Summary (Masterplots II: British and Commonwealth Fiction Series)
In The Mimic Men, V. S. Naipaul, employing the confessional narrative method, follows the career of Ralph Singh, a colonial official exiled from the small Caribbean island of Isabella.
The story is divided into three parts, the first of which begins with Singh, already disgraced in exile, sitting in his room at a London boardinghouse. At forty, he reflects upon the events of his career, contemplating “the shipwreck which all my life I had sought to avoid.” Chronologically, Singh’s remembrances are untidy, beginning as they do with his years as a young man in London. Before his public, Singh deliberately takes on the role of an affluent colonial dandy; inwardly, he is anxious and aimless. Following many frivolous affairs, he meets and marries Sandra, a woman disappointed owing to her humble origins and her failure to win a university scholarship. Singh returns to Isabella with Sandra, using his inheritance to build Kripalville, a posh suburb. Success and riches do not prevent the resurrection of old anxieties about life on an obscure island composed of the sons of slaves. Both Singh and Sandra sense the shapelessness of Isabellan society and experience “a feeling of having been flung off the world.”
The second part of the novel, which describes Singh’s childhood, exposes the source of the aimlessness which torments his family. At home, Singh lives under the shadow of a disaffected father, whose career as a schoolteacher...
(The entire section is 473 words.)
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