Themes and Meanings
In an interview in 1972, C. L. R. James, in a reference to the setting of his novel, declared: “I went to live there, the people fascinated me, and I wrote about them from the point of view of an educated youthful member of the black middle class.” There is no doubt that Minty Alley is meant to be a realistic assessment of the lives of the working masses from a sympathetic middle-class point of view. Haynes’s descent into the barrack yard at Minty Alley parallels the author’s own movement and becomes the means by which the joys and sorrows, the struggles, and the trials and tribulations of the masses are reported with honesty and dignity. There is a vitality and a sense of endurance to this life, with its “drab surroundings” and its harsh living conditions.
The novel, however, does much more than explore barrack-yard life from a middle-class perspective. James is much more interested in the relationship between the middle class and the masses, represented by the inhabitants of the yard. The author had always been critical of the Caribbean middle class and its impotence in the face of the working class. Minty Alley gives him the opportunity to bring the alienated and dull middle class into contact with the working people. It is an education process that must take place if the society is to be saved.
Haynes’s stay at 2 Minty Alley results in extensive learning on his part. In the process, he becomes self-assured...
(The entire section is 582 words.)