Season of Adventure

by George Lamming

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 821

Season of Adventure depicts the failures and eventual collapse of the first republic of a newly independent West Indian society, fictional San Cristobal. The failures are spurred for the most part by the new black governing class’s drive to cling to a style of colonial privilege, a drive which clashes with the common people’s persistent desire for more solid freedom. Piggot, the police commissioner, encapsulates the key dramatic and symbolic conflict of the novel’s action in his threats to dismantle one of the paramount implements of traditional culture, the steel bands: “I go clean up the bands and all what go with it.... It ain’t got time these modern days for your kind o’ monkey business.... Is time to learn a new tune.”

Piggot’s position, which is largely that of the governing class, is opposed to that of the grass-roots populace, who cling to the traditional culture symbolized by the steel bands. Early in the novel, Crim, a steel drummer of the Forest Reserve, complains about the manner whereby some colonial and present influences violate indigenous values: “Is like how education wipe out everythin’ San Cristobal got except the ceremony an’ the bands. To teacher an’ all who well-to-do it happen. Everythin’ wipe out, leavin’ only what they learn.” Crim once hoped “how the Independence would change all that wipin’ out, change everythin’ that confuse” but with Piggot’s coterie in command, that notion of Independence is erased by Piggot’s byword, “wipin’ out,” to be replaced only by the superficial trappings of a colonial legacy.

Fola, Piggot’s stepdaughter, becomes aware that something of significance has been wiped out of her experience as well. When she is about eighteen, having undergone a middle-class upbringing and a Eurocentric education, she, prompted by Charlot Pressior, her teacher and self-appointed mentor, attends a voodoo-like Ceremony of Souls in which departed spirits are invoked. She is deeply affected by this ceremony, which impels her to acknowledge that she is a stranger to her background. Awakened in her is an avid desire to take “a backward glance” into her makeup—to seek information about her biological father and to get to know more about the people of the grass roots, those who adhere tenaciously to traditional values. Her inquiry into her paternity is complicated by the fact that even her mother, Agnes, cannot confirm her father’s identity. Though Agnes and Fola do not talk about the matter, it is revealed that all Agnes knows is that Fola’s father is either a white bishop’s nephew, by whom she was raped in a moment when she was in a romantic, self-induced, trancelike reverie, or he is an unknown black assailant who witnessed her succumbing to the bishop’s nephew and immediately raped her in turn.

Fola’s quest, in distracted confusion at first, leads her to a momentary, rapacious, fantasy-fed encounter with Powell, who hates her and her class. More important, her quest leads her to seek direction from Chiki, the artist (a painter). Chiki deliberately and naturally has maintained intimate ties with his peasant background. It is through his earlier enterprise as a leader of a group of islanders doing migratory labor in the United States that the Forest Reserve land plot was bought for its inhabitants. Chiki comforts Fola, and he works at painting an imaginative portrait of her unknown father. Chiki takes in Fola after Piggot, who once cherished his stepdaughter, beats her and throws her out when he hears that Fola has had a liaison with a “ruffian from the Forest Reserve.”

A clash of classes and values occurs when Piggot and his men, after Vice President Raymond of San Cristobal has been found murdered, raid the Forest Reserve in search of suspects. Fola intercedes and saves the Reserve men from arrest and what would be resultant beatings in detention. An aftermath of this murder and tension is the issuing of an official proclamation banning the playing of steel drums from that day forward. By decree, an attempt is made to “wipe out” a major indigenous cultural factor. Gort, however—a masterful tenor drummer and a sensitive man who fears his own untapped physical strength—with the aid of Fola and Chiki rallies the drummers of San Cristobal and leads them, in defiant splendor, to march on the capital. A result of this rebellious act is the collapse of the government of the first republic and the onset of a new regime which promises to be more accountable to the people’s needs.

The concerted efforts of Chiki, Fola, and Gort lead to a healing of the fragmented society suffering from, among other ailments, lingering effects of colonial affliction. All is not well as the second republic begins, but the society has an opportunity to proceed without the constant, unsettling threat of a leadership obsessed with “wipin’ out” vital elements of its past and culture.

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