Sciences sociales et humaines
George Lamming and Paule Marshall :
Two contrastive views on the west indian
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No wonder therefore that one key issue addressed by
a number of West Indian novelists is the theme of exile.
The issue of exile is a general phenomenon in the
The West Indian people we meet in West Indian novels
Caribbean islands. Admittedly, in one way or the other,
are often characterized by their propensity to emigrate.
Caribbean people were/are always confronted with
This is true of the fiction of George Lamming and Paule
this crucial problem of exile in the region. Exile was, and
Marshall. However, these writers' treatment of this
still ;s a key component of the West Indian experience.
subject highlights a number of similarities as weil as dif-
For instance, it is a weil established fact that three of the
most prominent and charismatic Caribbeans were/are
ail exiles: Marcus Garvey, George Padmore, and Frantz
lt is the purpose of this article to establish some of these
Fanon. Without any doubt, it was in order to find solu-
similarities and differences; and this study means to
tions to this acute problem of exile in the West Indies
focus on George Lamming's The Emigrants and Paule
that many conferences have been held. One of the most
Marshall's Brown Girl; .Brownstones. First, however,
important conferences of this kind occurred in the fall of
it seems useful and important to give this topic a liUle
1967, at Sir George Williams University in Montreal,
context with some introductory background information
Canada (Gendzier, '1973:18).
before reaching the heartot the matter.
Exile: a recurring theme
one runs away from is shaped by one's perception of
what one wants to run tO, Consequently, exile is not only
in Caribbean litterature
getting away from something; it is a/so getting to
removal from one's native country. It means
After they had closely scrutinized the attitudes adopted
by protagonists in the West Indian novel, Radhika
A voluntary separation or absence from one's home
Mohanram and Gita Rajan made a fundamental
or country is another connotation suggested by this term.
observation regarding the place of exile in Caribbean
Yet, wh ether one is evicted from one's country by a legal
literature and its significance in the area; and this is worth
authority or whether one leaves wi11ingly because one
recalling here. Both postcolonial cri tics make the point
feels driven away from one's home by conditions
that the phenomenon of exile is the most striking
pattern which dominates the plot of Caribbean fiction,
prevailing there, both interpretations of the concept have
including novels by both male and femaIe authors.
essentially the same meaning : the absence of the exile
They suggest that the "trope of exile in Caribbean
from his native country is a forced one. it is also very
literature reflects the instability of the region :
important to stress the point that the concept of exile
means at least two things : that one is running away from
Like the heroes of Lamming and Naipaul, the heroines of
one place and going to another. As is often the case, what
Rhys, and Hodge, and Kincaid bring their lite story ta a
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Sciences sociales et humaines
apart from the two writers that are of primary interest to
closure by embarking upon a journey that takes them
this paper, one can mention other Caribbean novelists
away from their island homes. Journeys, in fact,
who have addressed the theme of exile in their fiction:
crisscross the varying fabric of West Indian fiction. The
V. S. Naipaul in The Mimic Men (1967); Merle Hodge
[ourney motif, it can be said, signifies the instability of
existence in the West Indies, whose humanity, haunted
in Crick Crack, Monkey (1970); Jamaica Kincaid in
by dreams of a better future, must drift toward Europe,
A Small Place (1988) and Jean Rhys in Wide Sargasso
the old colonizer, or toward North America, the new equa-
(1968). Emigration also constitutes the theme of
lizer. (Mohanram & Rajan, 1996:4)
Sarnue! Selvon's The Lonely Londoners (1956) and
Moses Ascending (1975). To add a piece of specifie
In the same vein, worth remembering is a similar
information to this list, one can recall that in Claude
observation made by P. S. Chauhan on the West Indian
McKay's Banana Bottom, many West Indians have
novel. According to this cri tic West Indian novelists,
emigrated to Panama as cheap labor force during the
irrespective of gender, share a nuinber of tendencies.
building of its canal (McKay, 1961 :35).
This postcolonial critic, too, argues that the plots of
the West Indian novel are often shaped by "a journey
George Lamming and Paule Marshall, the foci of this
[that] takes them away from their island home." More
paper, have also extensively dealt with exile in their
importantly, Chauhan makes the point that :
novels. At different levels, both are equally preoccupied
with the issue of exile in their fiction.
The arrivais and the departures, with which the lives of
the characters of the West Indian novel are punctuated,
For instance, in Brown Girl, Brownstones, Paule
indicate an inescapable desire to flee not only an
Marshall has portrayed the members of the Bajan
oppressive past or present but also an oppressing psyche,
community who have emigrated to New York City in
the need to break out of a choking self that is urgent in
order to escape the brutal colonial exploitation at home.
most protagonists. (Chauhan, 1996:50)
In another of her novels, The Chosen Place, the
As can be surmised from the above quotes, the problem
Timeless People, Vere's move to the United States is
of exile is not only the concem of ordinary people that
motivated by the same economie preoccupation
one can visibly meet in daily life in the Caribbean area.
(Marshall, 1969: 16). Similarly, in Soul Clap Hands and
Il is also the business of novelists. It is the concern of
Sing the problem of emigration is touched upon with
regard to Mr. Watford, the main character of "Barbados".
many characters we meet in reading novels in general;
He is presented by the writer as someone who has recently
but particularly, as one reads fiction produced by
retumed to his native Barbados after spending fifty years
Caribbean writers, one quickly comes to the conclusion
in Boston. Furthermore, Mr. Watford's suggestion that
that characters in West Indian novels are determined
a young boy should go to England instead of spreeing
by their compulsion to emigrate. Generally speaking,
around with a political button is not only illustrative
the characters that inhabit the West Indian novel express
of the mentality of the majority of the West Indian people,
the feeling that they have to go abroad in order "to make
but it also displays evidence of the deep conviction
thefirst leap to their free and full development" (Gendzier,
and hope West Indian people generally nurture for exile:
look that half-foolish boy you does send her to pick the coconut.
As the quotations above would indicate, it is clear that
Instead oi him learning a trade and gaing ta England where he
exile is a recurrent theme in Caribbean literature and that
might find work he's walking about with a political button. He
and ail in politics now! But that's the way with these down there.
it has been addressed in a number of critical studies
They'lI do sorne of everything but work. They don't want work!
by postcolonial critics. Il has been discussed by many
... they too busy spreeing. (Marshall, 19B5:5B)'
eminent literary cri tics of African and black diasporan
literature in general (Griffiths, 1978; Gurr, 1981;
preoccupation with the the me of emigration. He sets the
Matthiews, ] 962; Ngugi, 1972). They ail seem to agree
tone of his dealings with the theme of exile in the last
on a common fact: exile is a recurrent structural and
lines ofhis first novel, In the Castle of My Skin when
formai pattern of the postcolonial text, and of the
the reader becomes an eye witness to the young boy G.'s
Caribbean novel, in particular.
departure for Trinidad : "The earth where 1 walked
Heavy emphasis is laid on the issue of travel in the
was a marvel of blackness and 1 knew in a sense more
writings of many West Indian novelists. For instance,
deep than simple departure 1 had said farewell, farewell
1 My Italics.
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Sciences sociales et humaines
to the land" (Lamming, 1953:295). Moreover, the writer
economie ones, whereas the latter lays a heavy emphasis
recalls in the framework of this novel that the issue of
on the economie level. Secondly, it is obvious that both
emigration is as much the concem of the old generation
writers have used different techniques in conveying their
as of the younger one. This is what he wants the reader
messages. In this connection it is useful to point out that
to grasp when he evokes the case of the old man Pa
one important strategy used by Lamming to efficiently
who "had been comfortable years ago" with what he
convey his message resides in the technique of dialogue.
had earned in Panama (Lamming, 1953:244) and
In The Emigrants, for the example, the close proximity
when Trumper ends up emigrating to the United States.
in which the passengers live on board the ship, the Golden
In addition and with insistence, in his fourth novel,
Age, enables the participants in the narrative to exchange
this Caribbean cri tic and creati ve writer emphasizes the
views on issues affecting them as a group. As a result,
importance of exodus in the Caribbean region when
in their conversation, the characters themselves reveal
we see in Season of Adventure thar Chiki, the painter,
the deep motives of their flight. As for Marshall's
and the others had left for America in order to eam money
literary deviees, apart from some brief comments made
to purchase the "Forest Reserve" so as to make the drums
by characters, the reader is informed of motives primarily
by means of narrative comment.
Lamming's keen interest in the phenomenon of exile
The Forest was on Crown lands which would be put
affecting the Caribbean area is clearly demonstrated by
up for sale. Where could Gort and the remnants of
the fact that he speaks of this issue in man y voices.
the Boys collect that money? ('O'] This was how America
happened : a miracle, ordinary and yet eternal as man's
Lamming was at once particularly "embittered, resigned,
need of bread. (Lamming, 1979:62)
militant, critical, and angry," when addressing the issue
of exile in his book of essays, The Pleasures of Exile
(Nair, 1996: 125). His preoccupation with this issue
Emigration is also the subject-matter of The Emigrants
caused him to put the following question:
and Water With Berries. In both novels, Lamming
enables the reader to c1early see and understand the effect
How has it come about that (...] a group of men,
and importance of exile in the character of the West
different in years and temperament and social origins,
should leave the respective islands they know best, even
exchange life there for circumstances which are almost
After this brief overview of the issue of exile in the West
wholly foreign to them? (Lamming, 1992:23)
Indian novel, 1 would now like to consider the diffe-
rent motivations behind the trend of exile peculiar to this
In The Emigrants, exile is presentèd as a general
phenomenon, or a daily activity, as people regularly flee
from the region : "And every month they Jeave the right
Causes of and Reasons for exile
way, paying a passage in search of what : a better break.
That's what the others say. Every man wants a better
The Emigrants and Brown Girl, Brownstones are
break" (Lamming, 1997:50). The novel lays a heavy
set in almost the same historical tirne, The Emigrants
emphasis on the fact that desertion from the region
deals with the massive West Indian emigration to England
happens everyday and all means are used to leave the
after the second world war whereas Brown Girl,
place, regardless of the risks involved. As one character
Brownstones focuses on the lives of the West Indians,
observes in the novel: "Sloop, barge, canoe, cali it what
especially the Barbadians who have emigrated to New
you like, 01' man, they scoot off at ail hours 0' de night
York City in 1939 (Marshall, 1981 :4). It is in the spirit
for the Venezuela coast" (Lamming, 1997:34).
of stressing the importance of this trend that Gordon
As it were, although the emigrants profess they are
Lewis once used the phrase "a colonialism in reverse"
not criminals, they are all running away from their
to refer to this influx of large numbers of people
respective countries. To mention but a few nationalities, .
from the Caribbean Islands who literally invaded the
the emigrants come from Martinique, Guadeloupe,
imperial centers in the 1930s and '40s (Lewis, 1978:304).
Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago ... and Jamaica.
Two key points must be borne in mind when addressing
Wh en The Emigrants opens, every candidate for
the motivations for exile in Lamming and Marshall. First,
emigration is anxious ta' leave the West Indian coast
although both writers are preoccupied with this social
as soon as possible, without delay. The repetition of sen-
sickness, it nevertheless remains a fact that the former
tences such as "We are all waiting for something to
is deeply concemed with various motives, including the
happen" (Lamming, 1997 :5, 10-12) evidences their dread
Rev. CAMES - Série B, vol. 01, 1999
Sciences sociales et humaines
and impatience to see the ship in its movement toward
sea nudging its way onto a white beach and staining
the "mother-country." Why are they f1eeing their region?
the sand, they came. the West Indians, especially the
What are the basic reasons which explain the desire
Barbadians who never owned anything perhaps but a few
to emigrate at ail cost thar is characteristic of the West
poor acres in a poor land, loved the houses with the same
fierce idolatry as they had the land on their obscure islands.
A scrutiny of the emigrants' thoughts reveals that enjoying
a "better break" remains the basic reason which is vaguely
Along the same tines of thought, the possibility of
but frequently stated by ail of them to justify their
getting jobs rernains an important reason offered by
massive exodus from the region. The narrator elaborates
the emigrants for their drift toward Europe, or toward
a little on this general motivation of the group as a whole
North America. In The Emigrants the character who
when he declares in an authoritative voice that the
was engaged in a conversation with Higgins can be used
emigrants "were ail in search of the same thing which
to illustrate this point. When asked to explain what he
in a way they couldn't define: abetter break. Broadly
plansto do in England, for one_"got to want to do some-
speaking itwas little more than a desire to survive
thing, or thereain't no ,use going to England," hisreply
with a greater assurance of safety They wanted.to be
was without detour: "~just Iooking for a work"
happy in the pleasure they. had chosen" (Lamming,
. (Lamming, 1997:~5):Thistrendis more pronounced,
'1997:86). This quote underlinesthe'ambiguous attitude
and the pictuœ. more'accurately drawn -in Marshall's
of the characters who are confronte'cl~iththeir own
novel. Most ofrhe tTan,'~lantedBarbadians came to "this
emigration. The concept of "better break" which is always .
man country," às they cal! it, in order to work and .Silla
evoked by ail characters co vers ,a multitude of
and her fel1b~ West Indians did really toil : "The mother
elements within its scope.
worked overtim~ at the plant and come home each night,
charging with headlike sorne wary animal, her eyes
Of course, the most obvious reason for the iemigrants
inflamed with fatigue" (Marshall, 1981: 161). As Dorothy
to undertake a flight from their region is economie
Hamer Denniston sees it, emigration to England or
conditions in the islands. In Brown Girl, Brownstones
the United States for the purpose of securing gainful
Boyce Deighton portrays the West Indies as a poverty
employment constitutes a reference to the poor economie
stricken area : "Barbados is poor-poor" (Marshall,
conditions of the islands (Denniston, 1995:41).
1981: Il). Though brief, this comment accurately
describes what it means to be living-in the West Indies.
Manyschelarsincluding Ambalavaner Sivinandan, have'
Economie exploitation dominate~;thëirlivesat home.
. been intérested in the contrasting picture between life in
Silla Boyce sheds Iight on this aspect of West Indian life
the metropolis and life in the colony. In this connection,
in her discussion with another character:
Sivinandan argues that the former "was a well-fed world,
free, healthy, full of good things, of laughter, of children
1ris, Vou know what it is to work hard..and still never
makea head-way? That's Bimshire. One crop. People
growing straight and strong", white the latter was
having to work for next skin to nothing. The wnite people
"stricken withhunger, and disease, and [its] children
treating we like slave still and we.takinq il. The rum
wizeried at birth" (Sivinandan, 1982:64-5). It goes without
shop and the church join toqether to keep we pàcity
saying that with these images in mind, it bec ornes
and in ignorance. That is Barbados. lt is a terrible thing
absolutely true that emigration remains the only source
to know that Vou gon be poor ail yuh life, né matter how
of salvation for the emigrants. It is evident that economie
hard Vou work. (Marshall, 1981 :70j
reasons sustain their flight, in the first place.
George Lamming also makes the point that man y West
A close analysis of the emigrants' thought reveals,
Indians "have been forced by economie necessity to
however, that sorne of them have been driven away
undertake this risk of migration (Larnrning, 1992:23).
by political and philosophical reasons. A case in point
As is obvious from the comments of bath writers, poverty
is Roger, a character inWater with Berries who rebels
dominates the Caribbe~m zone; asaresùlt, the emigrants
against hi s father's upperclass mentality. Describing
want to improve upon.theirplights ..In.Brown Girl,
his father as "a comparatively wealthy man, whose
'. Brownstones, Marshall.depicts the:\\và~:mahY Barbadi~
ambition was to buildhis name into a monument of
immigrants who wére p60ratho'ib~'have become .
.' statues, and . impressive family tombs" (Lamming,
ambitious in their stniggle to buy brO\\J'ri,~ton~ hous~s in '
1971:72);R9g~r afterwards abuses his father on the basis .
New York City:
. of their. ideological differénçes (Lamining,.1971 :92).
'The narrator's statement that under such circumstances
The West Indians slowly edged their ;;Vay in. Like a dark
his move to theanonyrnous haven of England seems
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Sciences sociales et humaines
inevitable is quite justified. For his part, Teeton is said
to taste something new and different from their day to
to have been involved in an aborted revolutionary plot
day experience. In short, life in the West Indies, as is
in San Cristobal. To save his life, exile remains his unique
described in The Emigrants, is quite boring. Apart from
the carnival, which brings life to the place once a year,
there is no activity outside drinking and chasing women :
It is also worth mentioning that many people have
This Christmas is no different from the one that gone.
educational possibilities they offered. For instance, in
An' de only thing bring a little life in de place is dat
The Emigrants, Philips, the law student on scholarship,
carnival. 'Cause if you take it serious you got to make yuh
is traveling to England for educational reasons (Lamming,
jump-up look like something. You see me here on dis boat
1997:85). Equally, in Brown Girl, Brownstones,
leavin' Trinidad. Weil, 'tis simply because ah little tired.
the tough community of first generation West Indian
Ah sick, bored. Ah doan' care w'at ah do next, but ah can't
immigrants in New York City are working "two and three
stan' in Trinidad no more 'cause ah know w'at rum taste
jobs" so that their children could attend the most
like, an' ah know w'at woman taste like, an' if you know
dose two you know Trinidad. (Lamming, 1997:62)
renowned American colleges and universities. In this
respect, it is significant to know that in addition to
Exile, in other words, is an alternative to the iterative
the political ambition of the Association of Barbadian
and boring conditions offered by home.
Homeowners and Businessmen, its other target
For the sake of personal freedom, many emigrants have
remains how to secure a bright future for the young
undertaken such a long journey. The narrator in The
generation. Cecil Osborne, the President of this
Emigrants highlights this aspect when he states that
Association, expresses this view :
upon his arrivaI in the ship he experiences a kind of
freedom he never felt before on the island: "1 feel my
Tell me why we start this Association now when most
freedom fresh and precious. It was a child's freedom, the
of us gon soon be giving business to the undertaker? [...]
freedom too of sorne lately emancipated colonials"
lt is because of the young people. Most of us did come
(Lamming, 1997:9). Therefore, it must be argued that
to this man country with only the strength in we hand and
unlike home, the ship provides the kind offreedom they
a little learning in we head and had to make our
were looking for.
way, but the young people have the opportunity to be
professional and get out there and give these people
But above ail, it must be pointed out that the driving
big word for big word. Thus, they are our hope.
forces behind this general exodus characteristic of
the area have to do with their condition of formerly
To fulfil1 their dream, these immigrants plan to give
colonized people. Indeed, psychological motivations that
scholarships to their young people (Marshall, 1981 :272).
have their roots in colonialism best explain the type
Of course, as is obvious from their determination, these
of exile characteristic of West Indians. Due to their
parents are firmly convinced that the diplomas and
common history, and through schooling, almost ail the
certificates conferred on their offspring will ensure for
emigrants have been shaped into colonial subjects.
them not only good jobs in the United States, but cer-
Colonial schooling has had a profound impact on the
tain status and prestige should they return to the West
character of the colonial subject. Perhaps it is worth
Indies one day.
saying that colonial education is not simply content with
imposing alienation and deracination on colonial
Routine in the Caribbean milieu has certainly played
subjects but it also causes them to consider the
a major role in its people's determination to take flight
imperial center and its history as genuine parts of
from the region. Of course, as painted in both The
themselves. It can be reasonably argued that the
Emigrants and Brown Girl, Brownstones, the
purpose of the colonial school of Little England? is to
Caribbean Islands could not me et to any degree the
drum into the heads of schoolchildren that anything
desires and expectations of the emigrants. As described,
related to England is important in their own existence:
the place renders Iife very sour and offers no challenge
Celebrating the Empire Day with gusto, saluting
to the emigrants who are ail eager to prove something,
'ln the Castle of My Skin is set in Iictional Barbados, known as Little England. The tille "Little England" which is attributcd to Barbados SUlllS up the kind
of intimate colonial relationship which links Big England, the mother country and Little England, the colony.
Rev. CAMES - Série B, vol. 01, 1999
Sciences sociales et humaines
after their graduation. It is also clearly evident that
the British flag, reading more British history than local his-
having been taught ail through school that England was
tory, and being told that a scholarship to a British
university or a job in England is the apex of scholastic
the greatest nation through its domination of world
and economic achievement--all thèse experiences not
history, and that it was the only country whose culture
surprisingly influence these children. (Nair, 1996:61)
was worthy of the name, the next logical step for its vic-
tims would be to visit the place in order to "test" these
Under the se circumstances, the reader is not surprised
ideas. As a consequence of their colonial education, they
when the narrator in Water with Berries makes the point
have developed a particular and fixed stand in their consi-
that "From the earliest discovery of ambition," the West
deration of the metropolis:
Indian emigrants "had realised that their future would
have to be found elsewhere. Childhood was a warning;
...on the ship and even in the hostel, there was a fee-
and school was a further pro of. From the beginning they
ling, more conscious in some than others, that England
had been educated for escape" (Lamming, 1971:69).3
was not only a place, but a heritage. Some of us might
have expressed a certain hostility to that heritage, but
Likewise, basing his evaluation of colonial schooling in
it remained, nevertheless, a hostility to something that
the Caribbean on George Lamming's fiction, Ambroise
was already a part of us. (Lamming, 1997:237)
Kom considers the educational system as fundamental
As can be surmised from this quote, for the protagonists
grounds from which the idea of emigration originates.
of The Emigrants, England stands in their minds as the
He accuses the system of being responsible for trai-
big friend, the educator, the helper. England is their
ning schoolboys and schoolgirls ready for commer-
Thus, it can definitely be argued that the causes which
Les enfants fréquentent une école qui ne fait guère cas
sustain the phenomenon of exile that affects the whole
de leur personalité propre qui en somme, se garde bien
d'attirer leur attention sur les réalités les plus cruciales
area in so large a proportion are, in sorne way, connected
du milieu ambiant. On verra qu'une telle interprétation
to the colonial past of the place.
explique l'exode massif des Antillais vers Londres. (Kom,
No wonder in her critical analysis of the theme of exile
in The Emigrants, Sandra Pouchet Paquet makes a
connection between alienation and emigration. For the
The foregoing development suggests that Paule Marshall
West Indian emigrant, exile stems from his colonial
and George Lamming have much in common regarding
status, because his journey away from selfbegins at home
the issue of exile of West Indians in their fiction.
under the colonial framework portrayed in In the Castle
However, despite the existence of sorne striking
of My Skin where colonial education and religion are
simiJarities between their writings as regards this theme,
powerfully put into service so as to reinforce a crippling
it remains however true that both writers' treatment of
legacy of cultural and economie dependence (Paquet,
the issue evidences sorne differences as weIl.
1982:19-20). Moreover, as Kom observes, colonial school
There is a certain similarity in their views as regards
inevitably leads to self-destruction:
the image of the United States. For both, the United
Elle mène irrémédiablement les individus à l'auto-
States is generally associated with economie success
destruction. Le départ vers la métropole est une ultime
or improvement of one's social status. This image is pro-
tentative pour échapper à la néantisation qui guette
moted in Lamming's Season of Adventure. Chiki's move
le colonisé. Pour le narrateur-omniscient de The
to the United States has enabled him to purchase the
Emigrants, l'émigration est une façon de fuir la mort spiri-
Forest Reserve (Lamming, 1979:62). Likewise, Brown
tuelle qu'aurait constitué pour lui une carrière au sein
Girl, Brownstones portrays the economie success
de la fonction publique locale. (Kom, 1986:85)
of the Bajan people in the United States. This tough
It is by now obvious that colonial education is a process
community of West Indians in the States has staked
by which colonial subjects are alienated, disfigured, and
out a claim to power with a carefully conceived
literally readied for exportation from their villages
plan which consists of working day and night to buy
, My italics.
Rev. CAMES - Série B, vol. 01, 1999
Sciences sociales et humaines
brownstone houses, and then renting out every room.
have shown an enterprising spirit (Marshall, 1981:
ln the States, "every Bajan is saving if it's only a dollar
a week and buying house" (Marshall, 1981 :24).
A sojourn in the United States can also bring increased
However, it is important to make the point that Marshall's
awareness of historical and cultural realities. In In
depiction of Bajan success in this novel (as in her
the Castle of My Skin, for example, Trumper's
others) clearly indicates that it is usually bought at
temporary exile to the United States has shed more
high priee. To a large extent their "sellout" to American
light on what it means to be Black (Lamming, 1953:
values, the sacrifice of an important part of one's
286-290); and in The Chosen Place, the Timeless
psyche -one's cultural values -
explains the Bajans'
People Vere has come back from the United States
achievements in the United States. For instance, should
with a completely different vision of modernity
the necessity arise, they are prepared to overcharge
(Marshall, 1969: 198-201).
and sacrifice every cent to maintain property. Once
AlI in ail, it can be said that America generally
one brownstone is paid for, they move to the next
carries a positive meaning for both writers. Even if there
desirable area :
are plenty of suggestions that the United States can
Every West Indian out here taking a lesson trom
also be painful and difficult, the ultimate result of
the Jew landlord and converting these old houses into
emigration there is seen in many respects to be positive.
rooming houses -- and pulling down plenty-plenty money
George Lamming's descriptions of the West Indian
by the week. And now that the place is near overrun
with roomers the Bajans getting out. They going! Every
emigration to London evidence the corrosive effects
jack-man buying a swell house in dichty Crown Hights.
of the exilic experience. While en route to England,
the Strange Man (in The Emigrants) drives the rest
of the group to anger when he questions the likelihood
Along the same lines of thought, the wedding of Gatha
of their success and achievement there. Being more aware
Steed's daughter offers the reader an opportunity to
of the political structures that function to perpetuate their
appraise the Bajan cornmunity's total immersion in the
disadvantage in a colonial arrangement, the Strange Man
American mainstream. Their wearing of imperial plumes
predicts untold woes and sufferings the emigrants may
and the huge and elaborate extravaganza of satin dresses
face in London. He rightly foresees and foretells the fate
displays the community's successful imitation of white
of the group by asserting that ail of them are going to
America: "People home cun afford no big wedding,
bargain for their own death in London:" Ail you like men
so when they come to New York and make little money
goin' to dig you own grave" (Lamming, 1997:63)
you can't blame for doing things like the white people"
(Marshall, 1981: 140).
The emigrants do experience total bewilderment and
dismay following their arrivaI in the "mother country"
Besides economie success in the "Country of the
as predicted by the Strange Man. They are completely
Almighty Dollar," the Bajans are also striving for
rejected, unacknowledged, and unneeded in the city
political power. They have formed an Association
of London. Lamming lays a heavy emphasis on the most
of Barbadian Homeowners and Businessmen, a lobbying
disagreable and unpleasant sides of their new lives. In
group, the by-words of this Association being: "IT IS
London, the emigrants are confronted with unernploy-
NOT THE DEPTHS FROM WHICH WE COME BUT
ment, housing shortages, racism and the hypocrisy of
(Marshall, 1981 :220), its members are firmly convinced
that their interest group is "going to be the biggest thing
As is revealed, the emigrants face frequent dismissals
fromjobs in the metropolis. Colli's regular sacking from
Consequently, banded together in a spirit of self-help,
jobs is a symbolic instance which best illustrates their
the Bajan comrnunity in New York City seems to bec orne
common experience (Lamming, 1997:206). Likewise,
a single voice, "sure of its goal and driving toward it".
the three artists in Water with Berries, who were
With power and passion they declare their political
expecting fame in London.rare angrily deceived and
ambition to have a voice at the City Hall, to build a credit
disappointed. Allthree give up their artistic dreams.
union and bank so that their presence will be heard
Teeton has decided to stop painting (Lamrning, 1971 :59).
and acknowledged. By joining together like the
As for Derek, the actor, he is left with no alternative than
brownstones they inhabit, they are resolved to destroy
playing a corpse tb earn his living: "Death is my bank.
the "picture of the poor colored with his hand always
Il brings what little grub 1 get" (Larnming, 1971 :67).
long out to the rich white one, begging". In so doing they
ln short, as far as getting ajob in England is concerned,
Rev. CAMES - S,érie B, vol. 01, 1999
Sciences sociales et humaines
Jeremy best sums it ail up when he says that there is
intention is ta squeeze a man Iike me any day they see
no service for people like Teeton and the rest of the
him, an' you'lI find that they doan' like Vou in they country
artists in London (Lamming, 1971: Il 0). Indeed, their
at ail at ail. First thing the limey bastards ask Vou is when
talents are "severely jeopardized by the terms of a
Vou gain' back home, as though they ever stay where
colonial relationship to the metropolis" (Paquet, 1982:97).
they live. An' if Vou look the sort a persan ta make good
in they country they make a point 0' pushin' a spoke in
Another element which shows Lamming's pessimistic
yuh wheel... You in the land 0' the enemy, an' if Voudoan'
stand on the issue remains his strong emphasis on the
keep yuh eye open for when they ready ta stab Vou in the
shortage of housing that has marked the existence of the
back you'lI end up bad for sa. You chaps got ta keep
emigrants in England. Through the newspaper, they were
the right friends, an' dean' get fool with any sweet talk,
informed about that delicate problem in England in
an' the way they smile at Vou. Behin' that smile, boy,
the course of their voyage. Once in London, the y were
the teeth they show does bite. An' they won' live Vou
ail confronted with housing problems. Teeton's situation
till they get rid 0' Vou, chase Vou out of the country, or
during his first year there is just one example :
suck yuh blood like a blasted jumbie. (Lamming, 1997:67)
To give an official seal to hatred in England in the
.., that year of vagrancy when he walked the streets
framework of The Emigrants, one learns that hatred
in search of shelter. It felt like an etemity away: that slow,
interminable routine of days when living alternated
is not only a private affair, but is also an institutional
between nervous enquiry and the apologetic reply that
one. Instead of protecting the entire population, state
he had arrived tao late. He was out of luck. He had
institutions make a sharp distinction between "pure" and
been exhausted by those joumeys. He had olten had that
"colored" people. The British police usually carry out
curious experience that his feet had gone ahead; his feet
this part of the business through forged and false charges
would be waiting outside before sorne door until he arrived.
that it regularly brings against the emigrants in London.
(Lamming, 1971 :34-35)
Among the suspected people in The Emigrants are
Moreover, the reader feels the total insecurity linked
Dickson and Azi; the latter is believed to be a drug dealer,
to housing conditions in the metropolis when the writer
which in fact he is not (Lamming, 1997 :242). Huggins
offers a "repetition" of their earlier housing conditions
also is tracked down by the police. As he says
in their final year, the seventh year. I contend here that
himself, "Since the day I set foot on this soil they follow
this similarity in the first and se ven th years suggests
me without end" (Lamming, 1997:242). Likewise,
the perpetuai instability one is confronted with in the
in Water with Berries, ail the artists in London are
metropolis. In that seventh year of stay, ail the artists
imprisoned on charges ranging from murder to arson
found thernselveshorneless after they had lost ail their
and rape. Certainly, this is the situation to which Errol
belongings in the buming down of their rooming house.
Francis refers when he suggests that in England, black
It goes without any further comment that they became
people have more to fear than the white population,
completely demoralized after this event. Consequently,
because apart from the daily racism, they also have to
homelessness dominates their conversation as a cen-
cope with the harassment from institutions designed
trai topic of discussion:
to protect and serve the Republic from its colored inva-
When Roger and Derek spoke again, it was the
ders (Francis, 1993: 179-205).
Failure is what one senses when it cornes to considering
together. Four nights alter Nicole disappeared, their
the emigrants' achievement in England . Their disillu-
rooming house was bumt down. They had been plunged
back into the roots of their previous feeling. Moreover,
sionment is complete and the reader is offered a total
it seemed that Roger had suddenly lost the capacity ta
image of their disappointment and despair. Contrary
survive. (Lamming, 1971 :207)
to their expectation that England can do something to
remedy their sense of inferior status and self-worth, they
Apart from lack of job opportunities and good hou-
rather become fully aware themse1ves of their second
sing conditions in London, the emigrés also experienced
class citizen status (Lamming, 1997:191). Tornado's
another harsh reality that has left a stamp upon their
complete disappointment in the promise of England is
hearts and minds, i. e. the xenophobia of the British
without limit. Although he is ambitious to get education,
people. The kind of English people one meets in
after difficult months of struggle in poverty to acquire
The Emigrants are distinguished for and by their racial
it, Tomado gives up hope in the emigrant experience and
prejudice toward their visitors; they are presented as
sees their quest as an unattainable one. His public and
hostile people vis-a-vis their subjects :
proud announcement that he is going to marry Lilian,
Those limey English people ain't got no good min'. They
go back home, and live as they used to live before, is
\\Rev. CAMES - Série B, vol. 01,1999
Sciences sociales et humaines
very indicative of his deep disbelief, despair, and
This pessimistic image promoted in Lamming's works
disappointment. In the same vein, the Caribbean women
as regards emigration to England is different from
in The Emigrants succeed no better than the men in
Marshall's depiction. Paule Marshall's presentation of
London. The dominant images of their conversation are
the Bajan community in New York City in Brown Girl,
the dungeon and the womb. These images allude to their
Brownstones explicitly offers a more optimistic vision
feelings of desperation, confinement and isolation
of the same phenomenon. She describes the economie
success of a people who have f1ed economie oppression
The situation remains the same in Water with Berries.
at home but hints that this success has spiritual and
Here, Lamming's fullest fictional exploration of the West
cultural costs. The social and economie successes of the
Indian artist in exile portrays the talented artists of
Bajan community in the United States are demonstrated
San Cristo bal as bondsmen struggling hopeJessly to
in their ownership of brownstone houses and their
be free. Here, too, the disillusionment that naturally fol-
formidable organization as a lobbying group. In the final
lows their early hope in England is exemplified in Derek's
analysis, 1 wholeheartedly concur with Mary Helen
attitude toward the city of London. By the end, he,
Washington that the first-generation of West Indian
who used to love that city which he admiringly and
immigrants, these transplanted Barbadians who "are
lovingly called "ajewel in the night," was so disgusted
an employed, literate, ambitious, property-owning,
that "he had lost ail interest in the promises" of London
upwardly mobile [people] came to the United States, on
purpose, as willfully as man y white immigrants; and
they exercise their collective force to get what they need
Ali in ail, Lamming succeeds in arousing in the reader
and want" (Washington, ] 98 ]:3] 2). As a result,
the feeling that ail the emigrants are unanimously
Marshall's emigrants do make home in the United States.
disappointed in the situation they are offered in
England. Ali things considered, England is presented as
Definitely, the destination of emigration makes a
a white land that offers no we1come to the emigrants
difference in its result. There is more opportunity for
(Lamming, 1961 :27). Therefore, it is not surprising
success (in sorne respects at least) in the United States
that Edward Kamau Brathwaite, referring to this
than in the "mother country". It must be noted that
situation, ironical1y expresses the view that "it is
ev en in the United States, success cornes at great
wonderful to be British -- until one cornes to Britain"
culturallpsychological cost for the emigré. In the last
(in Nair, 1996:55).
analysis, it can be argued that the relationship between
England and its former subjects which is entirely shaped
by colonial inheritance accounts for the fundamental
difference between emigration to England versus
[1 must be borne in mind that the theme of exile, to
emigration to the United States. 0
a large extent, is given preeminence in Caribbean
literature; and that the phcnomenon of exile which affects
this area is sustained by many motives ranging from
the economie to the colonial. It is obvious from the
Cartey, Wilfred, 1966. "Lamming and the Search for Freedom",
development of this paper that both George Lamming
New Word, Vol. m. n" 1&2. p. 121-128.
and Paule Marshall have sorne similar views but that
Chauhan P. S., 1996. "Caribbean Writing in English: Intimations
their ouriooks differ in sorne significant respects.
of a Historical Nightmare", in Mohanram, R. and Rajan, Gita eds.,
1996: English Postcoloniality.
George Lamming's presentation of the phenomenon
Wcstport, Connecticut and London, Greenwood Press, p. 43-51.
of emigration is more pessimistic than Marshall's.
Denniston, Dorothy Hamer, 1995. The Fiction of Paule Marshall:
Lamming's emigrants face frequent dismissals fromjobs
The Reconstruction of History, Culture and Gender. Knoxville.
and racial discrimination in England. In short, a careful
University of Texas Press.
consideration of Lamming's exploration of this theme,
Francis, Errol, 1993. "Psychiatrie Racism and Social Police:
presented in The Emigrants (and Water with
Black People and the Psychiatrie Service," in Inside Babylon : The
Berries) suggests that exile -
at least to England -
Caribbean Diaspora in
Britain, eds. Winston James and Clive
is no pleasure. As Wilfred Cartey has noted, in Lamming's
Harris. London, Verso, p. 179-205.
novels, "exile Jeads to disillusionment, degradation and
Gendzier, Rene L., 1973. Frantz Fanon: A Critical Study. New
] 966: 124- ] 25).
y ork, Pantheon Books.
Lamming's emigrants usually go back to their homeland
Griffiths, Gareth, 1978.
A Double Exile: African and West
with \\ittle to show for their pain.
Indian Writing Betwcen Two Cultures. London. Maryon Boyers .
. Rev. CAMES - Série B, vol. 01, 1999
Sciences sociales et humaines
Gurr, Andre, 1981. Writers in Exile: The ldentity of Home in
Modern Literature. Brighton, Harverster.
Afterword by Mary Helen Washington). New York, Feminist
Kom, Ambroise, 1986. George Lamming et le destin des
Caraïbes. Quebec, Edition Marcel Didier lnc.
- 1985. "Barbados" in Merle and Other Stories. London,
Virago Press, Ltd.
Lamming, George, 1953.
In the Castle of My Skin. London,
Longman and Michael Joseph.
Matthiews, John P., 1962. Tradition in Exile. Toronto, University
of Toronto Press.
1961. "The West lndians: Our Loneliest Immigrants",
MacClean's, November 4(1961), p. 27,52-56.
McKay, Claude, 1961. Banana Bottom. New York, Harcourt,
Brace and Jovanovich.
- 1971. Water with Berries. New York, Holt, Rinehart. and
Mohanram, Radhika and Rajan, Gita eds., 1996. English
Postcoloniality. Westport, Connecticut and London, Greenwood
- 1979. Season of Adventure. London and New York. Allison
Nair, Supriya, 1996. Caliban 's Curse: George Lamming and the
- 1992. The Pleasures of Exile. (Reprinted) Ann Arbor,
Revisioning of History. Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press.
University of Michigan Press.
Ngugi, Wa Thiong'o, 1972. Homecoming : Essays on African and
- 1997. The Emigrants. ( Reprinted) Ann Arbor, University of
Caribbean Literature, Culture and Politics. London, Heinemann.
Paquet, Sandra Pouchet, 1982. The Novels of George Lamming.
Lewis, Gordon, 1978. Slavery, lmpcrialism, and Freedom:
Studies in English Radical Thought. London and New York,
Sivinandan, Ambalavaner, 1982. A Different Hunger: Writing
Monthly Review Press.
on Black Resistance. London, Pluto.
Marshall, Paule, 1969. The Chosen Place, The Timeless People.
Washington, Mary Helen, 1981. "Afterword" 10 Brown Girl,
New York, Avon Books.
Brownstones. New York, Feminist Press, p. 311-324.
Ü One key issue addressed by a number of West
En partant du constat que, en dehors des problèmes
as Indian novelists is the theme of exile. Many of the
liés au genre, le thème de l'exode constitue la
West Indian people we meet in West Indian novels
préoccupation principale de la majorité des roman-
.0 . are characterized by their propensity to emigrate.
ciers des Caraïbes, cet article recense dans The
oct This ls the case with the fiction of George Lamming
Emigrants de George Lamming et Brown Grirl,
and Paule Marshall. However, the treatment of this
Brownstones de Paule Marshall les différentes
subject by these writers sheds interesting lights on
raisons qui expliquent ce phénomène. Il relève
a number of similarities as weil as differences. This
ensuite les points de similitude et de divergence eu
article aims to establish some of their similarities
égard aux différents développements de ce thème
dans la fiction de George Lamming et Paule
Rev. CAMES - Série B, vol. 01, 1999