Derek Walcott

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Provide an analysis of “Tales of the Islands” by Derek Walcott.

Quick answer:

“Tales of the Islands” can be analyzed in terms of its irregular rhyme scheme, haunting imagery, or its relationship to normative narrative techniques.

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An analysis of “Tales of the Islands” could center on the form of Derek Walcott’s poem. One might discuss how the ten chapters are like islands in themselves. They’re distinct stanzas or, figuratively speaking, pieces of land. Sticking with form, one could analyze how the irregular rhyme schemes of certain chapters reinforce the particular events that the speaker witnesses. Sometimes, as in chapter 5 and chapter 6, Walcott incorporates a more consistent rhyme scheme. In other places, like in chapter 11, the rhymes seem sudden.

It’s also possible to analyze why Walcott chose to present the stanzas as chapters. Chapters are typically found in narratives. Perhaps Walcott is trying to tell a story. As with stories, there are characters. There’s Miss Rossignol, a fisherman, a mother, and a dying man who transforms into an Alsatian hound. Similar to stories, the characters are filled out. For instance, one learns about Miss Rossignol and her disquieting relationship with Catholicism. Additionally, there appears to be a narrator. The I might be Walcott. In real life, Walcott was born on the island of St. Lucia.

Conversely, one could analyze the poem not as a collection of stories but as a group of images. There’s the image of Walcott coming across a Sancta Teresa, of Cosimo’s boardinghouse, the fete, and so on. Many of these images have a ghostly quality, which ties back to the haunting, often unpredictable rhyme scheme.

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