[Caribbean Literature]

The Father of the Center

Part Five of The Double and the Center

David P. Lichtenstein '99, Brown University, Contributing Editor, Caribbean Web

Caryl Phillips sums up the traditional center best in his portrayal of Father, the white, colonial, wealthy estate owner who remains conspicuously absent throughout Cambridge. Father, through his oppression of Emily (witness his decision to marry her off against her will to a wealthy older man), his general low opinion of women (saying that "sensible men should only trifle with these children of a larger growth (4)"), and even his absentee estate ownership, captures the abused power and privilege of the colonial center. But snide remarks such as

And what of Father, no doubt deep in his cups at the Planter's club in London...I can only assume that a romantic liaison with some vulgar cockneyess will provide him with his Christmas supper (127).

along with Phillips' refusal to allow him to actually enter the novel, force the center as Father represents it to lose its sway. In the text, it actually disappears as Emily seems to have foregone all thoughts of returning to England or to Father at the novel's conclusion. Subtly too, the oppressive nature of the center has infected those who live at the periphery. For Emily, with her poor treatment of the black slaves, and Cambridge, with his "Christian" possession and domination of his second wife Christiania, both contain in themselves the position of the conqueror. Thus Phillips continuest to suggest that all characters possess these evil tendencies, and even more importantly proves the binary categories of other/colonized vs. colonizer, white vs. black, far more fluid than previously believed.

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