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Identity and home in three Caribbean authors

Hira, Harbhajan S.
The search for identity is a major theme in modern literature. It is particularly prevalent in societies that have historically been colonized where the colonizer has sabotaged the values of the colonized that are at the root of identity formation. These values, as a result, have weakened and the colonized has been obliged to partially draw upon the values of the colonizer to construe a self. The situation has foisted unequal relations on colonizer and colonized, with the former being on top of the hierarchy. The disparity has given rise to colonial difference that defines the existence of the colonized. The writers from the colonies variously employ colonial difference, and the condition of the colonized it engenders, to explore communal and personal identities in their works. Within their explorations, they may emphasize various concerns - social, political, psychological, or personal - as they go about searching for a new self. This dissertation first lays out the psychosocial base of identity as social norms and values play a decisive role in the forging of self. It then uses this base to discuss how identity and home manifest themselves in the selected works of three Caribbean writers, whereby home encompasses both a material and metaphorical entity. George Lamming uses colonial difference to explore the reorganization of a Barbadian community in In the Castle of My Skin (1953). He underscores a social revolution in his search for a new identity. Vidiadhar S. Naipaul traces the cultural reorientation of indentured sugar laborers from India in A House for Mr. Biswas (1961). His emphasis falls on psychological confusion and cultural syncretism as he explores the dynamics of a new identity for his subjects. The Mimic Men (1967), another novel by Naipaul, concentrates on self-identity of its protagonist, who feels that colonial difference has diminished his existence to mimicking the values of the colonizer. Finally, Derek Walcott uses difference as a discrete cultural value, on which he bases a multicultural self for his characters in his epic poem, Omeros (1990). Social intermingling in the poem occurs along multiple axes of difference - including social, racial, and geographical difference.