The Rage of Derek Walcott: Introduction

Heather M. Bradley, Washington and Lee University

"The rage of Achille at being misunderstood" mirrors Derek Walcott's frustration with his divided heritage (298). Walcott's ancestral ties to Africa and Britain force the poet to straddle the cultural divide that results from the union of the captive and the captor. "A Far Cry from Africa," a poem published in 1962, focuses on Walcott's racial and cultural consternation. The poem highlights the paradoxical problem of recognizing the individual cultural components of one's heritage without compromising the singular identity that their mixture creates. In the epic poem, Omeros (1990), Walcott continues to struggle with his hybridity and attempts to pacify the different cultural forces commanding his loyalties. The main vehicle in the poet's search for identity appears in the figure of Achille. Achille's relationship with Helen and the conflicts which stem from it provide a means for Walcott to resolve his questions about the correct expression of a hybrid identity. The quests of Achille and the "I" allow Walcott to contemplate his African and British inheritances, respectively. Walcott writes an "epic of the dispossessed" which celebrates the Caribbean culture and at the same time resolves the questions that plague the poet in "A Far Cry from Africa" (Hamner 143). Walcott looks for a common ground between the African and the British cultures which are not united in his identity.

[The set of interlinked essays derives from a paper originally written in 1997 for Professor Suzanne Keen's English 350 at Washington and Lee University.

[Postimperial] [Derek Walcott] Themes [Politics]