Rebecca Essay

1270 words - 6 pages

Austin Clarke’s body of work has been recognized by writers/critics such as Stella Algoo-Baksh, Frank Birbalsingh, Anthony Boxill, Lloyd W. Brown and Daniel Coleman. Coleman declares “Austin Clarke has published fifteen volumes of fiction and autobiography since 1964, making him one of the most prolific writers living in Canada today” (29). A comprehensive collection of his work including manuscripts, journals, reviews from critics and personal interviews are found at the McMaster University in Ontario Canada. Throughout Clarke’s novels, migration is a theme that is recurrent, for example, in The Meeting Point and The Origin of Waves, which will be the focus of my paper, evidence of this theme, is noted. The 1955 Domestic Scheme introduced by the Canadian government was of paramount importance as it provided the opportunity for people in the Caribbean to work overseas. People from Trinidad, Jamaica and Barbados for example, worked as domestic helpers for affluent Canadian families (Bristow 218-219).
Austin Clarke’s novel The Meeting Point (1967) gives an account of the main character Bernice Leach who came to Canada as a Barbadian immigrant on the aforementioned scheme to work for the wealthy Jewish Burrmann family. In The Meeting Point, Clarke brings to the fore issues of economic exploitation, social alienation and issues of identity. Similarly in The Origin of Waves Tim and John who are also Barbadian immigrants reflect on their past life in Barbados and make comparisons with the hardship they have endured in Canada. The two childhood friends accidentally meet in a snowstorm in Canada, however, the first chapter of the novel provides a flashback to the Caribbean and already Clarke reveals the dislocation that results from being in an unfamiliar space as the sun, sand and warmth of the Caribbean is contrasted with the snow of Toronto which is cold and unfriendly. As stated in my proposal Clarke creatively uses the characters in both novels to depict the dislocation of being an immigrant, the difficulty of retaining ones identity in a foreign space, the significance of memory as a coping mechanism and the importance of language which accentuates agency.
Miriam Waddington a critic of The Meeting Point states that “Bernice’s character remains static throughout the story; she has no real world within which to define herself or against which to rebel” (77). Waddington fails to recognize or explore the fact that Bernice’s “real world” is not Canada instead it is the Caribbean where she is originally from. The environment of Canada is too strange and restricted, which prevents Bernice to truly embrace who she is. Like Waddington, Lloyd Brown in his book El Dorado and paradise: Canada and the Caribbean in Austin Clarke’s Fiction surmises that Bernice “at her best, she is merely pathetic, drawing up on our sympathies by virtue of her victimization” (69). This was not a fair critique as Bernice constantly struggles with the work she does as well as the...

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