What are the main themes in the novel Miguel Street?

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Miguel Street is a fictional work by author V. S. Naipaul. The book consists of seventeen short stories that portray the lives of characters who live on Miguel Street. The narrator, an unnamed, precocious boy, is a keen observer of the society around him. Miguel Street is a dramatization of life in the slums of Port of Spain in Trinidad. The society of Trinidad is emerging out of a past of slavery and colonialism. The theme of the novel reflects the social and political problems that arise during this transitional phase.

V. S. Naipaul illustrates a sense of escapism on Miguel Street. For example, Popo escapes to drinking after his wife deserts him, and Elias seeks religion as an escape from his tyrannical father. The author demonstrates that those who do not break free from their illusory lives become perpetual failures.

Naipaul discusses the theme of male chauvinism and dominance, as well. On Miguel Street, women bear the sole responsibility of bringing up children. For example, Laura has a world record of having eight children from different fathers, all of whom are absent.

Naipaul also explores the theme of estrangement and non-attachment. Broken families are a norm. For example, Toni runs away with another person's wife, in search of a better life.

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If you are thinking about the main theme of the novel, you have to look at the narrator and how he develops through the novel and the lessons he learns from this community which is the subject of this work.

In many ways the narrator learns about the values of this community - values which the community shares in common and which have a moral basis rather than a legal one. Legalistic values don't seem to have too strong a place in this community - no one thinks any worse of someone if they have a prison sentence, and sometimes it can make them a hero, as with Popo.

The street very definitely has its own standards which it enforces. There are numerous examples of behaviour which is not endorsed by the street as a whole: the cruelty of George towards his children and his forcing his daughter into a marriage, the beating that Mrs. Hereira's lover gives her etc. Compssion, dignity and endurance are the triumphs of Miguel Street - in comparison with the worldly successes that we tend to focus on. The lessons that the narrator learns are self-respect, beauty and imagination - perhaps the latter is the key lesson, as it is with imagination that the inhabitants of Miguel Street are able to accept each other and also the possibilities which each day brings.

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