The Wine of Astonishment

by Earl Lovelace

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Student Question

How does Bolo represent a fading cultural element in The Wine of Astonishment?

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Bolo can be said to represent a fading cultural element through the way in which he is a champion stickfighter, a cultural tradition associated with Carnival, a major celebration on the island, but which was banned when the war began by the government. Yet note how Eva, the narrator of this story, describes the way in which Bolo fought when he was stickfighting:

They say he don't fight just to win battles for himself, for him stickfighting was more the dance, the adventure, the ceremony to show off the beauty of the warrior. And he do it with love and respect, more as if he was making a gift of himself, offering himself up with his quick speed and rhythm, as if what he really want was for people to see in him a beauty that wasn't his alone, was theirs, ours, to let us know that we in this wilderness country was people too, with drums and song and warriors.

The emphasis in this quote is not on winning, but on performing a stickfight as if it were a gift and a celebration of beauty and skill that stretches back through the generations. From the way in which Bolo engages in his stickfighting it is absolutely clear that he represents the cultural tradition of this island people that is proud of its past and heritage. Stickfighting therefore becomes an important symbol of the past of these people which appears to be being slowly but surely eroded by various elements. It is of course the way in which the arrival of the Americans and the negative impact they have on society that drives Bolo to challenge Prince. Yet what he is challenging is not the person so much as the force that seems insistent on destroying his culture and heritage and everything he stands for.

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