The Wine of Astonishment

by Earl Lovelace

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Student Question

In The Wine of Astonishment, what leadership qualities do Bee and Bolo possess?

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It is clear from the way that these two characters are developed in this text that Bee and Bolo are very different individuals, and that their leadership qualities reflect those differences. Note the way that Bolo is introduced in Chapter 2:

The seven years before the war, Bolo was in Bonasse, the champion stickfighter, the king, leading the village in battles down the length and breadth of the island... he couldn't walk down a Bonasse street if somebody didn't call him for a drink... and, you must understand, women didn't leave him alone either.

Bolo's leadership qualities are therefore based on his physical prowess as a "stickfighter," and his charisma. It is his status as the "king" of stickfighting that gives him leadership over others, as he is a man who is respected and admired because of his physical feats.

However, the comparison of Bolo with Bee reveals that leadership is not just about physical strength. Bee is a character who does not possess the same kind of physical strength as Bolo, but he certainly possesses greater strength in other areas, such as the ability to lead people and quietly represent them. Note how in Chapter 1 it is Bee who goes to speak to Ivan Morton about the future of their church. The narrator's description of Bee at this point reveals the quiet strength and confidence he has in his character:

And Bee not vex. He cool. He slow. He putting down his foot, one today, one tomorrow, in the morning sunshine, with his head bend to one idea if a great sorrow pushing it down, but calm, as if he know what he going to tell Ivan Morton when he see him.

Bee, as the preacher for the church, has leadership qualities that stem from his internal confidence and belief in himself, even when he is faced with difficulties. Eventually, as the novel bears witness, it is Bee's leadership qualities, although they are not as overt as Bolo's, that ultimately prevail, suggesting that quiet and unassuming, yet confident, leadership is more powerful than leadership based on physical strength alone.

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