Derek Walcott

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What are some themes in Derek Walcott's poem "Homecoming: Anse La Raye"?

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One main theme in Walcott's poem, "Homecoming: Anse la Raye," is the relationship, or connection, between a person and their native country. The speaker in the poem returns to his native land but, upon his arrival, he doesn't seem to feel the connection he might have expected to feel. He describes the leaves on the trees as "rotted," and he compares the branches to "the ribs / of sacrificial oxen on scorched land." The beach he describes as "fish-gut reeking." From these negative descriptions, which connote death and decay, we can infer that the speaker's homecoming is not a positive experience. It seems that while he has been away the connection between him and his native country has weakened. Indeed, upon his return he feels like a "tourist."

This disconnection is emphasized and expanded in the third stanza, when the speaker describes the cliffs as "scowl(ing)" and the ocean as "suck(ing) its teeth." Whereas in the first stanza the speaker described his feelings towards his country, in the third stanza he personifies his country to describe its feelings towards him. The cliffs and the ocean seem to dislike and distrust the speaker. He is not just a tourist, but an intruder.

Another main theme in the poem is memory. In the second stanza, the speaker recalls his childhood. He remembers that he, "once ... wanted no career / but (the) sheer light ... (and) clear, / infinite, boring, paradisal sea" of his native land. This memory serves to highlight how much the speaker has changed, and how ambivalent he now feels about his native country. When he was a boy, he wanted nothing more than the "light" and the "infinite ... sea," but now these things seem not to mean much to him.

His ambivalence about his native country is encapsulated in his description of the sea as at once "boring" and "paradisal." At the end of stanza two, the poet, addressing his native country and the people there, remembers how he once wanted to be known, and appreciated as "your poet." This memory of how much he once loved his native country as a boy seems to make more conspicuous the disconnection he now feels between himself and his native country.

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