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Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 542

Earl Lovelace's novel presents, in its setting in the Calvary Hill neighborhood of Port of Spain, Trinidad, a microcosm of the dispossessed and disenfranchised people of the world. The name of the Hill is symbolic, since it's the name of the site of Jesus's crucifixion. At the beginning of the story we are told, as well, that a man named Taffy had put himself up on a cross on the Hill, as an emblem of Christ, and urged people to hurl stones at him.

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Each of the residents of Alice Street on Calvary Hill has his or her own cross to carry. Most of The Dragon Can't Dance centers on Aldrick, a man who dresses in a dragon costume on Carnival and has little else to look forward to. He is in love with a young woman named Sylvia who lives on the block, but he approaches her only tentatively until well into the story. The other characters live on the fringes of society, especially a man named Fisheye, who is part of the steelband culture. Gradually the bands become more "respectable"—there is less fighting among them and more plain devotion to music—and Fisheye has a sense of loss over this and becomes even more of an outsider as a result. Another man, an East Indian named Pariag, is already doubly an outsider, living on the block among Creole people and trying to earn their respect but being resented by them when he buys a bicycle. Calvary Hill is a world in which possessions are seen as a symbol of oppression and domination by the establishment.

The overall message is that people create their own value systems as outsiders, but they nevertheless can transcend the poverty and deprivation into which they are born. The Carnival is a ritualistic event in which, every year, Aldrick and others celebrate the values of their own world. Yet for Aldrick and his friends, it is not enough. In a gesture of defiance, Aldrick, Fisheye, and others hijack a police van and take two policemen hostage. Though it's essentially a...

(The entire section contains 542 words.)

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