On Chapter XLV of Derek Walcott's Omeros

By Moffett, Joe | Notes on Contemporary Literature, March 2008 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

On Chapter XLV of Derek Walcott's Omeros


Moffett, Joe, Notes on Contemporary Literature


Ever since its publication in 1990, Walcott's Omeros has been a celebrated text, helping to earn the poet the Nobel Prize in 1992. The concentration on postcolonial literature in literary studies during the past two decades has spurred interest in Walcott's poem which presents a Caribbean perspective on the west. Walcott's use of Homeric characters, as well as those of his own device such as the exBritish officer Major Plunkett and Maud his wife, have been well documented. One of the most important figures, however, has been often overlooked--namely the narrator himself. In a chapter late in the poem (XLV), the lives of the narrator and a primary character. Hector, coalesce in such a way that any critical or pedagogic evaluation of the poem would do well to focus on this section.

In general, Book 6 of Omeros finds many of the poem's narrative strands coming together: Plunkett loses his wife Maud who, despite his often chauvinistic attitude toward her, loves her; and we witness the death of Hector who, like his Homeric counterpart, is the great rival of Achille in the poem. In fact, chapter XLV begins with Hector's death as he drives his van, the Comet, off the side of the road. The van represents outside influences as it was Hector's canoe (a symbol of island economics) that he traded for the automobile. Like his Homeric namesake who valiantly fought for the Trojans and finally died because of the will of the gods in a battle with Achilles, this Hector is fierce but similarly loses to Achille. In this poem, however, he loses not only his life but also the object of his affection: Helen, an islander who is pregnant with his child and whom Achille pines for during much of the narrative. The death of Hector signals a passing away of part of the spirit of the island as the more timid Achille wins the prize.

Hector's death is described in terms of a Catholic Mass (one of which Maud and Plunkett are on their way to when Hector nearly runs them off the road), and this shows how Hector has been incorporated by westernism. The reader is offered a view of Hector's broken body in the van after the crash: "he stayed in the same place, / the way a man will remain when Mass is finished" (Omeros. NY: Noonday, 1990, p. 225). We learn his positioning expresses a penitential attitude: "He bowed in endless remorse, // for her mercy at what he had done to Achille, / his brother" (226). This westernizing of Hector contrasts with Achille who, in Book 3, seeks to remember the lost gods of Africa in a dream vision brought on by sunstroke. Walcott tells us that Hector "paid the penalty of giving up the sea / as graceless and as treacherous as it had seemed, / for the taxi-business; he was making money" (231). Ultimately the goods produced by modem industrialism force Hector to lose his connection with the island: we learn he adopts "another // kind of life that was changing him with his brand-new / stereo, its endless garages, where he could not / whip off his shirt, hearing the conch's summoning note" (231). Here chapter XLV ends, with an exposition of those things which moved Hector away from what was most natural to him and his culture. The allure of western materialism proved too much to resist and Hector pays its price, leaving behind his unborn child in Helen's womb.

Interwoven with the death of Hector is the reappearance of the narrator--nameless to us--on St. Lucia. The narrator makes note of the changes that have taken place in his absence as the island bears the marks of tourism and commercialism.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

On Chapter XLV of Derek Walcott's Omeros
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.