From the point of view of character, the shipboard world of Natives of My Person is divided into two halves, the world of masters and the world of men. In the latter world, the characters have actual names such as Baptiste, Ivan, and Marcel. Considered collectively, the crew members’ names resist the identification of Lime Stone with any specific imperial power. Many of the names have French associations. Of all the various empires to have made their marks on the Caribbean, the French was, arguably, the least prominent, so that the French emphasis becomes part of the structure of inversion upon which the novel is based.
The men, by virtue of their names, attain a certain individuality, but it is an attainment that they are not permitted to experience as empowerment. Such a condition of psychological disfranchisement is endemic to life at sea. The result is that, for all their colorfulness, the various skills of their trades, and the range of their differentiated backgrounds, the ordinary seamen are utterly dependent on the ebb and flow of surmise, rumor, and gossip that they trawl for indications of what lies in store for them. They are held captive both by the enigmatic Commandant and, more fundamentally, by a social structure that demands that they be kept in a state of lesser awareness than the officers. The effect of this dependence is that their individuality is purely nominal.
The manner in which the men are entrapped is largely social. In important respects, they are free of the sexual attachments that determine the fates of their superiors in rank, but this freedom is unable to assume a constructive form. There is no alternative available to the...
(The entire section is 689 words.)