Healing into Wholeness: Individuals Transformed into a Collective Heroic Being in Derek Walcott's Omeros
"No man is an Island, entire of himself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the Main."
Individual heroic deeds and characteristics are the seeds upon which a culture's values are based and these define a culture while also defining each individual's identity. Ancient and modern epics define heroic behavior through mostly male heroic figures, but female characters share an equally important role in defining a culture's identity and values. Equally so, a culture or race can be collectively conceived of as a whole or as the sum of its parts. While characteristics such as honor, honesty, courage, pride, respect, and integrity can be, and certainly are, relevant to both sexes, these positive characteristics and negative ones such as dishonesty, lack of courage, egotism, disrespect, and betrayal are often represented by and identified with separate characters, but can function within a whole culture to render the culture weak, sickly or out of balance. In Derek Walcott's epic Omeros, the island of St. Lucia and its inhabitants are healed both individually and collectively as Walcott dares to redefine heroic behavior as a psychological transformation toward wholeness.
Ancient and modern epics follow a very Western tradition by defining heroism as the accomplishments of individual heroes to further the good of the whole, which means some must lose if the hero or heroes are to win. In The Iliad, Achilles comes to his senses and leads his troops to defeat the Trojans. In The Odyssey, Odysseus returns to Ithaca after his long journey and restores order by defeating the suitors. In The Aeneid, Aeneas succeeds in founding Rome after defeating Turnus and the Italians. And in Paradise Lost, Adam and Eve are redeemed by the Son while Satan is forever condemned to Hell. Walcott's epic redefines this heroic transaction between winners and losers to follow an integrated approach, almost philosophically more Eastern than Western in design, where all are winners through a healing rather than a defeat. Those who do lose their life (Hector and Maud) do not die at the hand of others, but because of other consequences: either their own carelessness (Hector's reckless driving) or the nature of illness (Maud's incurable cancer). Life happens on the island-life and death, but somehow they seem more natural on this island in the Caribbean with the present threats to life being illness and economic shifts, as opposed to the bloody battles of the Greek Isles.
The narrator's behavior and transforation can also be defined as heroic. He is in mental and hallucinatory pursuit of Omeros (Homer) as he physically and mentally travels the world. He comes to realize he does not need to defeat Homer in order to write his epic. In their verbal fencing match in Book Seven, the narrator says, "I saw you in London,"… "sunning on the steps of St....