In the Castle of My Skin is a very oddly structured novel. Its alternation of first-and third-person narrators seems undisciplined (the author was, after all, only twenty-three years old when he began writing it) but is, in fact, a bold and considered device for conveying a sense of the village’s communal identity while simultaneously narrating G.’s coming-of-age and his eventual, inevitable emigration. Lamming, using the first-person narrator, the ostensible protagonist, as his surrogate, intends the same effect in this novel as in his collection of autobiographical literary essays The Pleasures of Exile (1960). Critic Sandra Pouchet Paquet’s remark about The Pleasures of Exile could be said with equal justice about In the Castle of My Skin: “Autobiographical values are determined by the narrator’s acute and pervasive sense of participating in a great historical moment. His valuable life surrenders its meaning in a gesture of collectivity.”
In the novel, then, as in the book of essays, the unusual, unexpected main character is the community at large. This fact establishes Lamming’s political and social values and sympathies. The tragedy of the land sale near the novel’s end is the community’s communal tragedy. At the same time, the individual protagonist, the first-person narrator G., is separating himself from the community by emigrating to Trinidad. Although he does not yet know it as he prepares to...
(The entire section is 492 words.)