Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Character, theme, and point of view are inextricable in In the Castle of My Skin. As already noted, the alternation of first-and third-person narrators is the author’s crucial device for conveying the communal identity of his protagonist and his concern with the fate of the community as a literary and moral question.

The novel’s autobiographical framework is a strategy for narrating the larger story of the village’s demise. In the Castle of My Skin clearly is not merely an autobiographical novel or a standard bildungsroman. At the same time, the narrator’s awareness of the community’s plight, increased between the time of the events recounted and the time of writing, is a crucial element. As Sandra Pouchet Paquet writes about The Pleasures of Exile, though again her remarks apply equally well to the novel and to G. as its “author,” “His dissenting voice is personal and collective. As colonial subject, Lamming offers himself as a representative text to be read and as a privileged interpreter of his own historical moment.” That is, Lamming unabashedly uses his own subjective, autobiographical understanding of events and relationships to correct, in his view, earlier “imperialist” versions of his island’s and region’s history.

Lamming allows his narrator to comment on the characters in such a way as to emphasize individuals’ importance as parts of the communal identity. Possibly because of...

(The entire section is 537 words.)

Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Near the end of the novel, as G. and Pa are saying farewell to each other, Pa notes, “We both settin’ forth tomorrow.... I to my last restin’-place, an’ you into the wide wide world.” G.’s leaving for his teaching job in Trinidad and Pa’s entering the Alms House dramatically illustrate parting and change. Nurtured in part by Pa, G. now embarks on his own quest for meaning. At various times, G. is struck with the sad sensation that he is seeing “the last of something,” and this feeling culminates in the ending scene with Pa. A focus on change is a feature of the novel, painful change suffered by displaced villagers and their world and apprehensive change affecting G. as the growth of his self-awareness within the insular community deepens his exile and alienation.

Another theme emerges from contrasting G.’s sense of himself as a “castle” protecting his inner self with other concepts of “castle” in the novel. Mr. Creighton’s castle on the hill, for example, defines to some extent the social order over which it dominates though its authority is succeeded by Mr. Slime’s consortium. G.’s awakening artistic consciousness fashions an alternate central “castle” of definition which gives preserving autonomy. His perch is one of loneliness for the moment, but his situation gives him the opportunity to delineate himself, to view the outside world, and to try to become a conscientious relater of meaning. It is in relating to others that his life will assume real meaning.

Several of the villagers, with Pa as the chief example, are displaced, evicted from their familiar but tenuous groundings; for the time being, G. has refuge in the expedient and firmer “castle” of himself, from which he may be able to sally forth with confidence.


(Novels for Students)

The relationship between colonial powers and their colonies, and the effects that this relationship has on the...

(The entire section is 1087 words.)