British Control of the Caribbean and Its Allusion in Caribbean Literature
The British have influenced the perspective of the Caribbean people in
many ways. The people's self awareness, religion, language, and culture has
coped with the influx of British ideals and in coping, the people have changed
to appease the islands' highly influential British population. Three excepts
highly influenced by the British ideals are "Crick Crack Monkey" by Merle Hodge,
"My Aunt Gold Teeth" by V. S. Naipaul, and "If I could Write This in Fire, I
Would Write This in Fire" by Michelle Cliff. All three excepts show the among
the people of the islands, whether native or foreign. In examining the three
passages, each author presents a unique perspective. Hodge's story is
presented through the eyes of a black , lower class girl of Trinidad in the
1950s. Naipaul uses an unidentified East Indian boy to tell his story. A young
white girl becomes the narrator of cliff's excerpt. By using Cliff's
perspective to examine the perspective of the other two passages. A unique
interpretation of the British influence on the Caribbean people develops.
Friction among people of different color is clearly displayed within the
writings; However, looking at the story of "Crick Crack Monkey" through the eyes
of a young white girl, rather than a young black girl, the reader might see the
injustice and the ethnic discrimination that a black person must endure. She
would not be accustomed to being called a "little black nincompoop" (Hodge 457),
and she would most likely not have to suffer a physical beating with a ruler
(Hodge 456). In Lady Aunt Gold Teeth, the issue of color is evident through
the aunt's religious affiliation. Changing the color of the narrator in My Aunt
Gold Teeth might make a difference in the way the person perceives their aunt.
For example, the narrator says, "I was rather ashamed at the exhibition" (Na
463), when his aunt appears to have "got the spirit" (CS 462). The Indian boy
is probably more ashamed of the aunt's reference to "Hail Mary" than her
physical exhibition. From the perspective of a white Anglican child at that
time, the behavior of the aunt would be acceptable and understandable, but for
the Indian boy, brought up on Hinduism, such actions would seem foreign and
confusing. Racism is evident in the writings by Caribbean authors, and their
intent to expose the British as the perpetrators of the racism is also apparent
when looking at it through a white girl's perspective.
Religious confusion is another result of the British occupation in the
Caribbean. Both Hodge and Naipaul use their writing to expose the problems
Caribbean people experience with religion. The influence of the church is made
apparent in the writings by all three authors. A striking example can be
found on page 455 in Hodge's story "Crick Crack Monkey". The narrator of the
story tells how the students made "sound" at the beginning and at end of each
class period. The "sound" were the classic English "Our Father", the children
did not understand the words. The children just memorized the sounds and not
the actual meaning. Hodge writes the sound Mrs. Hind attempt to redeem the
children; however, this is in the perspective of a adult looking back at her
childhood, at the time the "Our Father" was just sound. Another example,
"every Sunday afternoon Tantie dressed Toddan and me and sent us to the
Pentecost Sunday-school in preference to that of the Anglican church" (Hodge
455); however, in school "under Mrs. Hind's direction we would recite Children
of the Empire Ye Are Brothers All" (Hodge 454). Hodge wrote of both religious
experiences to show the confusion that the children were undergoing, In the
other passage by Naipaul, a similar confusion exists. "Aunt Gold Teeth" is
confused by the barrage of propaganda by the various religious groups, and
"every day her religious schizophrenia gr[ows]" (Naipaul 459). In trading the
narrators' perspectives, one can assume the young white girl would react
differently to the situation than the Indian boy. Assuming the white girl
believes in Christianity, she would probably be happy, rather than confused,
about the aunt's conversion in faith. The authors clearly show the people's
confusion with religion, and in the process, they show the problem lies in the
people's lack of self-awareness.
In "My Aunt Gold Teeth", Aunt Gold Teeth saw religion as a form of power
(Naipaul 458). She was very powerful in her Hindu religion. Aunt Gold Teeth
sought other religions to gain even more power. Naipaul writes of Ganesh and
his successes in his profession for one major reason (461). Ganesh is
successful because, he is willing to incorporate many faiths in his work.
Naipaul used Ganesh to show Aunt Gold Teeth the power in "using" different
faiths. Simply put, Ganesh was just wood for the varied religious fire that
Aunt Gold Teeth was building.
A inadequacy in education unifies all three excerpts, and in doing so,
it naturally focuses attention on the politics of the Caribbean islands involved
in the passages. An obvious example of the education and political problems
occur in the "Crick Crack Monkey" when Mr. Thomas says, "I tell yu I ain' have
no more room in ABC" (Hodge 451). This indicates a lack of educational
facilities, and it also shows that the educators are not properly educated. At
the time the story was written, Britain still occupied the island of Trinidad,
and therefore, they should have been responsible for the education of all people.
Naipaul also shows the deficiency in education through an indirect method.
"The District Medical officer at Chaguanas said it was [Ramprasad had] diabetes,
but "Aunt Gold Teeth knew... ...her religious transgression was the cause"
(Naipaul 459). The lack of common sense shows the extent of the education
problems. Looking at the situation through the perspective of the white girl in
Cliff's story, a totally different picture would unfold. For if Gold Teeth
received an education equivalent to a white person, she would be able to discern
that her change in religion would not affect her husbands health. Caribbean
writers clearly express the inadequacies in the education system, and the
problems can be traced to the British occupancy.
A final affect the British had on the people of the Caribbean was the
loss of their identity, and the lack of personal identity is express throughout
their literature. For instance in crick Crack Monkey, the story talks of black
children looking at pictures of "children with yellow hair kneeling with their
hands clasped and their faces upturned toward some kind of sun that had one fat
ray coming down at them" (CS 457). In teaching Christianity to the black
children, the British gave the children a warped concept of their identity, and
as the narrator states, "I had a pretty good idea of what kind of a place Glory
must bell (CS 457). Looking at the situation through the white girl's
perspective in Cliff's excerpt, no loss of self-identity would occur with a
white girl in a similar situation. In "My Aunt Gold Teeth", a similar loss of
identity occurs when Aunt Gold Teeth cannot accept the Hindu religion (CS 459).
The concept of loosing individual identity is a consist theme used by Caribbean
authors, and it is directly associated with the British occupation.
With "Crick Crack Monkey", Hodge was showing the confusion of childhood
in the Caribbean. The first day of school was not as simple as packing of lunch
and walking to school. There was a long drawn out confusing process to find a
school. When a school finally starts, it is as if the children were in another
country with different beliefs and cultures. Hodge used Caribbean slang to
confuse the read, to better show the confusion of the child and to show the
differences between school and at home. On page 456 the narrater is confused
about something that was said at school. When the narrater recalls the
situation she switch to slang thus slightly throwing the reader off and
A myriad of problems are left from the British control in the Caribbean,
and these problems are consistently alluded to in Caribbean literature.
Problems with racism, religion, education, identity, and many others exist in
Caribbean culture right now. However, as the British have slow exited the
Caribbean scene, the U.S. has increased it's presence in the Caribbean due to
the strategic location of the islands. The influx of people is politically and
economically activated. Without the outside world and the confusion it brings
with it, the Caribbean would economically collapse, and with the intrusion of
the outside world, the Caribbean people become confused with their identity's.
Perhaps one day the vicious circle will be solved, but until then, Caribbean
writers will keep fighting for the justice their people deserve.