Compare Miss Cleothilda and Sylvia in how they handle alienation, loss, and identity in The Dragon Can’t Dance by Earl Lovelace.

In The Dragon Can't Dance, Miss Cleothilda contrasts with Sylvia in age and maturity, and in resources and power. As the “queen,” Cleothilda feels both well-connected and superior to the local community because of her racial distinction and the control she exerts. Sylvia, who is a teenager early in the novel, strives to escape poverty. Loss is connected with the break in her relationship with Aldrick, whereas she sees a union with Guy as the path to upward mobility.

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Earl Lovelace’s novel The Dragon Can’t Dance offers Miss Cleothilda and Sylvia as two very different female characters. The contrast between them is most obvious in terms of age and maturity, with Cleothilda being the senior woman and Sylvia, as the novel begins, only seventeen years old. Significant distinctions...

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Earl Lovelace’s novel The Dragon Can’t Dance offers Miss Cleothilda and Sylvia as two very different female characters. The contrast between them is most obvious in terms of age and maturity, with Cleothilda being the senior woman and Sylvia, as the novel begins, only seventeen years old. Significant distinctions between them are related to their different points in life, as Cleothilda has amassed enough resources to exercise considerable power in the Calvary Hill community.

Known as the queen of the carnival, the older woman takes delight in manipulating others, with the assistance of guy. Cleothilda espouses an egalitarian ideology of collective unity as she claims that they are all one, but her sense of alienation is embedded in superiority that stems in part from her mulatto racial identity. She fears loss of power as represented through the intrusion of the Indians into the neighborhood.

Sylvia, who is both beautiful and perceptive, has watched other girls her age succumb to male sexual advances and, once pregnant, have limited opportunities to escape poverty. Her ambition to achieve a better economic status involves separating herself from that typical pattern. However, the loss of innocence accompanies the material gains she makes. While she is drawn to Aldrick, his obsession with the dragon role plays a divisive role in their relationship. Nevertheless, his imprisonment and absence from her life is a definite loss. Her engagement to Guy brings a shift in identity as she imagines their future marriage as a path to the upward mobility and financial security she craves.

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