Miguel Street

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Yasmina Curto Galindo

Literatura de l’Àfrica, el Carib i l’Índia

THE CARIBBEAN ISLANDS:

1. V.S. Naipaul’s Miguel Street

Miguel Street is his semi-autobiographical work which occurs during World War II in Port of Spain, Tobago and Trinidad. The island of Trinidad, where the stories are set, was a Spanish colony,that was ceded to Britain when they had already passed through many other coloners’ hands. Trinidad and Tobago owes their main origins to massive eighteenth and nineteenth century importations of African slaves and East Indian servants who were needed to work on the sugar plantations. During the 1930s, Trinidad and Tobago suffered severely from the effects of the worldwide depression. The book may be set in a particular time during the 40s, but not in a real chronological order. The author of this work, V. S. Naipaul is an Indian writer from Trinidad who has written many novels that are set in a continuous changing world: The Caribbean Islands of the Commonwealth. He seems to focus on writing about the story of places and peoples that are usually forgotten. Miguel Street, as I have said before, seems to be a semi-autobiographical work, since is divided into seventeen chapters; which are interpreted to be based in the author’s personal life. All stories take place in a small community in Miguel Street, Port of Spain (Trinidad and Tobago). However, Naipaul himself remains unnamed throughout the entire novel. Naipaul seems to be himself the narrator; he writes from the first-person and describes his own experiences in each episode through several characters. In every chapter, he focuses in one individual; while the rest of them, remain in the background as they were part of the setting. All together helps to depict that small world of failure and disillusionment in Miguel Street. The chapters are almost interchangeable, the only obvious exceptions being the two last chapters which I consider the climax of the novel. What links the story and the characters together is the destiny of disillusionment in which they all take part. In the end, the escape seems to be the main theme; while a constant recalling of childhood is present with all the nostalgia and feeling of alienation that links all those community members of Miguel Street.

But a closer examination of the book reveals us another pattern far from being just an inventory or collection of characters. It opens with the story of Bogart; who uses the nickname of a Hollywood star. To escape the boredom the community produces him, Bogart tries to be the most glamorous men of Miguel Street. The truth comes out when police catches him and accuses him of bigamist who has run out of two women “to be a man, among we men”. Popo, the following character, is said to be a carpenter; but actually he has never build a thing with his own hands. The narrator expresses how he liked watching him pretending to work. The failure comes when Popo is discovered to be a furniture thief. When he comes out of prison, he establishes a stable family and starts making real furniture. George of the Pink House, is depicted as a bully whose failure to manage his family leads to his inevitable failure in life. He is the very antithesis of the father-figure. He beats his wife to her death, and the only channel of escape is oppressing his children, especially his daughter. He is said to be “too stupid for a big man” inside the community. The story of George’s son Ellias, is also another great example of frustration and failure. His ambition is to be a doctor, but he is depicted as being not very intelligent, although he works hard enough to reach a school level. In the end, Ellias, disillusioned and finding no escape anywhere, becomes a scavenger (Sp. “chatarrero”?). One of the most well drawn characters in Miguel Street is the mysterious B. Wordsworth (B for Black) who comes and goes as well. He lives in a house full of symbolism; coconut...
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