Themes and Meanings
In the novel, Bourne Island is a mythical place, one Marshall creates to illustrate the plight of postcolonial people. Located at “the eastern boundary of the entire continent, to serve as its bourn,” Bourne Island looks west to Africa and the slaves who perished en route to the New World. Marshall’s account of the Cuffee Ned legend, which lives on, suggests a place where time stands still, where past, present, and future merge. Saul believes that the island is a place that “he has unwittingly returned to,” and Merle observes that “yesterday comes like today to us.” Cyclical patterns, such as the periodic cleansings of the sea, predominate in the novel. Events occur and then are reenacted, overtly as in the annual Cuffee Ned pageant, and implicitly, as Harriet returns to the site where her ancestors exploited the Bourne Island people. In fact, the Center for Applied Research project is in danger of becoming another example of white exploitation, perhaps not so different from the scheme Lyle and his friends propose.
As is often the case with island literature, the small island world becomes a microcosm of the larger world; the fate of Bournehills becomes the fate of exploited people everywhere. There are two classes of people, the colonizers and the colonized, who, as Merle suggests, “colonize our minds, too.” Percy Bartram, Sir John Stokes, and Harriet are alike in some ways. They want to control, they assume parental authority, and they...
(The entire section is 496 words.)