The Wine of Astonishment

by Earl Lovelace

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Character analysis of Mitchell in The Wine of Astonishment


Mitchell is a complex character in The Wine of Astonishment. He struggles with balancing his role as a community leader and his personal ambitions. His actions reflect the tension between tradition and modernity, and he often faces internal and external conflicts as he attempts to navigate the socio-political landscape of his time.

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What does the character "Mitchell's" name reveal in The Wine of Astonishment?

Mitchell is actually a rather interesting name in that it was originally a French family name derived from the Hebrew Michael, the meaning of which asks the question "Who resembles God?" Well, in The Wine of Astonishment, using "Mitchel" for a character who is a thief, loud, boastful, unscrupulous, dishonest and corrupt is either an almost painfully stroke of irony in that the answer implied in the name's meaning is "Not this guy!" Another possible reason for naming such a character Mitchel could be to representatively ask the reverse question "Is this what God resembles?" In either case, choosing the name Mitchel for this character embodies a great contrast between what is and what might be or should be or is expected to be, and the choice embodies a great ironic element that might prompt deep questions about the nature of humanity and God.

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In The Wine of Astonishment, who is the character Mitchell?

The Wine of Astonishment is a novel by Earl Lovelace about the Prohibition movement in Trinidad and its effect on a Spiritual Baptist town, who use Sacramental Wine in their worship.

Mitchell is a cousin of the narrator, a lazy and dishonest man who has no care for the people around him:

...Mitchell, my cousin, who leave off labouring on Richardson Estate, borrow a saw and hammer and pass himself off to the Americans as a carpenter, spend, as he boast forever after, six months carpentering without ever driving a nail.
In no time at all Mitchell is foreman of a gang of carpenters. He is money-lender and Contact-Man, dealing in blackmarket goods and selling GI boots and other things he thief from the American Base.
(Lovelace, The Wine of Astonishment, Google Books)

Mitchell uses many methods of the con-man, posing as a man of skill and worth to trick people into supporting him. His influence with the Americans, based entirely on his bluster, lands him in the position of underground hustler, the man who can get anything for anyone for the right price. This reputation inflates Mitchell's ego, and he becomes a smug and cruel man, boasting about his wealth and insulting his friends and family for their lower standards of living. He is an opportunist, and rejects the town's religious faith for a job with their dishonest councilman, Ivan Morton.

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