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Beka Lamb is the story of two friends, Beka and Toycie. It is also the story of Belize and its struggle towards independence. More than anything, it is the story of the struggle of the Creoles to carve out a place for themselves in Belizean society, economically, politically and socially. Both Beka and Toycie's angst-ridden young lives mirror the painful birth pangs of a young country on the verge of change.
During the 1950's, Belizean society was mostly made up of seven ethnic groups: Bakras, Expatriates, Panias, Creoles, Maya, Caribs and Coolies.Through the lives of its characters, the novel brings out the struggle between those who want to continue as a British colony (priding themselves on living in the only English-speaking country in Central America), and those who would prefer a return to Spanish influence. The story centres around Beka and Toycie, two Creole girls who attend Catholic school. Both girls are repeatedly warned by the nuns never to get pregnant. The traditional culture of Belize apportions men and women their respective roles in life. Both Beka and Toycie try to take the nuns' warnings about getting pregnant to heart as they do not want to end up like many Creole women who live in extreme poverty, with no husbands, poor job prospects, and no education to better theirs and their children's circumstances in life. Sadly, Toycie falls pregnant by young Emilio, whose family is Pania. Panias have a higher position in Belizean society than the Creoles, and he refuses to marry Toycie. On top of this, Toycie is expelled from the Catholic school while Emilio is not. Now, she is living the nightmare she has been warned about. Ironically, the name of the school she is expelled from is The Sisters Of Charity. Toycie is eventually committed to the Belize Mental asylum;after wandering off during a hurricane, she dies when her skull is crushed by a falling mango tree.
Toycie and Beka's story represents the struggles of a nation chafing under British rule and the struggle to determine the best course of action for Belizean society. Within families, the political divide threatens to shatter the peace and comfort of Belizean citizens. While Beka's parents want Belize to stay under British rule, Beka's Granny Ivy want Belize to turn back to its Spanish roots. Belize was a Spanish colony before the British drove the Spanish out of Belize. Although the school which Toycie and Beka attend represents Spanish colonial rule (the Spanish Catholics dominated the education system in Belize), it is Beka's win in the essay contest which highlights for us the turning point in the story: Belize moves forward to claim its independence from British rule and Beka realizes that she does not have to be stuck in the same poverty cycle of destitution and despair. Belize's independence is recognized by the British in 1981 and Guatemala, which had laid claims to Belizean land since the 1800's, also recognizes Belizean independence in 1991. Today, Belize is a British commonwealth state, with its own elected Prime Minister and the Queen of England as the Head of State.
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I think the book was overall about racial prejudice in society. Also, each chapter of the book seemed to build up on different plots and conflicts, which made the book very interesting. I think that these plots each introduced some important values, for example self-confidence, the importance of manners, the importance of understanding societal prejudice, and such.
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