Response #4

Alicia O’Connor

Professor Steven Alvarez

English 391W

12 April 2011

The Loss of Identity in a Postcolonial Nation: The Effects of Colonialism on Subjugated People in Derek Walcott’s Omeros

Derek Walcott’s Omeros captures the struggle of the St. Lucian people forced to live in a world now alien to them. They feel estranged from their own homeland due to the influences and changes forced upon them by invading countries. These outside countries not only bring with them tourism and financial agendas, but also violate the indigenous people by destroying their way of life. The experience of a woman named Helen, whose predicament easily represents or reflects all of the resident people of St. Lucia, reveals how St. Lucian people lose their culture and identity. In his article, “Colonialism and the Desiring Machine,” Robert Young uses a capitalist analysis to describe and connect to the postcolonial dilemma that exploited nations, such as St. Lucia, face. Walcott depicts the affects of colonialism that Young discusses with his images about Helen and St. Lucia when he writes:

She was selling herself like the island, without

any pain, and the village did not seem to care

that it was dying in its change, the way it whored

away a simple life that would soon disappear […] (Walcott 111)

Helen and the island of St. Lucia itself both sell themselves to the dominant Western civilization that infiltrates their community. As Young explains in his article, “Colonialism and the Desiring Machine,” the colonizers have reduced Helen and St. Lucia to “the abstract value of money” (82). They emerge from this degrading reduction “deterritorialized” (Young 82) by the colonizers, or taken out of all of their previous conceptualizations. Whatever Helen did before, or whoever she identified herself as, has been taken apart and “reterritorialze[d]” (Young 82) in monetary means for her oppressors. The island itself went through a similar experience, resulting in a “reterritorialize[d]” nation under the influence of the invaders who “do away with the institutions and cultures that have already been developed” (Young 82). Helen’s culture and identity, and inevitably the culture and identity of all of the people of St. Lucia, ends up fading away. The native people of the island and everything their identity hinges upon ends up “dying in its change”. The fact that the local people “did not seem to care” does not come from a heartless place, but a hopeless one. Playing the role that their oppressors allow them to develops into their only way to survive in this new environment. Their most stable and secure option remaining demands that they cater to the dominant group who holds power over them. Furthermore, the people of St. Lucia have gone through a process of  “deculturation and acculturation”.  They have not just simply turned their backs on their culture, but their culture faced obliteration and died out, resulting in a new way of life that they must adapt to and follow. As the epics main character, Philoctete, so vigorously states, the people of St. Lucia know how it feels to live “without roots in this world” (Walcott 21).

Works Cited

Walcott, Derek. Omeros. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1990. Print.

Young, Robert J. C. “Colonialism and the Desiring Machine.” Postcolonial Discourses: An Anthology. Ed. Gregory Castle. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Ltd, 2001. 73-98. Print.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

5 Responses to Response #4

  1. salvarez says:

    Nice Job with the integration of theory. I think the term deterritorialization/reterrotialization came from the French theorist Delueze. I could be wrong though. You could find the person who coined the term on wikipedia. That might be another important critical source for you to think about in order to use more of that kind of critical vocabulary.

    The “desiring machine” is certainly from Deleuze and Gatari. Post-structural/post-colonial analyses of the Lit. That’s a great move: and several of your classmates are also following similar lines of criticism.

    How does the situation in St. Lucia relate to an Americas conception of post-colonies. All the nations of the Americas were (and some still are) part of European empires. Most gained independence, following the USA.

    I would also make sure you have a good definition of the critical terms you’ll be using, in case your audience hasn’t read the same critical texts. This could also mean going to the OED to get the terms and some alternatives to definitions. Then you could even come up with your own. I’m still not sure how reterritorialized is being used here . . . but that would be something to go into detail more in a theory section of your final project.

    I gave you 4 points for the response, and I’ll give you the last point after you respond to your classmates in your work-group. I’ll be sending you a list of names of people in your class to respond to their “Response 4”. I’ll give you the last point after you respond to them.

    4/5 points

  2. salvarez says:

    Alicia, the members of your group are Ashley Oros and Victoria Hyun. You three are talented writers, and I hope you all can get some good ideas from one another. Please respond to each of their response 4 posts found here: Ashley, http://ashk.qwriting.qc.cuny.edu/response-4/ and Victoria, http://vhyun.qwriting.qc.cuny.edu/response-4/

    so I can give you the last point for your response 4.

  3. Alicia, I enjoyed reading your response because it gave me some new perspectives on colonialism.

    I found it interesting that you chose to analyze Omeros economically through a capitalist analysis. I think this critical lens allows us to see the seriousness of the effects of colonialism… that it reduces the colonized people to the “abstract value of money.” I also liked the idea that you introduced that the change that the colonizers brought over to St. Lucia caused the native people to “fade away” to a state of hopelessness and more or less “just going with the flow.” This idea reminds me of a part of Ashley’s response where she cites the example of Rocky… how he abandoned his Native American roots in order to “succeed” in the “modern” white world. It further reminds me of the idea of “the Man” that we looked at in Mumbo Jumbo.

    The last quotation you used from Omeros is powerful because the image of roots helps to further illustrate the points you made in your response. When the colonizers brought “change” to St. Lucia, it was as if they had “uprooted” the people from their own soil, and left them there to die… which is why “the people of St. Lucia know how it feels to live ‘without roots in this world’.”

  4. ashoros says:

    Alicia, I like the way you broke down the quote from Walcott’s Omeros here and applied the theories of deterritorialization and reterritorialization to the text.
    Deleuze and Guatarri go in depth with the explanation of these theories. Also, as I remember from a previous course (Post-Colonial Protest Lit.), the colonizer is not the only party that can reterritorialize a ‘place’ or ‘people’; the conquered, colonized or ‘subaltern’ can do the same. A territory and culture taken from colonized people and replaced with the culture of the colonizer can also be redefined by the colonized through the re-assertion of their native culture or creation of a new one – as long as it’s their own. I can see how this applies to Helen toward the end of Omeros when she has enough of the tourist objectification of her body.

    I like what you wrote about Helen being ‘reterritorialzed’ “in monetary means for her oppressors” because this implicates her as an object without human identity of her own (to colonizers at least). Following with the idea of reterritorialization, is it possible that a culture can truly die out or is there possibility for cultural revitalization whether it’s an old, native culture or a hybrid of sorts (possibly creole here)? This makes me think of Victoria’s ideas of the difference between what’s considered “primitive” and “modern.” Can both modern and primitive cultures be a form of reterritorialization and in what ways? I like your closing statement of people “living without roots” as well and it’s possible they can reclaim them or create identities of their own.

  5. salvarez says:

    5 points for your response 4–sorry for the delay, I don’t know how I forgot to post this. I had you down for 5 already, but I must have not submitted the comment.

    You have some good advice from your classmates here, very thoughtful comments. I’m sure they thank you for your comments as well. I suggest also taking a look at Sarah Jang’s and Victoria Bello’s response 5’s for some thoughts similar to your own.

Comments are closed.