Trinidadian Landscape in the Novels of
T H E F O U R P U B L I S H E D N O V E L S of E a r l Lovelace, the employment of a religious frame of reference and the stress placed on the sacred power of ritual to affirm cultural identity (by serving as a bridge to ancestral tradition ), are two of the devices which have led readers to perceive a mythic patterning of the specifically West
Indian subject matter. Lovelace's setting is T r i n i d a d , rural and urban; his themes are universal, centring on the innate divinity of man and the need to preserve this against dehumanizing forces and inhuman values in modern society. Inevitably, then, physical locations i n the novels suggest archetypal landscapes symbolic of states of spiritual development.
Commonly, rural landscape is interpreted according to the pastoral tradition and becomes a Biblical Eden, while the city (or its agents of "modernization") represents a kind of inferno where fallen man exists in a spiritual wasteland. In the West Indian context, the urban centre is associated with the oppression that has reduced people to slaves, indentured servants, colonials and workers in the service of the capitalist machine.
Some extracts may serve to flesh out these interpretations. While
Gods Are Falling, Lovelace's first novel, is structured around a mental journey into his past by the protagonist, Walter Castle, in an attempt to comprehend why his life in a Port of Spain tenement has become a living hell. Walter's initial desire is escape to the countryside, which represents for him a more human existence.
The paradisal evocation is apparent :
In his mind he sees the countryside so quiet. The earth is wet, and the grass is green and glistens with dew and sunlight. The corn is
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tall and the ears are long, and blonde hair hangs out from the tassels. Birds are singing in a mango-tree, the mist is disappearing
. . . The cow is being milked and the potatoes are being hoed and there is a big pumpkin under the avocado-tree. Smoke comes from the wood fire and rises to the blue sky. The children bathe in the river and lie down on the bank and laugh. . . . The wind rushes, trees lean and shake; the doves coo and walk on the ground, in pairs. (127)
Harmony and sufficiency in the natural world as well as the human are also the keynotes in the description of the isolated rural village in Lovelace's second novel The
Down on the flat and in the crotches of the land where the two rivers stagger through the blue stone so plentiful in Kumaca, the water is clear, and in places, ice cold. The soil is rich, deep and black. The immortelle holds its scarlet blossoms still, and on the stems of cocoa, which it shades pods have turned yellow or red and are waiting. It is time. The cocoa is ready for harvesting.
In the village the harvest is something to think of. (3)
The Wine of Astonishment is Lovelace's third novel, although the last published, and is also set in a rural village, Bonasse, focusing on the Spiritual Baptist congregation. Again, the pastoral mode operates : watching the chickens scratching in the yard and the stripe butterflies zigzagging like kites that can't fly well over the hibiscus hedge where the flowers unfolding like red parasols and the bees rushing from flower to flower and listening to the hens cackle as the cocks strut and the wind blow. . . . (140)
Again, a sense of sustaining community informs the peasant lifestyle — though Lovelace neither sentimentalizes nor glosses over the hardships — where the Church, at least initially, is a centre
where after the service finish the brethren could discuss together how the corn growing, how the children doing, for what price cocoa selling, and the men could know which brother they should lend a hand to the coming week, and the sisters could find out who sick from the congregation so we could go sit with her a little and