One important postcolonial theoretical concept that Homi Bhabha developed is mimicry. This concept is highly appropriate to use in a critical evaluation of Derek Walcott’s epic poem Omeros. Because the characterization and key themes of Omeros are tightly connected to Homer’s Odyssey, one readily discerns the influence of classical Western literature on Walcott’s contribution to a significant body of Caribbean literature. At the same time, Walcott creates a work that is unique to his West Indian heritage, including the contributions of his enslaved African ancestors.
Homi Bhabha has argued that colonialism places an inescapable burden on colonized peoples, who must constantly struggle to develop their own cultural and national legacies in the face of constant suppression. Even as they worked to express individual and collective identity, colonized peoples were always in the position of having to adapt to the colonizer’s beliefs and cultural forms; prominent among these are language and literary genres. Whether they consisted primarily of accommodation or appropriation, such processes were inevitable, because the colonizer dominated education.
A strong component of nationalist, independence movements was often the indigenous and enslaved peoples’ reclaiming of diverse dimensions of their heritage. Even as they resisted by using their own cultural traditions, the systematic suppression of those features still required them to incorporate—and often elevate—foreign modes of expression.
Omeros, the character, is clearly a manifestation of Homer himself, a blind bard who chronicles his people’s exploits. The characters of Helen, Achille, and Hector are Saint Lucian versions of those who appear in Homer’s telling of the Trojan War. Walcott also uses the colonizer’s language, English. Yet Walcott does not directly transplant the classical, Mediterranean situation into a modern, Caribbean setting. He shows the importance of African influence on Achille’s identity as he reconnects with his African origin as Afolabe. He also confronts the complexities of British colonialism through the character of Major Plunkett, who becomes obsessed with Helen.