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An analysis of an event from the “Palace of the Peacock” Essay

Among all the events, the most defining moment in the novel is its ending – when the journey of the crew and Donne seemingly ends in an abstract presentation of the expedition leader’s submission to both consciousness and imagination. As an end to their journey upriver, Donne who was originally a symbol of absolute power seemed to surrender to a dream signifying his multiple but coexisting identities. His once total identity and concrete goal signified by the sun metaphor was shattered into a constellation signifying the collaboration of the Amerindian folk with the multiracial crew.

Interpretation of event The ending of the story signified the main idea that Harris promotes in the whole of the novel – the conception of human personality as an entirety of various components which may be familiar or unfamiliar to the person himself. It promotes the idea that a human being possesses a multitude of inner selves which the person may be unconscious of. This group of inner selves or inner “strangers” is complex and perplexing. As a result, attempts to understand how it works will always yield imperfect and incomplete results.

Furthermore, attempts to comprehend the role and the uniqueness of each of the components will be pointless since a full understanding of their functions is also unattainable. The part wherein Donne submitted himself to the disruption of his entirety or his absolute identity symbolizes the prevalent theme and the style of narration that was exhibited in the whole of the novel. It can be observed that Donne’s disturbance happened through a “dislocation of linear narratives”. His submission to disruption happened as he embraced the idea that his consciousness and his imagination coexisted in a dream-like scenario.

This narrative style or plot delivery method was used in the whole of the novel. In the ending of the story, the dislocation initiated the formation of the “convertible images” of a person’s vision and identity, which are often inconsistent with the apparent facets of the person. In the same event, it can be noted that the reason of Donne’s disruption is the coming together of his multiracial crew and the Amerindian folk. This is also another presentation of the multitude of selves from a complex group.

This group – which is incomprehensible and improbable to a certain extent – also represents the same disorientation that Donne’s bewilderment signifies. In this event, Harris tries to present the theme of human disorientation – both in the conscious and unconscious state of a person. The unconscious – or the semi-conscious – disorientation happens through the merging of imagination, dreams, and observation. On the other hand, the conscious disorientation is represented by the coming together of the two different groups which is now known as “cross-culturalism”.

Harris explores the disorientation of the human being’s recognition of his identity and unity with a group through the use of personal languages. Significance to the novel To understand the significance of the theme represented in the chosen event (the ending), it is important to first examine the entirety and the parts of the novel. The “Palace of the Peacock” is consisted of four books. The first book is entitled “Horseman, Pass By”. This part sets the basic plot of the novel – the upriver journey of a multiracial crew to the Guyanese heartland.

They are led by Donne, a callous skipper. The main purpose of the multiracial crew is to find an Amerindian people that Donne can use for his plantation. The second book of the novel is entitled “The Mission of Mariella”. In this part, the crew discovers that the Amerindian village of Mariella is already deserted. They also find an old woman – probably of the same name – which they force to act as their guide for their journey. The old woman seemed magical as well since she exhibits the mystifying characteristics of a native which is unfamiliar to the crew.

In the next novel entitled “The Second Death”, the crew travels further through a rainforest and a nameless river in order to find the Amerindian people. They encounter various obstacles along the way and their journey becomes a quest to safety. Most of the crew dies and their conflicting relationships worsen in the last part – “The Paling of Ancestors”. This is where Donne reaches the waterfall and sees that the resurrected crew and the folk are united in the Palace of the Peacock.

Throughout the delivery of this entire mystifying story, the narrative is always presented through the use of metaphors and similes – a merging of the conscious and unconscious which is pretty much signified in what Donne experienced during the ending of the story. In the whole of the novel, the form of writing was never straightforward, and it most cases, there were no concepts of past and present. Moreover, the characterizations were almost always abstract – it’s as if everyone existed only in a theoretical sense.

This incomplete characterization of the story characters were also shown in the disruption of Donne’s identity in the end. As the multiracial crew journeys upriver, Harris delivers the story from multiple visions. This also represents Harris’ refusal of linear narration which is used by most authors. This multiple vision is again reinstated in the ending of the story where the author delivers his thematic form of narration as a blatant part of the story – Donne’s attempted interpretation of what he sees and experiences.

In the same way as the tragic story is delivered, the ending also presents a tragedy that is enveloped with otherness and disintegration. This combination makes the impact of the tragedy somehow magnified and reduced at interchanging levels, which is also apparent in the unsteady flow of the story from one book to another. The ending of the story does not only represent the flow of the plot, the method of narration, the characterization techniques and the themes delivered in the four books. Rather, it also presents an ideal method in understanding the story.

Basically, one can observe that in the ending of the story, the only way that Donne could possibly understand what is happening is through capitulating to imagination and irrationality of the events that transpired to him and his crew. Though not deliberately, Harris somehow presents Donne’s actions as the technique in which the readers can possibly comprehend his complex fiction. To comprehend the book, Harris requires the readers to a peculiar reading process – the same submission to absurdity that Donne did in the story.

In Palace of the Peacock, Harris tries to motivate the readers to plunge into a different reading process – not just the usual reading that requires the deliberate comprehension of stories from the obvious delivery of scenes in a rational and logical flow. In the novel, it can be observed that new sensibilities are needed. Harris requires the readers to break free from the encapsulation of old and superficial methods of reading fictional works, as well as the stereotypes that exist in stories narrating colonial conquests.

He made use of Carribean images, traditions, and ideas in order to present a more native view of conquest. This native view is what makes the novel mystically different from other stories; this view is the reason why the books require submission to the irrationality exhibited by the scenes. In the novel, Harris attempts to present two opposing views of conquest – the Americanized view that symbolizes “realism, rationality and logic” and the native view that is interpreted as “illogical and mystic”.

The merging of these views is representative of the notion of cross-culturalism that Harris propagates. Unlike multiculturalism, cross-culturalism represents a heterogeneous but unconscious “mutuality” among members originating from different, probably opposing cultures. This cross-culturalism view is the general premise represented in the unity of the multiracial crew and the natives. Such is also the foundation of the whole story. Reference: Harris, Wilson. (1960). Palace of the Peacock. London: Faber


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