely acknowledged by scholars. This submission is lent credence by the
indispensability of factors like; the norms, the values as well as vices in the literature of a
particular society. The literary works of Earl Lovelace is in concordance with this reality, as him
as a novelist, an essayist, a journalist, literary critic and as a social commentator dwells on the
pervading realities of his society in his literary outputs.
Whilst establishing this dialectical relationship between literature and the society, Earl Lovelace
employs the narrative style of incorporating indigenous traditions of calypso (novelypso) and
carnivalesque. Although, due to the need to pursuit his educational career, he migrates to Europe;
however, the unflinching resolve of Earl Lovelace to remain connected to Trinidad literary
umbilical cord by constantly sending nostalgic signals to other Caribbean literary acts of the need
to rise up to challenge of repositioning the frail entity. By so doing, Earl Lovelace, like Merle
Hodge is able to create a vibrant literary niche for himself in the Caribbean Island.
Consequently, Earl Lovelace has distinctively been able to endear his writing into the crux of the
Caribbean post-independence literary tradition and by extension, the Caribbean literary tradition.
The submission of the British Council, while reflecting on the literary development of Earl
Lovelace, affirms this as it comments that:
Earl Lovelace’s works positions itself firmly amongst the lives and
voices of ordinary people whether the focus is on the povertystricken ‘yard’ culture of Port of Spain or the religious shouter
traditions of the rural population. As is apparent in early novels
such as While Gods Are Falling or the Schoolmaster, Lovelace’s
work has demonstrated from the outset an unwavering commitment
to explore the complex political tensions at work in an island
culture that has been born out of a history of slavery and
indenture....
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In Earl Lovelace’s purview as an experienced party to the West Indian’s uninspiring sociopolitical development, he gracefully captures the reductive position of the West Indies during the
period of colonialism. He captures the West Indian socio-political indoctrination or configuration
through his assertion that:
I saw it clearly (the turbulence of the Caribbean disillusioned and
colonised mind), the tragedy of our time is to have lost the ability
to feel our loss, the inability of power to rise to its responsibility
for human decency... I was thinking that if what distinguishes us as
humans is our stupidity, what may redeem us is our grace....
Earl Lovelace’s literary productivity has been in concordance with the need to elucidate and
critically appraise the Trinidad society. Thus, his thematic inclination and stylistic indoctrination
adheres to the exposition of the multilayered degrees of postcolonial disillusionment. Due to the
reality of the Trinidad experience (through slavery and colonialism) , it became evident that
other areas of the Trinidad life need to be ventured into apart from the previous emphasis on the
alluring spectacle of the calypso, soca music, mas-making as well as religious celebration. The
need to explicate the degrees of disillusionment and imbalances conditioned by the twin
debilitating engine of slavery and colonialism became very pertinent. In the bid to espouse this
sensibility, remarkable efforts were made by writers to emphasise the distortive and disruptive
impact of the infiltration of the twin-engine of slavery and colonialism into the Caribbean
existence.
Even with the thematic incoherence that some critics have noticed in his writings, Earl Lovelace
as a dynamic literary act (testament of his dramatic and prosaic experimentations) has over the
years able to depict through vivid imaginative prowess, the need for a Caribbean cultural rebirth.
This is evident in the manner in which he churned out creative works to showcase this reality. At
this juncture, it is pertinent to note that, Earl Lovelace was born at a time when the Caribbean
renaissance was at full force. Deductively, the impact of this can be said to have been vastly
responsible for his position in his texts, although a vast majority of his works and critical essays
were composed and published at a period when the Caribbean mindset became nostalgic of his
existence (postcolonial era).
With a considerable chunk of his childhood spent in Trinidad and Port of Spain, Earl Lovelace
no doubt, can be regarded as an objective harbinger of the Caribbean experience. His persistent
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and unflinching resolve to elucidate, the cultural anomaly occasioned by the Caribbean
encounter with slavery and colonialism is an underlying rationale which guides the construct of
his writings.
However, even with this position, Earl Lovelace still maintains a degree of scepticism about the
cultural reconfiguration of a culturally and traditionally maligned Caribbean society. He captures
this reservation vividly when he submits in the interactive lecture and later published by Wasafiri
and I paraphrase:
There is abounding difficulty for a writer to negotiate the present
Trinidad still bound (despite independence) by the nefarious
hangover of colonialism. The need to build a future in the present
alongside the contradictions of the past is evidently herculean.
(2012:18)
However, even with this submission, Lovelace is undeterred in his vehement stance in his
criticism of the disruptive elements of the Caribbean culture.
Critical Analysis of Earl Lovelace’s Novel Literary Ideas
This section of this biographical study of Earl Lovelace’s literariness will concert efforts into the
explication of his literary works which include: essays, seminal papers, plays and narratives.
Whilst doing this, the study aims to critically appraise the literary outputs of Earl Lovelace by
paying succinct attention to the thematic construct of the works and the metaphorical and
allegorical configurations of the Caribbean society through the works.
Vilifying the errant political class in While Gods Are Falling.
While Gods are Falling is Earl Lovelace’s debut novel and it served as a major springboard
which sets Earl Lovelace up for the immense recognition which heralded his subsequent literary
works. This critical acclaim is evident through the recognition of the text by the British
petroleum Independence literary award. The focus of the text is that which seeks to put paid to
the postcolonial disappointments and disillusionment in the Caribbean. From the purview of the
contemporary Caribbean literary voice, the novel sets to digress from the focus of the first
generation of Caribbean literary artists, who paid succinct attention to the theme of growing up
in the West Indies as a way to talk about de-colonisation in the West Indies.
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While Gods Are Falling addresses the pepped up wishes of a writer, hoping to create a more
accurate and vivid picture of his society, rather than the pretentious and warped angle it was
being perceived. Earl Lovelace captures the inability or better put, the failure of the political
class in ensuring a proper structuring of the Trinidad society. The novel emphasises the need for
the political class or ruling class to act on the postcolonial delusionary realities that betides the
existence of the followers. The search for a true meaning of existence is a major thematic
occupation in this novel. Moreover, Lovelace invents and presents his characters to suit this
thematic preoccupation.
Channeling a new cause through imminent realities in The Schoolmaster
In consonance with the motif explored by Earl Lovelace in his creative outputs, The
Schoolmaster elucidates the unfortunate situation that a budding culturally-upright rural
community of Kumaca finds herself. This is captured to be the aftermath of the debilitating
influence of another world. Earl Lovelace establishes the inherent cultural disillusionment
occasioned by such infiltration. This is vivid in his portrayal of the struggle between the
harbinger of the old tradition, represented by the sceptical priest and the new tradition,
represented by other inhabitants in the community who myopically, sees education as a liberating
and efficient tool for achieving developmental needs. Evidently, being a minority, the priest’s
well-thought advise on the need for the people to weigh the pros and cons of their decision, is
jettisoned. The sinister nature of this development becomes conspicuous; when the schoolmaster
contracted to aid the development of Kumaca violates a young girl and in turn makes the
villagers question their decision.
Earl Lovelace’s presentation of the experience of the people of Kumaca, underscores the reality
of the Caribbean experience. The metaphorical depiction of the struggle between the old and new
cultural norms and the violation subsequently wrecked on the old tradition, portrays to a very
large extent the effect of the short-sighted disposition of the old tradition ( the old men except the
priest) in allowing the new tradition erode the essence of their cultural beliefs. Moreover, Earl
Lovelace exposes the nature of the lackadaisical action of the old tradition on the new and
emerging generation. Evidently, the girl who bears the brunt of the action of the older generation
was not even consulted in the decision to allow the new tradition.
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Back to status quo in Salt
Salt offers a concise bit of insight into the diachronic understanding of the events that
conditioned the present reality. To a considerable extent, Earl Lovelace, traces the fundamentals
of the present delusional state, especially with the struggles of the Trinidadians to comprehend
the situation, by incorporating the mythological belief about Guinea John. He is renowned to be
a progenitor of the Black people who, due to the greed (through salt consumption) of his
descendants, was unable to liberate them from enslavement. The carefree position which the
Trinidadians and the Caribbean people at large, assumed in the comprehension of their situation
is what Earl Lovelace, metaphorically depicts herein. However, like prodigals who, through their
sufferings and afflictions reminiscence on the virtual loss of the essence of their existence,
conjure nostalgic reflections and seek to reconfigure their situation. Thus, through efficient and
dexterous use of characterisation, Earl Lovelace presents the constant struggle of the
Trinidadians represented by characters like Bango Durity, Alford George, to reconstruct their
lives in a dynamic homeland.
What Earl Lovelace has remarkably done in the construct of this literary piece is to emphasize
the lackadaisical and shallow-minded leaders who are meant to be torchbearers in the
reclamation of the cultural aesthetics of the Caribbean Island which have been assumed over the
course of the years. Like in While the Gods are Falling, Earl Lovelace critically engages the
readers to probe into the aftermath of the irresponsible disposition of those who were looked up
to for altruistic leadership.
By so doing, Earl Lovelace admonishes the people of the new world, a region of diverse cultural
and traditional beliefs, to engage a psychological rejuvenation of mind and perception of
themselves rather than continue to persistently dwell on the past historical experiences they have
been made to go through. However, they need to seek new ways of sailing forward through the
turbulence of their collective existence. This ideology is vividly accentuated through the
character of Alford. Lovelace makes a case for the need for the Caribbean collective whole,
devoid of cultural and traditional affiliations to move on:
... enslavements and indenture had brought our peoples to these
islands, we had continued to see ourselves as ex-enslaved, exindentured. In reality we would better address our future if we saw
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ourselves as a new people, brought together and created anew by
our
struggles
against
enslavement,
indenture
and
colonialism....Lovelace (1996:122)
Negotiating between the real and the ideal in The Dragon Can’t Dance
The Dragon Can’t Dance is a text which many critics have regarded to be Earl Lovelace’s
magnum opus. The reason for this reverence is not farfetched in his succinct depiction of the
ideology of Caribbean cultural reclamation through the text. Consolidating on the literary inputs
of the harbingers of postcolonial Caribbean literature, Earl Lovelace attempts a portrayal of how
the West Indies society navigates through her cultural existence.
This novel, no doubt a fascinating piece from Earl Lovelace as it engages a heart-rending probe
of the psychological journey and struggles of a community to find the true meaning to their
disordered existence. The depth of narrative aptitude in this piece is virtually impeccable as
made evident by the novelist creative and informed narrative techniques and character identity
formation or development.
The setting of the narrative itself showcases the abject condition of the inhabitants of Calvary
hill. The despicable condition is however transformed to a joyous condition at the turn of the
Carnival celebration. Through this carnival, the development of character experience is engaged.
At such, readers are made to acquaint themselves with the experiences of these characters who
all have unique lifelong hurts and aspirations. The hurts which are essentially disappointments
occasioned by stringent economic hardship transforms to impeccable joy as the carnival offer
them the spectacle and chance to key into their dreams.
What Lovelace has done impeccably well is the presentation of how maligned people still strive
to generate little fragments of hope from their staunch condition of hopelessness. The dragon
and the carnival spectacle in this narrative can be critically explained to indicate the significant
and altruistic tradition which has a result of the twin engine of colonisation and postindependence disillusionment are stifled out of existence as a result of the dynamics of power,
race and class distinctions.
Corroboratively, Funsho Aiyejina regards The Dragon Can’t Dance as a quintessential carnival
novel. He goes further to remark that, this serves as an underpinned factor in the novels of Earl
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Lovelace except The Schoolmaster which shifts away from the ‘novelypso’ tradition. Earl
Lovelace has, to a considerable extent tapped into the richness of the Caribbean tradition of
Carnivals aided by calypso music, soca music and in-depth cultural aesthetics. (2005:2).
In order to fully explicate on this literary tradition in Earl Lovelace’s literary works, Aiyejina
(2005) endeavours to critically appraise the underpinning pattern of the incorporation of what he
captures as ‘novelypso’. In Earl Lovelace’s works except the schoolmaster which conspicuously
deals with the ills of advocating for alien cultural norms and relegating indigenous modus
operandi, there is a recurrent adoption of the chantwell narrator(1).
This unique stance in the composition of post-independence literary yet, novel ideas by Earl
Lovelace no doubt, grants Earl Lovelace the wherewithal to adequately harness an indigenous
narrative strategy.
The novel, The Dragon Can’t Dance closes with the voice and
vision of the calypsonian, not with Aldrick (the protagonist); not
with Fisheye, (an adherent of cultural and traditional belief
system)...but opted to close with Philo, a man who is viewed by the
hill as a traitor. Consequently, the unheard voice of the
calypsonian presides over the narrative as it evidently, throughout
the cause of the narrative presentation life at the Hill.... (3)
Situating a standpoint in The Wine of Astonishment
Through The Wine of Astonishment, Earl Lovelace opens up another shade of the underlying
denominator that underpins the Caribbean experience. Herein, Earl Lovelace exposes the
inability of the black to exceed and suppress the layers of undermining factors which the
superstructure of colonialism has in place against their societal existence. Through the religious
restrictions of the Baptist boys, the superstructure is able to repress their ability to stake a claim
to their unabated existence in the Caribbean society.
Like While Gods are Falling, Earl Lovelace also endeavours to depict the lackadaisical posture
of the ruling political and economic class to address this manifestation of class restriction for the
collective good. The political class is presented in such a way which typify a section of people
who decide virtually no attention whatsoever to the plight of this unprivileged masses. This is as
a result of their wanton and lascivious desire for personal gratification and selfish enrichment.
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Earl Lovelace has been able to capture this class imbalance in the presentation of the ruling class
which is ably represented by Ivan Morton in the novel.
Reflecting and refracting on this flaw-laden leadership, Earl Lovelace suggests ameliorative
measures through characters like Bolo and Eva. He creates a unique Caribbean renaissance
through these characters by asserting that the Caribbean people should seek to enhance the
ability to influence their own destinies, rather than maintaining an unflinching resolve to vest
their existence on a political class which more often than not, continue to disappoint the
expectations of the people.
Caught in the wind; Joebell and America
Joebell and America equally presents the consequence of cultural and traditional
misappropriation. Misappropriation in this context is figuratively used to capture the effect of
having a culturally-incoherent society. A society of wannabes, who keeps striving to acculturate
the ‘other’ cultural norms, in order to manifest a sense of belonging, Earl Lovelace presents this
society through the character of Joebell, who in a bid to pursue his wanton desires to acclimatise
to the norms of the ‘other’ decides to incorporate the linguistic code which he has no proficiency
whatsoever.
Figuratively, what Earl Lovelace has done impeccably well in this short story is to lampoon the
Caribbean warped consciousness of looking to seek gratification for every endeavour of theirs
from America. Deductively, he also seeks to foreground the need to exalt indigenous norms
rather than an alien traditional configuration.
...the American moment. For that brief moment in time, the
Caribbean could see themselves as a participant in this
construction. Of course, it didn’t quite turn out that way, which
might be among the reasons Caribbean interests in American
literature have been relatively ignored by critics. But the reality is
that multiple writers in the Caribbean turned their attention to the
literature and culture of the United States throughout the 1950s
and 60s, and this project attempts to scrutinize this curious and
neglected era. Timothy Henningsen (2012:7)
Earl Lovelace’s Thematic Preoccupations
15
From the consideration of Earl Lovelace’s artistry, one is drawn to his recurrent emphasis on the
essence of Caribbean literature. Therefore, he is able to maintain a copious level of intertextual
relationship in his works and the works of his contemporaries. It is consequently not farfetched,
to witness the manifestation of the perpetual search for the essence of being in his oeuvre.
The communal spirit which Walter Castle facilitates in While Gods Are Falling is what
characterizes Kumaca community in The Schoolmaster. The inhabitants of this community are
presented as people with a very strong bond to the cultural and traditional ethos of their
community. “In a place like Kumaca,... everybody is one” (1979:95).
The imminent disconnection a flirtation with modern ethos of civilisation inadvertently,
conditions discord among a once united community. Dissenting factions conditioned by the once
culturally bound Schoolmaster now suffering from an identity misappropriation, conditions the
failure of the individual in entrenching communal sovereignty.
In the same vein, The Wine of Astonishment lends credence to the perpetual struggle for
personhood (identity). Religious constraints herein conditions revolutionary strife for
reclamation of self. “we is people, the police have to respect us” (1982:31)
The dichotomy between the characters of Ivan Morton and Bolo exposes different individualized
quest for identity. Bolo’s unflinching resolve for reclamation of identity is identical with the
resolve maintained by the inhabitants of Calvary Hill in The Dragon Cant Dance. The
syncretism of their migration to achieve personal worth opens a completely different reality of
reasserting self in a wholly different terrain. Albeit this limitation, violence, music, rebellion and
masquerading were means which some characters employed in achieving the assertion of
selfhood. (280). Aldrick on the other hand is presented and characterised by Lovelace as being
able to comprehend the communal rather than an individualized nature of achieving selfhood or
personhood.
We is people! We wasn’t ready to take our nothing for we own self.
We put the responsibility on them to act, to do something... we is
people. I, You, You for we own self.... we have to act for we... (188189)
Earl Lovelace: Literary Deftness, style and Critical Reception
16
The critique and comprehension of Earl Lovelace’s literary indoctrination will be inexhaustible
without a critical appraisal of his literary dexterity and skill harnessed in his works. The
consideration of this skill is pertinent to the adequate understanding of a writer’s indoctrination.
It is through the sufficient understanding of the literary acumen of a writer that a critic is able to
sufficiently comprehend the writer and his or her works with ease. Not only that, an author or
better put, a writer is only able to create a niche for himself or herself within the general corpus
of a literary tradition, if such a writer can be comprehended through his literary choices.
Thus, at this juncture, the study looks to espouse the level of literary deftness of Earl Lovelace
through a critical interrogation of his style and techniques of writing.
Innumerable critical claims and counter-claims have been offered to capture the essence of Earl
Lovelace’s literary input. One of such critical attentions is Deepak T.R. (2014:1) where an
attempt was made to locate the experience of the cultural formation in The Dragon Can’t Dance,
as a depiction of the history and culture of the Caribbean in the postcolonial context. In the same
vein,
Corroboratively, Rahim 2006’s grasp of Earl Lovelace’s underlying inspiration for the construct
of his literary and critical ideas is what he summarises into two unique ideologies. They are:
i.
Europe’s colonisation of the New World, which brought diverse peoples together
under severe conditions of systematized inequality.
ii.
The unique cultural shape this ingathering generated in Caribbean societies and the
invitation its continued evolution holds out to citizens to create a different future, not
only for them, but also for the world. (3)
Rahim’s assertions are underlying factors that conditions the construct of Earl Lovelace’s literary
pieces. Furthermore, Earl Lovelace continual probing of the essence of the new world, which as
a result of Europe’s colonisation has left a completely alien cultural shape.
By implication, Lovelace’s resolve in creating a pride of place for a masses-centred existence
and the emphasis on the pristine value of the indigenous traditional order is an ideology that runs
through the crux of most of his works.
17
At the core of these concerns is the primacy of people as the
shaping resource and force of history; the necessity of
safeguarding the values of freedom, dignity and equality on the
individual and collective levels; and the propagation of respect for
the place where people make their home. (4)
Furthermore, critical appraisals of Earl Lovelace have sought to understand whether he is a
national writer as he often acclaimed or not. The impetus for this controversy hinges on his
intermittent creation of the Caribbean society from a microcosm society.
...yet, to name Lovelace a national writer is not to imply that his
investment in writing about the nation does not simultaneously
entail an embrace of the transnational and, for that matter, the
universal. In short, his vision while concretized via an ongoing
exploration of his native Trinidad and Tobago does not suffer from
the malady of parochialism in the worst sense of the word. In fact,
he continues a long tradition in Caribbean literary culture where
the fictional constructions of his island-space, like George
Lamming’s “San Cristobal” and V.S. Naipaul’s “Isabella,”
function as microcosms of the wider Caribbean. Therefore in
“Welcoming Each Other,” he categorically states that he uses
“Trinidad and Tobago to represent the Caribbean. It is a truly
West Indian community peopled by … Africans from other parts of
the Caribbean, as well, of course, and by Africans from the
continent, Indians, Chinese, and Europeans” Funsho Aiyejina
(2003:166)
In difference to the controversy raised by this decision on settings by Lovelace, this study will
consider this as being a representation of the adherence to the technique of minimalism is a
recurrent style adopted by Earl Lovelace in his narrative. It is essential to note that this style had
been put into use by earlier postcolonial writers like George Lamming and V.S Naipaul to depict
the Caribbean society from microcosms of with restricted settings. However, the use of the
microcosms of “Port of Spain” and “Kumaca” to represent the larger Caribbean society in some
of Earl Lovelace’s narratives is a figurative or metaphorical way of relating the restrictive
structure that waylays the search for the Caribbean consciousness. Thus, the presentation of this
geographical restriction translates further to other restrictive tendencies, of which is the cultural
restriction that happens to be dominant in the post-independence discourse of Caribbean
literature.
Earl Lovelace: Diction
18
The history of the Caribbean society is such which is based on slavery and colonialism. Thus, the
Caribbean populace can be rightly adjudged to comprise people who as a result of displacement
from their original roots had to seek solace or haven in the new world. However, the other part of
the subjugating engine (colonialism) also displaced these people to some extent. At this point,
the displacement incorporated cultural displacement and loss of traditional grandeur. The powers
that be which includes, The British, The French and The Spanish world powers conditioned a
burgeoning influence on the world by colonising a world, which was at this time still fashioning
out a way of forging ahead in their multicultural and multiethnic sensibility.
The Trinidad Island formerly regarded as Iere (humming bird) officially became a British colony
in 1802 after a military conquest. As a result, the effect this had on the language was the
incorporation of the English Language as a lingua franca. This decision also affected writers who
needed to communicate efficiently with their readers. As they could not strictly adhere to the
creole code. However, this eventuality did not deter them much as the system of creolisation of
diction offered them the platform to still accentuate their indigenous language in their creative
outputs. Earl Lovelace’s works are in concordance with this tradition of incorporating creole and
some elements of the oral tradition into the construct of their creative works.
CONCLUSION
Earl Lovelace’s grasp of the quest for identity on which the Caribbean existence is premised on
aid his ability to sufficiently relate to the readers the complexities of the Caribbean life. Also,
through a unique style of presentation and characterisation, he achieves the vivid relation of the
discourse of the thematic inclination of the postcolonial Caribbean literary tradition.
His works reflect the history, politics, culture, and tradition of the postindependence Caribbean
milieu. Therefore, his writings can be said to be of considerable import in the cultural
reclamation and struggle for traditional renaissance of the Caribbean society. To accentuate this
stance, the study will at this point conclude the explication into Earl Lovelace literary existence
by documenting his cross-genre artistry.
19
A Bibliographical representation of Earl Lovelace’s Artistry.
NOVELS

Lovelace, E. 1965. While Gods are Falling. London: Collins.

Lovelace, E. 1968. The Schoolmaster. London: Collins.

Lovelace, E.1979. The Dragon Can't Dance London: Longmans.

Lovelace, E. 1982. The Wine of Astonishment London: Heinemann

Lovelace E. 1988. A Brief Conversion and Other Stories. Oxford: Heinemann
International

Lovelace E. 1996. Salt. London: Hienemann
PLAYS
 Lovelace, E. 1984. Jestina's Calypso and Other Plays. London: Heinemann.
 Lovelace, E. 1984. The New Hardware Store. London: Heinneman.
CONTRIBUTIONS IN BLACK STUDIES, 8 (1986-1987), 101-105
 Lovelace, E. 1984. My Name is Village. London: Heinneman,
SHORT STORIES
 Lovelace, E. 1965. "Ash Wednesday," Trinidad: Trinidad Guardian
 Lovelace, E. 1965. "Stickfighter,” Trinidad, Trinidad Guardian.
 Lovelace, E. 1965. "Tell it to Evelyn," Trinidad: Trinidad Guardian
 Lovelace, E. 1965 "Error in the Dark," in C.L.R. James, ed., We the People Trinidad:
Trinidad Guardian
 Lovelace , E. 1965. "Plain Talk," in CliffSealy, ed., Voices 1.
 Lovelace, E. 1974 "The Wine of Astonishment," [extract from novel]: in Giant
Talk,Random House: New York.
 Lovelace, E. 1976. "To Be Dragon and Man" [extract from Dragon Can't Dance],
Carnival Trinidad: Key Publications.
 Lovelace, E. 1979. "The Village Girls," Caribbean Tempo [Trinidad], 1979.
 Lovelace E. 1984. Those Heavy Cakes," Trinidad and Tobago Review. Trinidad.
20
EARL LOVELACE’S CHRONOLOGICAL TIMELINE
YEAR
LIFE ATTAINMENT
PUBLICATIONS
July 13, 1935
Born in Toco, Trinidad and
subsequently moved
to
AWARDS
his
maternal grandmother’s place
where his breeding started.
1948-1951
Moved
to
(Trinidad)
Port
of
Spain
from
Toco
(Trinidad) for his High School
Education. This stage was a
peculiar one in the development
of Earl Lovelace artistry, as this
was a stage in which he had
what he refers as his attainment
of self education. His voracious
encounter with the works of
Ernest
Hemmingway
and
William Faulkner
1953
Started
working
proofreader
for
a
as
a
Trinidad
newspaper
1956
Became a forest ranger for the
department of forestry.
1961
Joined
the
service
of
the
Eastern Caribbean Institute of
Agriculture.
Awarded the British
1963
Petroleum
Independence
Award
21
1965
.
While the Gods are
Falling
Awarded
1966
the
Pegasus
Literary
Award
for
outstanding
contributions to the
arts in Trinidad and
Tobago.
The Schoolmaster
1968
Awards for best play
1977
and best music for
Pierrot Ginnard
1979
The Dragon can’t
dance
1980
Awarded
the
Guggenheim
fellowship
1982
He published
The
Wine
of
astonishment
1984
Jestina’s Calypso and other My name is Village
plays and The New Hardware
Store were filmed.
Awarded
1986
the
National
Endowment for the
Humanities
A Brief Conversion
1988
Chaconia
(Gold)
Medal
from
government
Trinidad
22
the
of
and
Tobago.
1990
The Dragon Can’t Dance was
adopted into a play.
Salt
1996
Awarded
1997
the
Commonwealth
Writer’s
Prize
for
Overall best book.
1998
Salt shortlisted for International
IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.
Awarded
2002
the
Honourary
Doctorate of Letters
from University of
West
Indies,
St
Augustine, Trinidad
and Tobago.
Awarded the Gold
2011
Prize for Caribbean
literature
from
Regional Council of
Guadeloupe for Is
Just a Movie
Awarded the OCM
2012
Bocas
Prize
for
Caribbean Literature
for Is Just a Movie ,
Caribbean- Canadian
Literary Award and
Lifetime
23
Literary
Award
from
the
National Library and
Information System
Authority(Nails),
Trinidad
REFERENCES
24
Primary Texts
Lovelace, E. 1965. While Gods are Falling. London: Collins
__________ 1968. The Schoolmaster. London: Collins
__________1979. The Dragon Can't Dance London: Longman
__________ 1982. The Wine of Astonishment .London: Heinemann
___________1996. Salt. London: Hienemann
Secondary Texts
Aiyejina, F. ed. 2003 . Growing in the Dark Selected: Essays. San Juan, Trinidad: Lexicon
Trinidad Ltd
__________ 2005. Unmasking the chantwell narrator in Earl Lovelace’s fiction. Authurium. Vol
3.2. pp 1-11
Ashcroft, B. Griffiths, G. Tiffin, H. 1989. The post-colonial studies reader. New York:
Routledge
Benjamin, J ed. 2001. The novel since 1970: A history of the literature in the Caribbean in
English and Dutch speaking regions. Amsterdam: postprint
Cumber Dance, D. 1986. Fifty Caribbean Writers. A bio-bibliographical critical sourcebook.
London: Greenwood press
Deepak, T.R. 2014. An evaluation of Caribbean postcolonial culture in Earl Lovelace’s The
Dragon Cant Dance. International Journal of English Language, Literature and
Humanities. Vol 2.2. pp 195-204
Harney, S. 2006. Nationalism and identity culture and the imagination in a Caribbean diaspora.
Jamaica: University of West Indies press. P. 31-52
Hodge, M. 2006. The language of Earl Lovelace. Authurium. Vol 4.2. pp. 1-7
Logan, M. 2009. Postcoloniality and resistance in Earl Lovelace’s The Wine of Astonishment and
The Dragon Cant Dance. Network of Scientific Journals from Latin America, the
Caribbean, Spain and Portugal. Vol 9.18. pp 553-572
25
Lovelace, E. 1982. Engaging the World," Wasafiri, The ATCAL Journal, 1:1
__________ 1993. The writers forum: Earl Lovelace. Contributions in Black studies. A journal
of African and Afro America studies. Vol 11.9. p. 1-3
Meeks, B. 1999. The harder dragon: modalities of resistance in Lovelace’s The Dragon Cant
Dance and Thelwell’s Harder they Come. Jamaica: University of West Indies press
Perejoan, M.G. 2014. The grass that cut and trample and dig out and sprouts roots again: the
spiritual Baptist church in Earl Lovelace’s The Wine of Astonishment. Coolabah. P.13-20
Perez-Montijo, E. 2013. Review of Caribbean literature after independence: the case of Earl
Lovelace. Authurium. Vol 10.1. pp 1-6
Puri, S. 2003. Beyond resistance: notes toward a new Caribbean cultural studies. Small axe. Vol
7:2 pp 23-38
Sembene, O. 1993. Back matter contributions in Black studies. A journal of African and Afro
American studies. Vol 11.16. p.1-14
Thompson- Cage, C. 1986. Earl Lovelace: a bibliography. Contributions in Black studies.vol 8.8
pp 1-6
Udofia, J. 2013. The history and shaping of Caribbean literature. American journal of humanities
and social sciences. Vol 1.2 pp. 56-62
Electronic Texts
http://literature.britishcouncil.org/.../earl-lovelace Retrieved 10 January, 2016
http://www.goodreads.com/earl-lovelace Retrieved 10 January, 2016
26