(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Walcott’s epic poem Omeros explores humanity’s relationship to history and nature. Both have been corrupted by man’s ambition, leaving humanity deeply wounded. The affliction is physical for the St. Lucia fisherman Philoctete, whose ankle has been crippled by a rusty anchor. This is both an allusion to Philoctetes, the title character of Sophocles’ play Philoktts (409 b.c.e.: Philoctetes, 1729), and to the shackles worn by African slaves. The wound leaves Philoctete unable to make boats, go fishing, or even cultivate his garden, and so he seeks solace in the white rum of forgetfulness at Ma Kilman’s No Pain Café.

The proprietress is described as an African sibyl; that is, a native, tribal medicine woman, as well as the priestess of Apollo who guides Aeneas through the underworld in Vergil’s epic poem the Aeneid (c. 29-19 b.c.e.; English translation, 1553). It is her ability to restore tribal rituals that finally affords Philoctete some relief. That remedy is not available to the British officer Major Plunkett, who retired to the tropical island with his Irish wife Maud. He, too, carries a wound, sustained in the skull during General Bernard Law Montgomery’s campaign in Northern Africa, symbolic of his love for the exotic and complicated by imperial guilt and his fear of dying without a legacy. These conflicting emotions lead him to research the...

(The entire section is 550 words.)

Omeros Summary

Omeros Book One Summary

One of the initial challenges in reading Omeros is the complexity of its multi-layered plot. The meaning of the...

(The entire section is 684 words.)

Omeros Books Two and Three Summary

Book Two
The second book centers on two major events, each affecting one of the groups of characters already introduced. The...

(The entire section is 598 words.)

Omeros Books Four and Five Summary

Book Four
Time and space are once again divided in the fourth book. It includes scenes set in present-day New England, where...

(The entire section is 477 words.)

Omeros Books Six and Seven Summary

Book Six
By the sixth book, Walcott has made his return to St. Lucia and it remains for him to gather the strands of his...

(The entire section is 440 words.)