(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Miguel Street has been variously classified as a group of short stories, as a series of sketches, and as a novel. The latter classification is supported by the fact that it is unified by a single narrator and by several patterns and themes. Furthermore, although each chapter is dominated by a single character, those major characters reappear as minor characters in other chapters. At the end of the book, all the characters who still live on Miguel Street gather to present to the narrator (who is departing for college) gifts representing their own attitudes toward life. Thus, the narratives are tied together, justifying the label “novel.”

According to V. S. Naipaul, the genesis of Miguel Street was a shout that he remembered from a Port of Spain boyhood: “What happening there, Bogart?” The purpose of the novel is to answer that question. What happens in Miguel Street seems to be a repeated pattern of aspiration, defeat, and adjustment, all defined and judged by Miguel Street itself.

In this close community, characters search for an identity which will be respected by the Street. Bogart, for example—the first character whose life is explored in the novel—has made himself popular by the mysterious self he has created, a tailor who never sews, an imitation Humphrey Bogart who disappears from time to time and returns with elaborate accounts of his adventures, every time more like an American gangster, expansive but chilling. When Bogart is arrested for bigamy, his real problem becomes clear. Unable to father a child with his Tunapuna wife, he has impregnated a girl in Caroni; forced to marry the Caroni girl, he has returned to Miguel Street and to the men whom he can impress. Having proven his virility to himself, Bogart can act like Bogart. Unfortunately, he has had to commit bigamy in order‘to do so, and even on Miguel Street, he is not...

(The entire section is 771 words.)


(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Hamner, Robert D., ed. Critical Perspectives on V. S. Naipaul, 1977.

McSweeney, Kerry. Four Contemporary Novelists: Angus Wilson, Brian Moore, John Fowles, V. S. Naipaul, 1983.

Walsh, William. V. S. Naipaul, 1973.

White, Landeg. V. S. Naipaul: A Critical Introduction, 1985.