Dream on Monkey Mountain

by Derek Walcott

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What is the significance of the "journey" and "home" motifs in Dream on Monkey Mountain?

Quick answer:

The motifs of "journey" and "home" are very significant in the play as they shape almost everything that happens. Indeed, the whole play can be seen as an allegory of the colonial subject's spiritual journey towards a homeland of the mind.

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In Makak's dream, encounters an apparition that encourages him to escape from his present home on Monkey Mountain and embark upon the long journey back to his ancestral homeland in Africa. This is a very powerful vision for Makak, as it must have been for many Black West Indians. For centuries, their Indigenous culture had been suppressed, and they had lost all sense of connection with their African heritage. So it's entirely understandable that Makak should be so keen to return to the land of his ancestors.

However, it's not quite as simple as that, as Makak eventually discovers to his cost. Far from being the Edenic demi-paradise he always imagined it to be, Africa turns out to be a land of violence and bloodshed in which he, Makak, is a vicious tyrant who betrays his best friend and kills the apparition of a white woman. Makak's romanticized vision of Africa has come back to haunt him in a dream-within-a-dream, laying bare the full depths of his delusions.

On waking from his dream, Makak realizes at long last that what he thought was a dream was actually a nightmare. The journey that he's just completed wasn't to Africa, it was to his true self. Makak has learned from his dream that his true home is not in Africa, in the land of his distant ancestors, but on Monkey Mountain, the place where he's lived his whole life.

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