Dream on Monkey Mountain

by Derek Walcott

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Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 586


Makak, “an old Negro,” the hermit of Monkey Mountain. Sixty years old and ugly, he was named for the macaque monkey, which he resembles. He is by trade a wood-gatherer and charcoal burner, but in his dream he is also the king of Africa, following the instructions of an apparition of a beautiful white woman. Partly mad, partly possessed, and partly drunk, he possibly dreams the entire play in Lestrade’s cell, after a night of drunkenness in a local tavern. He is arrested for stealing coal and for disorderly conduct. In an elaborate allegorical configuration, he is the Christ figure at the beginning of his public life, performing miracles, collecting followers, and leaving behind exaggerated stories of his wonders, both betrayed and believed, as the Lion of Africa who will lead his black brethren back to Africa, but only after killing their “whiteness.” He experiences a sort of apotheosis when he kills the “white” woman who haunted him into this religious and political mission.

Corporal Lestrade

Corporal Lestrade, a mulatto guard of the town jail, “doing the white man’s work” in jailing and questioning Makak but finally “confessing” to his blackness in the final apotheosis. At first cruel in the use of his power, he forces the villagers into hypocritically agreeing to his absurd statements and pursues Makak to “hunt” him like an animal. The name of his rank suggests his allegorical function as the body of Christ/Makak. Stabbed and left for dead during the breakout, he follows Makak into the mountains, delirious from his wounds’ gangrenous infection, and is converted to the African “faith” of Makak. In the epilogue, he is a merciful jailer who frees Makak, releasing him to the care of Moustique.


Moustique, a friend to Makak and a partner in the charcoal business. He is a black man who walks with a limp from “a twist foot God give me.” An allegorical composite of all the disciples, he was found drunk by Makak and saved from dissolution. Nonreligious and money-conscious, he disguises himself as Makak to exploit the people but is discovered and killed by the angry mob. At the apotheosis of Makak, he returns from the dead to be judged and to die again. In the epilogue, he remains a true friend to Makak after he awakes from his dream in the cell, leading him away, back to his mountain.


Tigre, a young black thief in jail when Makak is arrested. He breaks out of jail and follows Makak to Monkey Mountain, ostensibly to follow Makak to Africa but actually to steal his money. When he tries to force Makak to lead him to the money, the corporal kills him with a lance. He represents the thief who was damned in the allegorical parallel.


Souris, “the rat,” another black thief. He is a partner in Tigre’s breakout and equally eager to get Makak’s money. Later, he is converted to Makak’s African Zionism. He represents the thief who was saved.


Basil, a young man, not only a carpenter but also a charcoal seller, and thus an alter ego of Makak. He is a figure of doom and enlightenment who appears mysteriously from time to time, a nemesis and judge for all the characters.

The Apparition

The Apparition, a beautiful white woman, “like the moon.” She entices Makak into his religious proselytizing and is beheaded as a sacrifice at the apotheosis of Makak. She represents the “Roman law” of white Western history.


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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1143

Basil is a black man (or perhaps apparition) who appears when death is imminent for someone in the scene. Wearing a dark coat and hat, he is described by some as a cabinetmaker. Basil also plays a constant role in Makak's journey after he reaches Monkey Mountain. He compels Corporal Lestrade to confess his sins, resulting in Lestrade's personal epiphany. When the scene shifts to Africa, Basil reads the list of the accused.

Felix Hobain
See Makak

Josephus is the sick man who is healed by Makak. He suffers from a fever without sweat until Makak saves his life.

Corporal Lestrade
Corporal Lestrade runs the jail and is responsible for the arrest of Makak. Lestrade is a mulatto and, at the beginning of the play, identifies himself with the white authority figures. He follows the rule of the law to the letter and is contemptuous of the three black men. At the beginning of Makak's dream, Lestrade remains like this. In the scene in which Moustique impersonates Makak in the marketplace, Lestrade emphasizes his beliefs on law and law enforcement to Market Inspector Pamphilion. Though Lestrade is stabbed by Makak during the prison escape initiated by Tigre, he later joins Makak's journey after finding the three on Monkey Mountain. Lestrade stabs and kills Tigre when he tries to kill them. Lestrade plays an even bigger role when the three are in Africa. It is he who insists that Makak kill the apparition that started him on this journey. At the end of the play, when the setting is again in reality, Lestrade is somewhat kinder than he was at the beginning of the play and lets Makak go free.

Makak is the central character in the play, the one who has the dream on Monkey Mountain. Makak is an older man, sixty to sixty-five, of African descent. He works as a coal cutter/burner, in a partnership with Moustique. Makak believes that he is ugly and repulsive, which is why he lives alone in a hut on Monkey Mountain. At the beginning of the play, Makak is thrown in jail for destroying a local café while drunk. He spends the night in jail, which is where he has the dream that forms the bulk of Dream on Monkey Mountain.

Makak believes that an apparition, a white woman, appeared to him and told him that he is descended from African kings. He is to go back to Africa to reclaim his heritage. In the dream, Makak begins this journey. He finds that he has healing powers when he cures a sick man's fever. Though Moustique wants to exploit this gift for commercial purposes, Makak is only concerned with the larger goal. After ending up in jail and escaping with the help of fellow prisoners, Makak adds followers to his cause and by scene three is a king, passing judgment on others. Makak's dream ends when he kills the apparition that led him there in the first place. By the end of the play, the setting returns to reality, and Makak is released from jail. Through his dream, Makak has gained a better sense of himself as he returns home to Monkey Mountain.

Moustique is Makak's partner in business and sidekick in the play. He is a small black man with a pronounced physical deformity in his twisted foot. Makak rescued Moustique from the gutter about four years earlier. Moustique feels Makak is the only one who believes in him. Moustique sells the coal that Makak burns. The pair recently purchased a donkey, Berthilia, together for this business. In Makak's dream, Moustique plays a complicated role and dies twice. Moustique does not believe Makak's apparition was real, and only reluctantly goes on the journey. When Moustique comes upon the sick man and his family, he convinces them to let Makak try to heal the ill one in exchange for bread. It works, and Moustique immediately wants to exploit Makak's gift for commercial purposes. Moustique goes so far as to imitate Makak in the marketplace to make money. But he is caught in the deception and is killed, though Makak tries to save him. Later, when Makak is a king, Moustique is one of the prisoners brought before him. Moustique tries to tell Makak that he should not trust his new followers, but Makak does not believe him. Moustique is killed again. At the end of the play, when reality returns, Moustique shows up at the jail and begs for Makak's freedom, though Makak has already been released. The pair return to Monkey Mountain, their bond seemingly stronger.

Market Inspector Caiphas J. Pamphilion
Pamphilion is a law officer who is under the wing of Corporal Lestrade during Makak's dream. Pamphilion listens to Lestrade's theories and says very little.

Souris is one of the men in jail when Makak is brought there. He is a man of African descent who has been arrested as a thief. Souris and Tigre seem to be partners of some sort. In reality, Souris agrees with Tigre about Makak's insanity. But in Makak's dream, Souris is more concerned with getting his fair share of food from the Corporal than with Makak. Souris goes along with Tigre's plan and joins Makak and Tigre's jailbreak. Souris changes sides when the three are on Monkey Mountain together. Though Tigre wants Souris to help him find Makak's money, Souris believes in Makak's vision. Souris does not stand with Tigre when he pulls the gun, much to Tigre's chagrin. Souris follows Makak to Africa. At the end of the play, when reality returns, Souris is still kind to the old man, telling him to ‘‘go with God.’’

Tigre is one of the men in jail when Makak is brought there. Like his apparent partner Souris, he is a man of African descent who has been arrested as a thief. Tigre is rather vulgar and, in Makak's dream, convinces Souris that they should take advantage of the old man. Makak tries to pay off the Corporal so that he will be set free, but the Corporal accuses him of bribery. Tigre wants to steal any money Makak has hidden on Monkey Mountain, and to that end convinces Makak that the three should escape together. Makak listens to him, and after leaving the prison the three make their way to Monkey Mountain. Though Makak makes him a general, Tigre is really only concerned with obtaining Makak's money. When the Corporal appears on the mountain and ends up joining them, Tigre pulls a gun on the rest. He is later killed by the Corporal, in part because of his short-sighted greed. Tigre does not understand the journey Makak and the others are on. At the end of the play, when the setting returns to reality, Tigre is in jail, only concerned with himself again.

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