Summary

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Last Updated May 23, 2024.

Introduction

Omeros is an epic poem by Derek Walcott, first published in 1990. The title, Omeros, comes from the Greek name for Homer, the ancient Greek poet. The poem is set mainly in the Caribbean, specifically on the island of Saint Lucia, where Walcott was born and raised.

Omeros is divided into seven books and explores the lives of Caribbean fishermen and their communities, drawing parallels to the characters and themes of Homer's Iliad. In essence, the poem captures the full Caribbean experience.

Walcott was a Caribbean poet, playwright, and essayist of African and European descent. His mixed heritage and the colonial history of the Caribbean deeply influenced his work.

In Omeros, Walcott merges mythology and history with contemporary Caribbean life to vividly depict his homeland in the postcolonial era. Two years after publishing the poem, Walcott received the prestigious Nobel Prize for Literature.

Plot Summary

The epic poem weaves together several narratives. One story follows Philoctete, a fisherman suffering from a worsening leg wound caused by an anchor. He believes the wound symbolizes the struggles of his enslaved ancestors. Seeking a cure, he contacts Ma Kilman, a local shopkeeper and healer.

Ma Kilman follows a trail set by ants, which represent the spirits of the ancestors on St. Lucia. They lead her to a forest, where she finds a special plant. She gives the plant to Philoctete, who uses it to heal his leg. This healing process allows Philoctete to reconnect with his ancestors, healing both his physical pain and emotional turmoil.

The second story is about Achille and his friend-turned-rival, Hector. Achille and Hector, both fishermen, start as partners but eventually become enemies over their shared love for a woman named Helen.

Helen, who used to be a waitress, struggles to keep a job because men constantly harass her. She is the epitome of beauty on the island of St. Lucia, just as the island is known for its beauty and is often called the "Helen of the West Indies."

Although both men are interested in Helen, she chooses Hector after her fight with Achille. Hector quits his job as a fisherman and becomes a transport driver on the island. This new job proves to be much more dangerous than working on the turbulent sea. Unfortunately, he dies, leaving Helen pregnant and alone.

Meanwhile, Achille suffers from severe heatstroke. Dehydrated, he hallucinates a spiritual journey to Africa, where he learns about his true origins, including his real name, culture, and identity. He walks back to St. Lucia on the ocean floor, transformed and full of spiritual wisdom. Mourning Hector's death, he reunites with Helen, and together, they raise her child.

The third story follows British Major Plunkett and his Irish wife, Maud, who have been married for 25 years. After WWII, they moved to St. Lucia because Major Plunkett suffered a head injury. They hoped to settle there, although Maud wanted to return to her homeland.

Major Plunkett feels guilty about being a colonizer and sad that he has no children. To cope with his feelings, he decides to "help" Helen, whom he sees as a symbol of St. Lucia. He wants to learn everything about the island and help the indigenous people understand their culture and heritage. This desire turns into an obsession with his research.

Unfortunately, Maud soon dies of cancer, devastating Plunkett. However, Ma Kilman helps him by showing him a vision of Maud. This vision eases his emotional pain and makes him realize he should not obsess over Helen and the island. Instead, he should connect more with the people and indigenous communities.

The most complex narrative is about Walcott himself. As the narrator, Walcott tries to find the true meaning...

(This entire section contains 755 words.)

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of his writing and characters. He reconnects with his father's ghost, who tells him to write about the island and its people.

His father also instructs him to visit Europe, learn about Western literature, and present the island's history in a way that colonizers will understand, just as the indigenous communities do.

Walcott also meets with Omeros (or Homer) and his ex-lover Antigone, who become his mentors. Omeros connects with a blind man from the island, known as the Seven Seas, who awakens Walcott's inner vision. Like Virgil guiding Dante in Inferno, Omeros leads Walcott, helping him find the words to tell the story of Saint Lucia and its people and to write his epic poem.

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