In the Castle of My Skin is an autobiographical novel by a young native of Barbados living in England. The novel’s plot covers the years from the time of a great flood when the narrator is nine years old to the eve of his departure for the larger island of Trinidad at the age of seventeen.
The virtually unnamed narrator, G., clearly is a surrogate for the author, though Lamming’s narrative strategy of alternating first-person and third-person narrators has the effect of submerging G.’s identity beneath the larger collective identity and situation of the inhabitants of Creighton’s Village. The larger intended effect of the occasionally confusing alternation of narrators is that two mutually reinforcing stories are told within one narrative frame. The first is the story of the ostensible protagonist’s coming-of-age and the dawning of his political awareness. The second story concerns the great social upheavals that occur over the years, especially following the sale of the village by Mr. Creighton, the landlord, to a group of men including Mr. Slime, the populist leader who betrays the villagers’ trust.
In the Castle of My Skin begins during a rainstorm on G.’s ninth birthday, a reference to an actual flood that afflicted Barbados when Lamming was a child. The early scenes of G.’s disappointment and his mother’s response (she “put her head through the window to let the neighbour know that I was nine, and they flattered me with the consolation that my birthday had brought showers of blessing”) effectively establish the setting as well as the sense of collective identity, awareness, and suffering that are crucial to the novel’s purpose. The first-person narrator makes this explicit as he describes his mother visiting with two neighbor women:Miss Foster. My mother. Bob’s mother. It seemed they were...
(The entire section is 762 words.)