Themes

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 332

Earl Lovelace (born in 1935 in Trinidad and Tobago) has lived in Trinidad for much of his life. The major themes in his work include the postcolonial island life, modernity versus tradition, and religion and the tradition of carnival.

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In his story "Joebell and America" (1994), the protagonist is eager to escape the island life of Trinidad and go to America. To Joebell, America is a magical land wherein everyone in wealthy. Also, in his 1965 novel, While Gods are Falling, Walter Castle finds little opportunity even in the Trinidadian city of Port of Spain and so returns to his rural village. The lack of economic opportunity juxtaposed to the conspicuous consumption in America in many of Lovelace's novels is a provocative contrast because it leaves the reader to determine which is better.

In the 1982 novel, Wine of Astonishment, a community of Shouter Baptists (a religion which mixes African and Christian practices) struggles to preserve its cohesion and faith amid the Prohibition of Ordinance in 1917. The Prohibition prevented the practices of religions deemed threatening. It was passed while Trinidad was still an English colony and was not lifted until 1951. Here, the unique religion of a Trinidadian community is tested and explored.

In one of his early novels, The Schoolmaster (1968), a group of Trinidadians grapple with the issue of modernizing a village school. In The Dragons Can't Dance (1979), Lovelace again depicts a group of Trinidadian characters, this time residents of an area called "Calvary Hill" in Port of Spain. In this novel, one character spends most of his time preparing his costume for Carnival. Another character has moved to Port of Spain from his native (rural) village, thus introducing another of Lovelace's common themes that is an exploration of the relative merits of urban and rural life. Lovelace's novel Is Just a Movie (2011) follows the protagonist, Kangkala, who was formerly involved in the Black Power Movement and now finds refuge from local politics in the spirit of carnival. For Lovelace, carnival is a type of religion.

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