Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

The title, A Brighter Sun, implies a comparative, and that is surely the new day, the new Trinidad that Tiger foresees. The dominant theme, therefore, is change. Tiger changes from boy to man; the countryside changes from a collection of market gardens to a suburban satellite town; the muddy track becomes the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway; Tiger and Urmilla’s mud shack becomes a furnished brick house; the newlyweds become parents; a backward colony is on the cusp of becoming an independent nation. Whereas in the early chapters Tiger and Urmilla are concerned with raising rice and other crops, later they are purchasing large fowls, rum, cigarettes, and household furnishings and borrowing knives, forks, and other symbols of Westernization.

Throughout the novel, there are references to rain, sunshine, and mangoes, all common enough in the Caribbean. These are major symbols in the story. It rains when things are not going well, such as when Urmilla is ill and when she is delivering her stillborn son—and when Tiger is working in his garden immediately beforehand. It is mango season when Urmilla discovers her pregnancies; Sookdeo buries his money box under the roots of a mango tree in his backyard, regarding it as a good omen, and when the tree is bulldozed, he dies. The sun is always a positive image and a symbol of prosperity, continuity, fecundity, and goodness. It brings Tiger out of his states of depression, and when he says that “always the...

(The entire section is 492 words.)

Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Although World War II seemed remote to most ordinary Trinidadians, the reader of A Brighter Sun is frequently reminded of the war because of the fundamental political, economic, and social changes it was actually bringing about on the island. While the search for manhood and personal identity is one of the novel’s principal themes, the quest takes on a broader significance as Tiger gradually develops and embraces a sense of national identity. Parallel to Tiger’s development, and contributing to it, is Trinidad’s rapid transition from a sleepy backwater colony into a society on the brink of national independence. The war thrust Trinidad into the twentieth century and a confrontation with the possibilities and problems that follow on modern nationhood.

Samuel Selvon, himself of East Indian descent, makes clear that racial self-contempt is a factor in the way the colonized people see themselves: Rita asks why creoles “can’t live like Indian, quiet and nice,” and Urmilla wishes that Indians “could only be like white people!” Tiger’s experience leads him to abandon his parents’ ethnocentric racial attitudes (“Ain’t a man is a man, don’t mind if he skin not white, or if he hair curl?”) and he frequently denies growing up as an Indian. The influence of Boysie and the attractions of urban culture contribute to Tiger’s gradual creolization. At first Tiger objects to Boysie’s calling Indians “black people” but soon...

(The entire section is 406 words.)