Summary (Masterplots II: African American Literature, Revised Edition)
The Wine of Astonishment is the story of the struggle of a Spiritual Baptist community, from the passing of the Prohibition Ordinance in 1917 until the lifting of the ban in 1951. It is told by one of the members of the church. Eva begins her narrative of the trials and sufferings of those of the Spiritual Baptist faith with the notion that there is a purpose behind it all.
The only hope for the villagers of Bonasse, as they see it, lies in Ivan Morton, a teacher turned politician, the new man in the legislative council of the country. They would like Morton to intervene on their behalf to lift the ban so that they can be free to worship in the way that they choose. Morton disappoints them and reveals his loyalty when he abandons the “house that his father build with his own two hands.” With his wife, he leaves the village, taking nothing, to live in the big house “on top of Bonasse hill looking over the sea and the whole village.” The house, which some say is haunted, has itself been abandoned by the Richardsons, colonials who have returned to England.
Meanwhile, the village undergoes significant changes with the coming of the war. An American base is established in the country, resulting in prostitution and the corruption of the youth. At the same time, the Spiritual Baptists suffer persecution at the hands of the police and government. At the center of this harassment is the cruel and relentless Corporal Prince, whom Bolo,...
(The entire section is 592 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots II: British and Commonwealth Fiction Series)
Eva’s opening meditation begins in medias res as she describes her husband Bee’s frustration from the lack of change that has occurred since Ivan Morton’s election to the Legislative Council in 1946. The immediate occasion of Bee’s inner turmoil is Morton’s failure to lift a ban on the manner in which Bee’s church, the Spiritual Baptist Church, conducts its worship services. Eva, from her first-person limited omniscient point of view, describes Bee as “a spider trap in its web,” a man powerless to force a change in the laws that would allow his congregation to worship according to their traditional practices of hand-clapping, bell-ringing, shouting, and speaking in tongues. Bee, once tolerant of change, now feels betrayed; he has worked tirelessly for Morton’s victory in the elections, believing that the educated voice for self-determination would convince the British colonial government to lift the ban.
Morton, however, has denied his blackness, his origins, and the support of the people who elected him. Although from a Spiritual Baptist family, Morton converted to Catholicism in order to gain admission to college. The British administration on the island sanctions only Catholicism and Anglicanism, suppressing the “heathen” indigenous religious practices. In Morton’s rise to power on the Council, he has catered only to the most powerful of his constituents, ignoring the peasantry to which he owes his victory. When Bee confronts...
(The entire section is 1407 words.)