Michael Thelwell Mel Watkins - Essay

Mel Watkins

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Michael Thelwell] has written a richly textured novel [The Harder They Come] that maintains the film's dramatic impact yet provides a unique and resonant view of Jamaican culture and grassroots consciousness….

From the outset, Mr. Thelwell emphasizes the vital connection between the land and the people who inhabit it…. (p. 511)

Also, early on, Mr. Thelwell begins threading descriptions of the Jamaican peasants' remarkably varied folklore into the narrative. His depiction of the traditional "Nine Nights Feast," for instance, is riveting and illuminating. It captures the joy and anxiety associated with the songs, dances and elaborate rituals that are performed to assure the safe departure of deceased spirits. (pp. 511-12)

The depiction of Rhygin naïvely confronting the poverty, ruthlessness and violence of the city streets has a Dickensian cast to it, and Mr. Thelwell emphatically draws the stark contrast between the city and the idyllic environment Rhygin has left….

In structure, "The Harder They Come" is clearly a pastoral novel. Its explicit criticism of the corruption, antihumanism and violence of city life and "progress" places it in a literary tradition that is as venerable as Vergil's "Bucolica." And, as with many of its predecessors in the genre, there is a decided leaning toward the romantic and sentimental.

But, more importantly, Mr....

(The entire section is 435 words.)