Most writers of the Caribbean have been preoccupied by particular themes and have adhered to mutual tracks, while often contrasted in approach and writing. The possibility or impossibility of the account of one’s story, when the very concept of the individual has been crushed by slavery and colonisation, the circumstances of advent of a new Caribbean identity, the analysis of the past, writing in exile and lastly, landscape and nature: where the environment or surrounding tells the story, is an essential basis of examination of oneself and one’s community.
Writers have also frequently concentrated on former oral and social customs, so as to examine carefully the fragment they assimilate in the advancement of modern-day society and consciousness. In both Miguel Street and Beka Lamb the impact of colonisation that influenced the major themes such as the issue of identity, exile and migration, and women, will be epitomised by comparing and contrasting.
Beka Lamb was issued in 1982, the year subsequent to independence, but it portrays to the reader somewhat of the late 1970s, right between the political melee that conflicted the British Crown and Guatemala, a country whose territorial prerogatives on British Honduras had been extensively deliberated on the Belizean community.
The social jeopardy that Edgell produces consist of the indigenous peril that Creoles, harbour, from the increasing Hispanic populace and the socioeconomic hindrances that Creoles experience as they endeavour to ascend from inferior to intermediate status–all in the wider perspective of Belize upgrading from just a society to an independent state. Zee Edgell gives the impression of hope, that, through suitable discipline, Creoles can equally redeem their rank in the Belizean indigenous hierarchy and also journey from lowly to more proficient professions–and without negotiating too much of their affluent ethnic heritage.
During the course of the novel Belize is publicised as a country still vacillating between its embryonic national consciousness and a post-colonial viewpoint, a country wedged amid contrasting but pre-determined visions of itself. It is in this socio-political milieu that the story of Beka is established. The contending allegiances at play in the country, exasperating one’s search for identity, are echoed in the central character of the novel.
From the article entitled, “The Wake in Caribbean Literature: a Celebration of Self-knowledge and Community” says, One of the best examples in Caribbean fiction of the dialectic relationship between the individual and society, between the child and its community is reverberated through the protagonist of the novel. Politics and community life are much more in the novel than a mere backdrop for an individual life-story.
They are the inner landscape of every individual, of every child in Belize society, and Beka’s quest for a viable identity, for a consistent self-image, reflects a collective undertaking (Misrahi-Barak, Judith). In the introduction of “Caribbean Women Writers”, it says, The figure of the grandmother is an obvious emblem of the continuing influence of the past as pervasive in Caribbean women’s fiction, often like Velma Pollard’s ‘Gran’ who is a master baker, recollected in terms of a practical skill: Ma Chess in Jamaica Kincaid’s Annie John is a healer …
Granny Ivy in Zee Edgell’s Beka Lamb or the grandmother in Dionne Brands’s short story ‘Photograph’, or an association with its rural beauty, like Ma in Merle Hodge’s Crick Crack Monkey or the grandmother in Marlene Nourbese Philip’s Harriet’s Daughter (Conde, Mary). Miguel Street is Naipaul’s semi-nonfictional description of his juvenile home, Trinidad. Miguel Street is actually a “sneak-peek” account of the innate farcicality that immensely embodies the lives of Trinidadians (a microcosm of Trinidad) or to an extent the West Indies.
The arrangement of the book is layered and proposes that Naipaul could have been motivated from the people he had met during his childhood in Trinidad. It took place in the course of World War II and recounted by an anonymous–but articulately observant–neighborhood boy who narrates the innumerable lives of idiosyncratic occupants of his neighbourhood in a cleverly yet innocent way. His tone is both disconnected and acutely vigilant at the same time. There is no impression of plot until the very latter chapters, after the plot speaks about the narrator himself and his rapport with few other main characters.
The novel can also be perceived a collection of short stories, as each chapter takes place over years and deals with one character at a time; but even if every chapter are unquestionably devoted for a sole character, the close interweaving of destiny of the dissimilar characters and the Street itself obscures the incoherence and concentrates on the appetizing feel of a novel. In Edgell’s novel the two main characters of which are Toycie and Beka, have both been forewarned about getting pregnant before graduation. Pregnancy out of marriage occurs regularly among teenage girls in Belize.
Females are allowed to attend school nevertheless, not only the rate of education is too costly for most families, but once girls start to go school, they encounter rules that are different to the rules for the boys. In the middle of Toycie’s final year she becomes pregnant. She is banished and not permitted to come back because the school believes, “In cases like this, we believe it is entirely up to the modesty of the girl to prevent these happenings” (Edgell 119). The father of Toycie’s child, Emilio, has no consequence to face.
Unlike Toycie, he is not banished from school. He will be able to get the education his affluent family pays for, and when he graduates and employment that will grant him the freedom that Toycie had awaited. The money for Toycie education was wasted that her aunt had so struggled for. Toycie will go down the same path of the women formerly to her, like her aunt, Miss Eila, whom Beka’s father said, “is a simple woman, like many of our women, in certain matters,” (Edgell 120). Miss Eila lacks the funds to supply sufficiently for herself and her family.
Toycie will upbring a child and contend every day to somehow make a living. Early pregnancy causes the limited roles available to women. It produces a social rotation that girls like Beka must apprehend to swim against. The preponderance of the characters in Beka Lamb are female and the story is communicated from a woman’s outlook, which is the total opposite to Miguel Street where most of the characters are male and few were women, most of whom remained nameless as well as the story is narrated by a male. Beka’s mother remains home with the family.
Beka and Toycie attend an all-girls Catholic school where they are educated by nuns. The absence of male characters is bold enough to know that the blunder was deliberate. The story demonstrates the veracity of the Belize culture. Male characters work or become learned while the women sustain the homes and make what salary they can. In the novel, the scarce male characters have at least one fault that turns the reader away. Emilio gets Toycie pregnant, and after refuses to marry her. Bill is unsuccessful in showing consistent love to his family; he frequently seems unconcerned or too busy.
In “Voices from the Gaps” says The women who surround Beka influence her thinking and judgments. Interestingly, the women are politically well-informed. One would not expect the “simple” women to have interest in politics. While Beka respects her father, she does so partially out of fear and partially because she is supposed to. Beka’s respect for Granny is different. Granny knows more about life and about Belize than either Beka or her father. Beka’s ability to recognize this demonstrates not only Beka’s maturity, but also her curiosity about and reverence toward the Belize culture. Horan, Kaite). Both Miguel Street and Beka Lamb have an issue with women. In Beka Lamb the women go through a harsher punishment than the men, though they are dominant in the novel they are persecuted; under a prison-like structure although slavery days have long gone. Whereas, in Miguel Street, they marginalise the women and treat them as objects. There are few female characters which some don’t even have a name i. e “George’s wife was never a proper person. I always thought of her just as George’s wife and that was all” (Naipaul V. S. 27).
Also implying that women really did not have an identity or could not have existed without men, who were always in the forefront and women remained in the background. In the commencement of the novel, Beka is perplexed about her identity and appears to be a very unappreciative child. Her background is of a middle class, Creole family, but does not show gratefulness for her decent life because she does not pass first form. She flat irons her hair and has to live two opposite lives: one at the school compound and another separate from school in her Belizean community.
At school she has to upkeep the qualities of the Virgin Mary and is compulsorily to be completely dissimilar from the persons in her life. When not in school, Beka is challenged with the behaviours of her Belizean Creole people which creates a war in the manner she should behave internally. Beka’s life soon changes with Toycie’s pregnancy. Before Toycie became pregnant, Beka had subsisted a safe, expectable life. She had quarrels with her family and she had chores, but Beka had not experienced life. Toycie’s situation pushed Beka to face organisation, separation, and demise.
Beka goes back to school after Toycie’s removal and wins an essay contest. The self-doubts Beka confronted her whole life starts to withdraw. The platform Toycie once hoisted upon is now vacant. Beka has not substituted Toycie, but has begun to change her perception of what’s on that platform. In “The quarrel with history” it mentions what one should be careful of, similar to Beka’s situation, We can be victims of History when we submit passively to it – never managing to escape its harrowing power.
History (like literature) is capable of quarrying deep within us, as a consciousness or the emergence of a consciousness, as a neurosis (symptom of loss) and a contraction of the self (Baugh, Edward). The seventeen chapters of Miguel Street are often referred to separately as short stories, but read as a novel they create a Bildungsroman (as well as in Beak Lamb)—in the European practice, a novel of edification or development—that traces its protagonist’s progress toward manhood, climaxing in the protagonist discovering his place in the world.
Also the apparent template sublimely suggested of what a man should be in nearly most of the chapters of Miguel Street. Naipaul arrogates this European custom to comment upon the advent of Trinidad as an independent nation. “Bogart,” the first story, ends with what could be called Miguel Street’s ‘thesis’: after forsaking two women, one of whom has borne him a child; becoming a drunkard “They had never seen Bogart drink so much” (Naipaul, V. S. 13); Bogart finally returns to Miguel Street “‘To be a man, among we men’” (Naipaul, V. S. 16).
It is understood, in the opening of chapter three that Popo is a carpenter who does not really create anything that could be categorized as furniture or architecture except the “little galvanised-iron workshop below the mango tree behind his yard” (Naipaul, V. S. 17). The men of the street mock him for not only the fact that he is an imitation carpenter but also, his wife is out performing all of the work whereas he sits at home constructing things with no name and drinking rum. In fact, Hat parallels him to a “man-woman. Not a proper man (Naipaul, V. S. 19).
However, a little further down in the chapter Popo’s wife leaves him for another man and on one occasion he grows irritated enough to get the urge to “beat up everybody” and remain drunk all the time, and then the men decided to accept Popo as a man after all and acknowledged him as a “member of the gang” (Naipaul, V. S. 21). Hat says “We was wrong about Popo. He is a man like any of we” (Naipaul, V. S. 21). It becomes distinct that to almost all of the men, exhibiting hostility, being tangibly violent and masking oneself in drunken sorrows is what sanctions one as a man.
It appears that they are not very fond of neither the “sensitive type” nor the “poetic type. ” After looking at Popo and his circumstances, it becomes distinct to that narrator that to be accepted as a real man, it is imperative to demand one’s respect, even at the cost of others. The deification that Popo receives when he takes his wife back from the new man, is training the narrator that men similar to Bogart or ‘takers’ such as men in the situation of Popo get all the admiration while the characters such as B. Wordsworth are not given the same respect and involuntary hide-off; absent from the other men similar to B. Wordsworth did before his passing.
Hat was the main father figure of the entire novel who was mentioned in almost in every chapter. He had gone to jail (Naipaul, V. S. 207), He was always getting himself into trouble with the police. “A little cockfighting here, some gambling there, a little drinking somewhere else and so on” (Naipaul, V. S. 204) were all considered factors to be a ‘man among men’. Later in both novels we can see where both Beka and the unnamed narrator finds their identity. Beka Lamb turns into a self-created, self-governing young lady by the conclusion of the novel.
Her identity and, by insinuation, the identity of the New Belize — is composite and subtly drawn. On the social level, one is enthralled by Beka’s seeming lack of friends on Cashew Street and at school, succeeding Toycie’s death. Replacing Toycie, Beka makes friends only with a Mayan girl, Thomasita Ek, who is also an foreigner at St. Cecilia’s Academy. On a national scale, that friendship lacks much real importance, since the Mayas lean towards being so traditionally and geographically isolated from urban tradition that no spot-on, long-lasting ethnic conflict has thereby been associated.
Beka at the end of the novel gives the impression being composed to become a “nun” in the service of her homeland. Her essay, after all, dealt with the history of Belize. She composed it for the period of National Day. The day the petitioners were incarcerated, was the day she had won the prize. It was always her dream to be a politician, and at the politics-laden St. George’s Caye, she practiced to become such. Then it can be observed where the narrator in Miguel Street also grows up and finds his identity.
He is no longer astonished by Popo who keeps building this thing without a name. He does not look up to Hat after he goes to jail. The narrator leaves Miguel Street as a ceremony of growing up. “You must get over this”, I said to my mother, “Is not my fault really. Is just Tr inidad. What else anybody can do here except drink? ” (Naipaul, V. S. 216). He comes to reality and begins to ponder of what he wants to become in the future. He decides on becoming an Engineer and sticks with it regardless that his mother wants him to pursue law.