The Dragon Can’t Dance is the story of the existence of the people of Calvary Hill and the culture they create in the process of surviving. The novel is episodic, with a greater emphasis on character portrayal than on story line. Earl Lovelace uses a prologue to focus on those special elements that are responsible for and are manifestations of the culture of the Hill’s inhabitants.
The Hill attracts people from throughout Trinidad, who are quickly absorbed into the life and culture of the Hill, except the East Indian Pariag and his wife, Dolly. Carnival, a festival marked by steel band and calypso music, totally transforms the Hill and its occupants, so that even a snob like Miss Cleothilda can claim “All o’ we is one.” The time is the late 1950’s, a period marked by violent clashes between the politicized steel bands and between toughs known as “bad johns.” In this environment, Fisheye and the other bad johns assert their manhood and act out the aggression that colonialism has nurtured in them. Aldrick uses his Carnival dragon costume to threaten and intimidate.
All this is not to last, however; sponsorship and commercialism step in. The steel bands are quieted down, and their warriors are “emasculated.” Fisheye is asked to behave, and when he refuses, he is thrown out of his band. Aldrick’s dragon is unable to dance, Philo gives up on his “calypsos of rebellion,” and Carnival, once an expression of...
(The entire section is 553 words.)