George Lamming's in the Castle of My Skin

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What is exile? For some, exile may be equivalent to eviction. For some, it may be equivalent to shunning. The dictionary definitions of exile are “absence from own country,” “somebody living outside own country,” and “banishment.” These definitions are examples of a physical exile, or in other words, a physical removal or dislocation of a person or people. The idea of exile does not necessarily have to be a physical displacement, though. Exile can be personal, mental, or cultural. Exile can be emotional or social. This type of exile is one that many people can associate with. Anyone who longs to belong somewhere, with a group of people, or in a community dreads social and cultural exile. It is worthy of note that these exiles may be separate from each other, but they may go hand in hand. When asking this question, it is helpful to look to George Lamming, author of In the Castle of my Skin. Lamming presents exile as a complex idea. He uses the main character, G., to portray a layered definition of exile. Through G.’s interactions with his family, friends, and community, there is a constant sense that G. is an outsider. Exile is complex, and cultural and personal exile is likely to lead to inevitable physical exile, as illustrated by the character G. and his consciousness in Lamming’s novel, In the Castle of My Skin.

G. lives in a small village in the Barbados. In this village, there is an clear split between colonial powers and their colonies. The inhabitants of these colonies gets the brunt of all power exertions, and G.’s story shows how colonial power exertion was not necessarily physical, as in force or militancy, but cultural, which led to psychological troubles. Especially in G.’s education, it is shown that the colonial powers devalue the culture and all that is associated with Africans, and instead drive into the boys’ brains the superiority of the English, white culture. It is apparent that with colonialism came the idea that darker-skinned people were inferior and primitive. This notion of primitivism underestimated the abilities of the black people, seeing them as a negative piece of the community of the Barbados. G. and his group of friends are seen as uneducated and ignorant, when in reality, they are not given equal opportunities to succeed. Furthermore, this assumption that they are uneducated leads to the discrimination of their language. In the colonies, the colonizer’s language is taught. If students do not use this language, they will be punished. This gives blacks, namely G., who never does very well at school, a disadvantage. It takes school as a social occurrence away, which leads G. and the other students to be seen as inferior socially as well as academically. This type of exile is cultural, because G.’s own cultural is forced away from him and hidden, and another “superior” culture is thrust upon him. However, those doing the thrusting determine this superiority, so it is out of G.’s hands, and leads to him feeling like an outsider in his own community.

Furthermore, although the Barbados is filled with Africans and blacks, they are not the powerful race. So everyone aims to become “more white.” This separates the whites from the blacks, but also separates the blacks from other blacks. In other words, blacks that try to become “more white” see themselves as better than other blacks, who are just villagers trying to get by. There is a social dividing line within the same culture that separates the black overseers from regular villagers. Perhaps if all black villagers would join in power, there would not be such a barrier between them and the white people, but instead the blacks are separated, making race the line between negativity and positivity in the whole community. G. and his friends fall into the negative piece of the race. Culturally, even people of their own skin color look down upon them. They are seen as inferior, which forces them to question whether...
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