Deconstruction of The Tempest & Reconstruction of the Caribbean Identity in The Pleasures of Exile

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Since the time of the Great Discoveries and the globalization of our planet, identities are more than ever flying, shifting, changing places and forms, moving around numerous locations. The colonial circumstances complicated the racial, socio-political and cultural relations and constituted an indisputable turning point in the development of the countries involved. The research hypothesis concerning the Caribbean scenario is that—The Pleasures of Exile is a postcolonialist, postrealist and postnationalist counter-discourse because it gives us George Lamming’s glimpse of the complex issues of identity contained within the Caribbean island-states that were largely shaped by the European colonial discoursesand practice from the late fifteenth century until the late twentieth century. For instance, the Caliban-Prospero encounter in Shakespeare’s The Tempest has evolved as a metaphor for the Caribbean colonial experience. In fact, the ugly incident of colonialism in the Caribbean islands has effects on language, education, religion, artistic sensibilities, popular culture and the like. Regarding education, Lamming makes explicit in “The Occasion for Speaking” his perception of the colonial education system as a means of ideological control which suffocated any expression of a Caribbean consciousness. Post-colonial critical writings in the region have, therefore, become veritable weapons used to dismantle the hegemonic boundaries/forces and the determinants that create unequal relations of power, based on binary oppositions. Therefore, it is true to say that the primary concern of most post-colonial Caribbean literature is to salvage the history of their people that colonialism has taken off or manipulated. Lamming responds to the urgency and inevitability of this historic mission. He has selected a canonical drama as his counter-discursive resistance or intervention. Some essays in The Pleasures of Exile draw parallelism and shows paradox between the characters in The Tempest and the Caribbean slave situations, figure out racial binaries and the threat of miscegenation, represent the New World ‘other’ as opposed to the European ‘self’, troped as a form of the nature/culture dichotomy, and interest in power relationship involving dominance, subservience, and rebellion. In this aricle, the researcher would like to express that what is primary on Lamming’s mind and central to his subversion and allegorical deconstruction of this English canonis the urge to put the record straight and illuminate the threshold between past and present, thought and action, self and other, and the Caribbean and the world. In other words, his essays provide the answers to the questions of how the British colonizers became successful to fall apart the things related to the Caribbean identity.


Research Objective

The researcher would try to explore that as the canonical discourses like The Tempest allegorize and construct the Caribbean’s mythologized identities negatively with biased perspectives for their own benefits, Lamming has tried to deconstruct or decentralize their canonical position counter-discursively. The paper would also try to prove that as a part of his counter-discursive quest, Lamming attempts a postcolonial allegorical reading of Shakespeare’s The Tempest to dismantle or expose the British colonial ideology and reconstruct the Caribbean identity before the world.


Research Methodology

The methodology adopted in this research consists of a close intertextual and comparative analysis, which will draw from interdisciplinary theoretical framework, taking a critical exploration mainly towards the Caribbean postcolonial identity. The researcher would focus on how Lamming reworks the European ‘classics’ to invest them with more local relevance and to divest them of their assumed ‘authority and authenticity’. Helen Tiffin terms such a project as ‘canonical counter-discourse’, a process whereby a post-colonial writer unveils and dismantles the basic assumptions of a specific canonical text by developing a ‘counter’ text that preserves many of the identifying signifiers of the original while altering, often allegorically, its structure of power. Many of the approaches used here have been borrowed from the concepts of several postcolonial and cultural critics, such as Stuart Hall, Bill Ashcroft, Helen Tiffin, Michel Foucault, Edward Said, Salman Rushdie, Louise Althusser, Frantz Fanon, W.E.B. Du Boise, N’gugi, Walcott and others—that will throw light on important debates which have featured in post-colonial and cultural theories in recent times, and some other textual references involved directly or indirectly with the Caribbean identity. In order to prove the hypothesis, the researcher would also use some extracts from historical sources; because the extracts serve to remind us that the determining condition of postcolonial cultures is the historical phenomena of colonialism, with its range of material practices and effects mentioned above. As regards the mode of argument, the researcher has tried to relate Shakespeare’s discourse The Tempest and Lamming’s counter-discourse The Pleasures of Exile to the Caribbean historical circumstances which produced them and in which they have been read. So they have been placed in postcolonial critical context, concentrating on Lamming’s reinterpretation of a colonial canon by breaking fresh ground of Western outlook/argument. That is, the researcher has made cultural and political reading of them.


Literature Review

According to Alejandro Carpio, the name Caliban is an anagram of “cannibal” that was created by English playwright William Shakespeare. In Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Caliban is a kind of foolish and aggressive monster who must be ruled by the wise and kind Prospero. Because the word “cannibal” itself comes from the word “Caribbean,” the name Caliban has, over the years, simultaneously incorporated the idea of the Caribbean with notions of brutality, barbarism, and cannibalism. Now, the Caribbean thinkers and artists have reflected on the controversial name in two ways: first, in the measure to which it implies various European prejudices; and second, in the possibility that it presents an alternative for political and cultural liberation by pointing to a senseof identity among the Caribbean people.In Alejandro Carpio’s words,


In the second half of the 20th century, however, Caliban was converted into a hero who represented the struggles by Caribbean and Latin American peoples. The first to recognize this identity was writer George Lamming, a native of Barbados, in his book The Pleasures of Exile, from 1960. Lamming, however, saw Caliban as a slave to the language heinherited from the European.

(Caribbean Literature, 2012)


To Harold Pollins, George Lamming’s views on the cultural effects of colonialism, on both the colonisers and colonised, are worthy of serious consideration. In his The Pleasures of Exile, Prospero and Caliban are his symbols: Prospero the colonist and Caliban the slave.


In Carpio’s review, the poem Caliban, by Barbados writer Edward Kamau Brathwaite, uses the Cuban Revolution as a starting point for understanding Caliban’s liberation. Clearly, over time, Caliban has become an anti-establishment emblem that personifies the rebellious aspects of the Caribbean subjects. Thus, what was once a prejudiced distortion of a Caribbean native has been transformed into a valued representation of the Caribbean identity.



Shakespeare: A Legacy of Colonization

In “The Occasion for Speaking”, Lamming makes explicit his perception of the colonial education system as a means of ideological control which suffocated any expression of a Caribbean consciousness. The objection points to the Eurocentric saturation of literary consciousness. Again, the cultural politics of the canon and the way in which the now familiar notion of the English literature was constructed in line with the colonial project to educate the natives, have generated interesting debates within the Caribbean literature as a foreshadow of their counter-discourse. For instance, the circulation of “Shakespeare’s Books” within [the Caribbean] educational and cultural spheres has been a powerful hegemonic force throughout the history of the British Empire.¹ In can be called an ‘epistemic violence’ in Foucault’s term. Nevertheless, The Tempest remains the text most widely chosen for counter-discursive interrogations of the Shakespearean canon. Paul Brown points out that it can be reread as not simply a reflection of colonialist practices but an intervention in an ambivalent and even contradictory discourse. Lamming’s re-reading of the drama provides a critical insight into the political relationship between the Caribbean and the European. A rebellious island native Caliban is enslaved by a colonizing Milanese Duke Prospero in The Tempest, and has become a favourite symbol of revolutionary, anti-imperialist culture for the Caribbean writers, especially since 1950s. Lamming himself clarifies his intention “to make use of The Tempest as a way of presenting a certain state of feeling which is the heritage of the exiled and colonial writer from the British Caribbean” (9). He also sees “The Tempest against the background of England’s experimentation in colonization … The Tempest was also prophetic of a political future which is our present. Moreover, the circumstances of my life, both as a colonial and exiled descendant of Caliban in the twentieth century, is an example of that prophecy” (13).


Now, in our awareness of the destructiveness of Western colonialism, we should return to ideas that were commonplace in the sixteenth century. Reports from the New World differed widely in their descriptions of the Indians; to some they were demons or savage beasts, to others they were unfallen men. As post-colonial critics often imply, the name Caliban is an anagram of Cannibal, a word introduced to England shortly after Columbus dubbed the natives to the West Indies canibales, mishearing the name Caribs, and saddled them with a reputation for eating human flesh. In The Tempest Caliban is similarly characterized as a half-human, half-monster. In opposition, Prospero casts the role of imperial and civilizing force. And both have been a metaphor in postcolonial literature for many years. That is why, Lamming metonymies the Caribbean with Caliban and the British Empire with Prospero. Hence, the conflict between Prospero as the colonizer and Caliban as the colonized becomes paradigmatic of the major historical opposition and the overarching dialectic of the Caribbean colonies.


It is on the basis of the foregoing background that in this section, the researcher proposes to examine how Lamming uses his essays to facilitate the transgression of boundaries and subversion of hegemonic rigidities previously mapped out in precursor canonical literary texts about the Caribbean island and her people. A canon is a set of reading practices. And the subversion of a canon involves not simply the bringing to consciousness of these practices, or the deployment of some hierarchy of value within them; but equally crucially the reconstruction of the so-called canonical texts through alternative reading practices. Since Shakespeare is representative enough in the canon of colonialist discourse, Lamming has re-written his play The Tempest allegorically long before Derrida’s theory of Deconstruction, and from a postcolonial perspective. By allegory, the researcher refers not only to an extended metaphor or symbolic reference observed by a critic from outside the work, but also the structural principle of the work itself. In The Pleasures of Exile Lamming attempts to engage in dialectical intertextuality with this long existing canonical work that metaphorically presents the negative stereotypes of the Caribbean, e.g., by attributing bestiality, deformity, lust, ugliness and degeneracy with Caliban. The chapter also seeks to consider how counter-canonical literature provides an avenue for the Caribbean writers to represent not only ‘Self’ but also their European ‘Other’.


Re-reading The Tempest and Re-visioning the History

Lamming’s The Pleasures of Exile is an elaborate recasting of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, not only employing the island worlds of that work as symbols for aspects of the Caribbean experience but also commenting upon its role as a text that had contributed to the British colonial mindset.Here he examines the Caribbean colonial past, decolonization, and his own identity. According to his postcolonial reading, the crew’s suffering in the sea due to the tempest created by Prospero allegorically refers to the horrible situation of the slaves transported from Africa through the middle Passage to the Caribbean plantation. Lamming identifies himself with Caliban, Prospero’s slave on a remote island where Caliban is tortured for servitude, like the Caribbean slaves who would be tortured savagely by their colonial masters. He parallels Prospero’s imprisonment of Caliban in the rock with the colonizer’s emergency regulations against the native sons who were not allowed to travel certain Caribbean orbit “marked out and even made legal by a foreign visitor” (102). His slave imagery can largely be justified with a New Historicist reading of even an English discourse Oroonoko set in that New World. However, he reflects the Caribbean slaves’ asserting rebellious and courageous spirit against their masters, which upholds their individuality and identity.


Again, in Lamming’s deconstructive reading, Ariel, Prospero’s source of information, represents the unspeakable secret police or spy in the context of the Caribbean colonies. To make Ariel aware of his inferiority, the ‘benevolent’ Prospero constantly reminds him how he saved him from Sycorax’s torture. Similarly, the Caribbean slaves were constantly reminded what a great ‘saviour’ the European were, who saved these deformed savages from further sin by Christening or baptizing them, though they have to suffer in this world for expiation. They were conditioned to believe that God was punishing them because they were ‘ignorant’; at the same time, God’s most ‘favourite’ children on earth. Thus the colonizers in this domain also politicized religion.


Meanwhile, Prospero had originally behaved towards Caliban with a show of ‘human care’ and ‘nurture’, but with the same assumption of superiority which had been rationalized as benevolence by the colonists in the New World, who, calling the native Africans ‘savages’—because their religion was not Christianity, their civilization unlike European civilization, their language not English or Spanish, their countenance and cultures outlandish—denied them full humanity and any freedom even to their own lands, and exported them firstly to England, dead or alive, to be exhibited at fairs; and later to the Caribbean plantations as slaves. The possibility was debated that they might not be human at all, but humanoid monsters created as slaves for humanity.


Again, Lamming dismantles the hierarchy of Prospero, Ariel and Caliban. Caliban is no longer seen as the creature outside civilization “on whose nature/ Nurture can never stick” (Tempest IV. i. 188-9), but as a human being (specifically a West Indian) whose human status is denied by the European claims to an exclusive human condition. In traditional reading, Caliban is seen not simply as an American Indian. He is also very much in the tradition of the wodwo, or wild man of the woods, so familiar in English art and folklore of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. But in his ‘Introduction to 1984 Edition’, Lamming counters that if Prospero could be seen as the symbol of the European imperial enterprise, then Caliban should be embraced as the continuing possibility of a profound revolutionary change initiated by Toussaint L’Ouverture in the Haitian war of independence. He also states metaphorically that the Cuban revolution was a Caribbean response to that imperial menace which Prospero conceived as a ‘civilising mission’. Thus he re-reads this canonical and colonial discourse from the perspective of Caliban or the Caribbean. Supriya Nair in Caliban’s Curse argues that Lamming’s work expands the protest of Shakespeare’s Caliban to articulate a reinvention of the Caribbean cultures.


Regarding Prospero’s gaze and Caliban’s identity, Lamming’s essay “In the Beginning” discovers Caliban as only a languageless and inarticulate savage in The Tempest. Again, Stephano recognizes Caliban, as we go through the essay “A Monster, A Child, A Slave”: “This is some monster of the isle with four legs … If I can recover him, and keep him tame, and get to Naples with him, he’s a present for any emperor…” (108). As we know, the colonial explorers’ hegemonic ideology led them to interpellate the African’s identity as an exotic other, fascinating enough for exhibition in European markets, is apparent here. In Miranda’s subconscious view as well, Caliban is seen “as the descendant of a Devil” (111).


From Foucault’s perspective, Prospero takes control over Caliban and his Island through the “absolute wisdom” (22) and magical power. As a result, Caliban becomes an ‘other’ in his own island and is treated brutally like the Caribbean slaves by Prospero’s magic rod. But he does not kill this beast. The reason behind this may be that if he kills Caliban, he will lose “his source of food” (99), and his authority because there will be no one upon whom he can exert his authority and power. Here, Hegel’s master/slave dialectical idea is explicit in Lamming’s reading.


In his re-reading of this English classic as a political allegory, Lamming concentrates on the issue of ‘good government’ in the island and extends it to encompass his sense of the injustice of Prospero’s dispossession of Caliban’s inheritance—


I must eat my dinner.

This island’s mine, by Sycorax my mother,

Which thou tak’st from me When thou cam’st first,

Thou strok’st me …

… keep from me

The rest o’ th’ island. (Tempest,I .i.)


We can sense that Prospero’s trick to give Caliban his supper sometimes only to ensure that he would not revolt, has a metaphorical resemblance with the relationship between the European colonial masters and the Caribbean colonized slaves. Lamming also identifies Ariel and Caliban as “the two agents of labour and public relations without whom he would be helpless” (114), as Hegel observes. What Lamming implies but does not say is that the allegory manifests the strategy learned by Shakespeare’s Empire to apply on the Caribbean.


To repeat Foucault, our identity is constructed by the way we are seen through the dominant gaze. In The Tempest Prospero’s gaze fixes the identity and status of Caliban but not vice versa, as Lamming looks back in anger to discover that—


Caliban is never accorded the power to see. He is always the measure of the condition which his physical appearance has already defined. Caliban is … eternally below possibility … He is seen as … a state of existence [as though ordained by ‘original Law’, as Lamming says at page 110], which can be appropriated and exploited for the purposes of another’s own development. Caliban is a reminder of … the evil vigour of the Beast that is always there … his skin is black … the colour of his loss and the absence of any soul.  



In reality, construction of such an identity perpetuated the slave exploitation in the Caribbean sugar plantations throughout the colonial era.


Now, mistress-slave dialectical relationship in the Caribbean context is expanded as a central part in Lamming’s metaphorical interpretation. Caliban and the child Miranda are assumed by Lamming to have grown closer by the necessary contact of servant and mistress. Caliban might have had to carry Miranda on his back and play with her, the way the Caribbean have seen African servants showing their affection to the European (masters’) children. In return, she “taught thee each hour/One thing or other … I endow’d thy purposes/With words that made them known” (Exile, 109). It is as if her Eurocentric knowledge were the standard and any African lacking were identified as ignorant, uncivilized etc.


Religious discourse also has a major bearing on the Caribbean colonization and identity formation. As Lamming finds, “Education, meaning the possession of the Word—which was in the beginning or not at all—is the tool which Prospero has tried on the irredeemable nature of his savage and deformed slave … Only the application of the Word to the darkness of Caliban’s world could harness the beast which resides within this cannibal. This is the most important achievement of the colonizing process.” (Exile 109)


To the researcher’s view, firstly the emphasis on Word conforms to the structuralist linguist Claude Levi Strauss’s and the psychoanalytic critic Jacques Lacan’s views in the sense that words constitute our world [with ideas]. As we find here, Prospero’s words constitute Caliban’s and Miranda’s world and identity, the way the colonizer’s words/ideas constituted that of the Caribbean. That is why, Lamming comes forward to deconstruct them. Secondly, there is a wise saying that—to name something with words is to give it identity and possess it. The example is apparent in Lamming’s citing Caliban’s protest against Prospero—”When thou cam’st first, thou … teach me how to name the bigger light…’ (Lamming 101). Thirdly, Lamming’s use of the capitalized form of the ‘Word’ may refer to the Bible or manipulation of Christianity over the Caribbean religion.


The colonizers thus mutually exploited race and religion, as Lamming remarks ironically about a Christian vision: “The African [many of the Caribbean’s ancestors] did not achieve the Word because he acquired a phenomenal aptitude for wickedness. God separated him from the Word so that he might sojourn in a state of illiteracy … be punished by the greed, the deception, the cruelties of literate men [i.e. colonizers]” (86). That is why, according to colonial discourse, Lord has sent the European to ‘enlighten’ the African from sin and darkness. Lamming ironically calls it England’s “divine right to organize the native’s reading” (27) and metaphorically dismantles the issue when he ironically comments that it is some original “Law which has ordained the state of existence we call Caliban” and he is superfluous “until Prospero arrives with the aid of the Word which might help him to clarify the chaos which shows its true colours all over his skin.” (110-111)


Lamming’s counter-canonical-discourse continues as he announces—”This [Caribbean] island belongs to Caliban whom he [Prospero] found there; yet some privilege allows Prospero [signifying British Empire] to assert—with an authority that is divine—that he is lord of the island” (113). Next we come across Prospero’s “divine hierarchy of which he is the most privileged on earth!” (116). Lamming ends the chapter with the question: “Will the Lie upon which Prospero’s confident authority was built be discovered?” (117). In reality, it is Lamming’s commitment as a spokesman of the Caribbean to decolonize their (Blakean) ‘mind-forged manacles’ and convey the Truth.


Lamming’s counter-discourse further suggests that the people of the colonized country like the Caribbean are exiled from their root, by the uprooting process of the colonizers; from their history, as history was first written by the colonizers; from their native language, as they had to use the masters’ languages for communication; from their native culture and religion, as they had felt a sense of inferiority for their own culture and rituals. To him, Caliban is colonized by language and excluded by language. He is exiled from his gods, his nature and his own name—all related to his identity. Thus, the colonized people all over the world are exiled whether living in their own country or in the metropolitan culture for being the refugee; and for the Caribbean, it creates a sense of identity crisis. Reading Lamming’s re-reading the textual conscious and unconscious of The Tempest, the researcher would like to assert his hypothesis that Shakespeare is a legacy of the British Empire in the Caribbean context.


English Language as a Colonizing and Decolonizing Weapon

To some postcolonial critics, the politics of language is integrated with the issue of identity. Towards the end, Lamming’s subversion of the English canon shows the duplicity and hypocrisy by which Prospero’s dispossession is effected and stress is laid on the eagerness and willingness with which Caliban initially offers to share the fruits of the island with the shipwrecked Prospero and his child. Prospero’s assertion that in exchange he has given Caliban the gift of language—is undercut in Lamming’s reading by this fact of material dispossession, and thus Lamming asserts the injustice through Caliban’s response: “and my profit on’t/Is, I know how to curse” (The Tempest, I.ii.425-6). Lamming goes on to suggest that language is not simply a gift and a curse to be used—in the dialogue between Prospero and Caliban, besides “not to curse our meeting-but to push it further, reminding the descendants of both sides that what’s done is done, and can only be seen as a soil from which other gifts, or the same gift endowed with different meanings, may grow towards a future which is colonized by our acts in this moment, but which must always remain open”. This dialectic of domination and resistance is central to Lamming’s approaches to language. He allows the voices of Caliban and the noises of Prospero’s isle to articulate the promises of decolonization.


Again, language is a part and parcel of the Caribbean identity. As Firdous Azim says, “Identity of a postcolonial writer is established by the colonizer’s language; and this relationship has the bearing on the emerging sense of nationhood”. In elaboration, the kind of language used by a writer may reflect what kind of community s/he is from, what kind of community s/he wants to identify with, even what kind of audience s/he wants to speak to or write for. After Lamming’s exile to the metropolis of London, he claims: “I am a direct descendant of slaves, too near to the actual enterprise to believe that its echoes are over with the reign of emancipation. Moreover, I am a direct descendant of Prospero worshipping in the same temple of endeavour, using his legacy of language….”


On the one hand, Lamming is a descendant of Caliban who has lost his motherland and mother tongue. In his view, language is the speech, concept, method and of course, the way of creating self identity. In that sense, language is the prison for Caliban because he can only think of going to a certain point, but not beyond. To look back through The Empire Writes Back, slaves for the Caribbean plantations were isolated [where possible] from their common language group and transported and sold in “mixed lots”, as a deliberate means of limiting the possibilities of rebellion. Further, Lamming has related the colonizers’ imposition of language with that of Law and believes that “it is language in this sense which enables Prospero to climb to his throne” (157) and abuse his power. The result was that within one to three generations the only available tongue to the Africans for communication either among themselves or with the master was the European language of that master. This loss of their own ‘voice’ created a sense of their alienation and identity crisis.


On the other hand, Lamming is a descendant of Prospero by manipulating the language of the British because now he can disclose the politics of the colonizers more widely and effectively in English, like Achebe. In other words, by using, wielding, bending and abrogating the English language, he conveys and upholds the Caribbean realities and experiences. He even goes to the extent of saying that “what the West Indians do with it [English language] is their own business” (36). He celebrates the West Indian novelists’ identity by reasserting that they have “contributed to English reading” (44) by writing in English. Ultimately, he has been able to contribute to the elaboration of his national consciousness before the international readers and thus reconstruct the Caribbean identity.


Again, language, for Fanon, is weighted with historical and dialectical tensions that are grounded in the contingencies of power relations and in the existential, material, and psychological underpinnings of racism and colonialism. Speech, for Fanon, implies the relational nature of utterance—”to speak is to exist absolutely for the other … To speak means to be in a position to use certain syntax, to grasp the morphology of this or that language, but it means above all to assume a culture, to support the weight of a civilization”. Language is thus a metonym for culture, and Fanon repeats this proposition in a series of rhetorical gestures that position utterance, culture, and colonization within the orbit of subject formation and colonial identity. In “A Monster, A Child, A Slave” too, Lamming asserts—


This [decolonizing] gift of language is the deepest and most delicate bond of involvement … Prospero has given Caliban language; and with it an unstated history of consequences, an unknown history of future [Lamming’s present] intentions … as a way, a method, a necessary avenue towards areas of the self [Caribbean identity] which could not be reached in any other way … which makes Caliban [Caribbean writers] aware of possibilities.



Again, in “A Way of Seeing”, when Lamming is assertinghis West Indian literary caliber in the Institute of Contemporary Arts in England in 1950, he proves that “Caliban had got hold of Prospero’s weapons and decided that he would never again seek his master’s permission” (63). Lamming as a creator of counter-discourse further claims—


Caliban is no longer nervous … His wish [is] to change the shape of the throne … He tells himself that Prospero doesn’t really want the change to come about … He is a child of the backward glance with recollection of a time when he was not even accorded the right to be angry. He has known what it means to have one’s past appropriated, then languageless as his aboriginal neighbours.



He concludes the chapter with visionary statement that “Prospero’s role is now completely reversed” (85) and Caliban is empowered against the extraterrestrial masters. Thus, the binary power-play between the British colonizers and the colonized West Indian has been deconstructed and reconstructed by Lamming’s counter-discursive allegory. From racial perspective, the white literature that has been significant since the colonial exploration—is echoed, reinterpreted and appropriated as part of a growing assertion of a black-Caribbean-critical identity.


Interpolation is a crucial phenomenon in Lamming’s counter-discursive mission. For instance, by interposing, intervening, and interjecting the ‘dominant discourse’and giving a voice of protest to the subaltern Caliban, Lamming has ‘interpolated’ the influential English discourse—which Ashcroft calls “the initial and essential movement in the process of post-colonial transformation”². Again, Edward Said has an evocative term for this process which he calls “the voyage in”; that is, the conscious effort of peoples from colonized countries to “enter into the discourse of Europe and the West, to mix with it, transform it, to make it acknowledge marginalized or suppressed or forgotten histories” (Culture and Imperialism, 261). Actually, claiming that “English is a West Indian language”, Lamming takes the language as a decolonizing weapon. He resembles Caliban who is at liberty to interpret and use Prospero’s language in his way of resistance.


Selwyn Cudjoe also gives a very clear account of the adaption of the master’s language as an acquisition of cultural capital: “The ability to ‘speak properly’ and to manipulate language has always been of enormous importance to Trinidadians and Tobagonians”. Lamming uses English as a cultural vehicle of resisting colonialism, a medium through which a world audience could be introduced to the features of culturally diverse Caribbean communities. But ironically, when Lamming asserts that “English is a West Indian language”, he seems to acknowledge a legacy of the British Empire.


Prospero’s enslavement of Caliban was established as a key paradigm in colonialist discourse. Hence, the paradigmatic importance of Lamming’s revisionist reading of The Tempest derives from the self-conscious exploration of the filial relationship between European canonical discourses and the construction of the Caribbean subjects as well as the subversive potential of the reading. He has explored the dialectical nature of their master/slave relationship, arguing for a more interactive model of colonial power structures.


By politicized reading and rewriting the characters, the narrative and the context of The Tempest as a counter-discourse, Lamming also anticipates the post-colonial critic’s preoccupation with place and displacement, racism, stereotype representation, hegemony, language, abrogation and appropriation as strategies of cultural decolonization and national reconstruction.He tends to suggest that subversion lies in Caliban’s abrogation and appropriation of Prospero’s language, and the destruction of a binary system of logic in which black is defined by white. He uses the postcolonial interpretation of the play also as the frame within which the themes like colonization, politics of religion, hypocrisy of the whites, capitalism, hybridity, and the Caribbean identity crisis—are injected. He himself says, “it contains and crystallizes all the conflicts which have gone before” (95). This provides him not only an archetypal metaphor for colonialism and slavery, but also an allegorical way of reversing the roles and restructuring—rather than simply rejecting—the ‘realities’ shared by the colonizer and colonized: “The world from which our reciprocal ways of seeing have sprung was once Prospero’s world. It is no longer his. Moreover, it will never be his. It is ours, the legacy of many centuries, demanding of us a new kind of effort, a new kind of sight for viewing the possible horizons of our own century” (203). Thus, it provides a means of interrogating the cultural legacy of imperialism, and offers renewed opportunities for performative intervention. Supriya Nair argues that Lamming’s subversion, as a political struggle, expands the protest of Shakespeare’s Caliban to articulate a reinvention of the Caribbean cultures and identity. Indeed, his deconstruction provides impetus in the resistance to Prospero or colonizer’s fraudulent power and regenerates the Caribbean identity.



Lamming concludes his “Introduction” with—”this book is a report on one man’s way of seeing” (13). From Foucault’s idea of ‘gaze’, we can deduce that The Pleasures of Exile is about Lamming’s way of perceiving the Caribbean identities—how the world sees them and they see or should see themselves, how their identity is constructed by canonical discourses and how they are affected by that in the world etc. But since his report is based on a single vision or perspective, his innovation of the Caribbean identity is subjective and relative to particular times and spaces. So he cannot demand absolute authenticity or universality. Yet he deserves authority to assert it for being a Caribbean eyewitness. In fact, the history of the Caribbean has been perpetually marked by the annihilation of natives, diaspora, after-effects of conquest, slavery, repression, colonialism and resistance; thus hindering their historical and cultural continuity. Subsequently it resulted in what is commonly referred to as the ‘melting pot’ situation that brought people of myriad cultural and linguistic backgrounds together without the real cohesion what could unify them. Therefore, they suffer from identity crisis. Still, the memory of alienation, dislocation, indignity, loss and dispossession of cultural base create a kind of self-awareness—which might have inspired Lamming to exile for re(dis)covering the Caribbean identity, for “learning to be a [dignified] Caribbean person” (Personal Interview).  In The Pleasures of Exile, he explores new visions and meanings of the Caribbean experiences, and attempts his historical sketch of the nation’s identity. He writes from a point of view inside a historical process, and awareness is all. He also dismantles the facts of—how people born in this Third World are frequently victimized as the descendants of sub-human species by the First world ideology, discourses, and the politics of racial myths; being filled with a sense of fear, insecurity, inferiority and so on—leading to identity crisis. His stance is that—by relooking, upholding and celebrating the Caribbean history and by counter-discursive writings against canonical discourses like The Tempest, they can fight back the alienation and racial antagonism, and reconstruct the sense of their nationalistic identity.


In this article, the researcher has tried to prove that the colonial discourses have constructed the Caribbean identity with lots of negative myths throughout centuries to sustain their colonial ‘civilizing mission’. So Lamming’s ever creative instinct drives him to “choose a way to change the meaning and perspective of this ancient tyranny” (229). Thus, The Pleasures of Exile seeks to deconstruct significations of authority and power exercised in a canonical text The Tempest, to release its stranglehold on allegorical representation of the Caribbean and, by implication, to intervene in hegemonic conditioning of their identity. His message is for those Caribbean who suffer from identity crises in different contexts. His quest is to stimulate the Caribbean consciousness to assess their history, culture and identity not through the gaze of others, as W.E.B.Du Boise’s “Double-Consciousness” alerts, but to justify from the Caribbean perspectives. He emphasizes counter-discourse’s potential to define national culture, and the need for a distinguished Caribbean literature against canonical discourse. Furthermore, in order to create nationalism among the Caribbean, he enables the Caribbean to transcend their history of humiliation, and recreates the Caribbean history of resistance by revisioning it from pre-colonial state to the emergence of decolonization in 1960s. It is remarkable that on the way to discover the identity of the black Caribbean, he has uncovered the camouflaged identity of the white Europeans and Americans. Finally he clarifies his objective that “this book … is directed to my generation throughout the Caribbean, irrespective of language, race or political status” (225). Since he has assessed the Caribbean from both inside and outside the region, born in West Indies and exiled in London, like Rushdie’s “Imaginary Homelands”, he is privileged to represent the Caribbean identity. Finally, the researcher would like to put forward that—by dismantling the textual unconscious of The Tempest as a poststructuralist critic and rejecting the stereotype identities created by other legitimizing imperial discourses, The Pleasures of Exile functions as a counter-discursive signifier of the post-colonial Caribbean’s metamorphosis into some cross-cultural identities, identities that are experienced between the Caribbean and the West.






¹ Mead and Campbell. Eds, Shakespeare’s Books: Contemporary Cultural Politics and the Persistence of Empire (1993).


² Bill Ashcroft’s Post-colonial Transformation: Interpolation.


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