Who is "City" in Texaco?

In Texaco, "City" is Fort-de-France. Fort-de-France is, as the name implies, a city. Yet the characters talk about it as if it were a person. That is, City is often described as someone might describe a human. It's personified. City is violent, oppressive, abusive, and neglectful. It doesn’t care about Texaco, which, as one of the story’s many voices says, is “helpless.”

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City is not technically a character in Patrick Chamoiseau’s novel Texaco . Literally, City is not a person. It’s a place. It is an actual city named Fort-de-France on the French island of Martinique. Although, it’s not wrong to think of City as a character. The people in the...

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City is not technically a character in Patrick Chamoiseau’s novel Texaco. Literally, City is not a person. It’s a place. It is an actual city named Fort-de-France on the French island of Martinique. Although, it’s not wrong to think of City as a character. The people in the story discuss City like it’s a person. They talk about it like it has the traits and personality of a human being.

Think about the Christmas episode near the end of the book. There’s a disagreement about where some bikes are parked. The row leads to shots and a much bigger conflagration. Oppressed people come from all over Martinique to “bellow their suffering and strike down all the hard luck City had imposed on them.”

The above is a specific instance in which City is viewed as a person. It’s a distinct entity with the power to cause hardship. It’s like the city is an unjust dictator or a bigoted ruler. Of course, City is not literally either of those things, yet, at the same time, it wouldn’t be off base for you to talk about City as those things.

Another example of City's personification is the Drifter section that comes a little while after the Christmas episode. This part’s narrator writes:

I no longer knew how to face City’s rejection. The town council cared for the older quarters, forgetting us. Texaco was not even a quarter, we were on no map, no road sign.

The juxtaposition of City and Texaco further the idea that City is like this repressive, neglectful, uncaring leader. City doesn’t even officially acknowledge Texaco’s existence. If City and Texaco were both people, City would probably be the privileged, enticed person, while Texaco would be the abused, mistreated person. Texaco, is, as the narrator confirms, “helpless.”

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