The Caribbean Identity
The way in which Benítez-Rojo and Mintz tackle the question of Caribbean identity in their articles, is a removed, objective ideal, in contrast to Michelle Cliff’s portrayal of Jamaican identity. Cliff’s portrayal touches the heart and soul of Caribbean identity. While Mintz and Benítez-Rojo are investigating trends in the Caribbean as a whole, from an outside perspective, Cliff offers the personal, tactile imagery of what it is to live in the Caribbean, utilizing the objective account of history as a background. Furthermore, Cliff deals with Jamaica, one island in the Caribbean, while Mintz and Benítez-Rojo are dealing with the Caribbean on a grand scaled overview. The fact is neither article can be taken as complete truth. In fact, although Cliff uses history in her novel, I believe the account of history from someone who has completely accessed the interior of a place, is always going to be biased. Likewise, Mintz and Benítez-Rojo in making their hypotheses, are lacking an insider’s view. It is the difference between a Caribbean person and Caribbeanist, respectively. Therefore, while on a logical level, an analytical level, Benítez-Rojo and Mintz’s, conclusions as to Caribbean identity could rightly be accepted, these two authors do not possess the experience and intensity to make me as a reader, convinced of their conclusions.
Benítez-Rojo and Mintz do utilize imagery in their texts. For example, Benítez-Rojo quotes E. Dovergier as a manner of displaying with images what he has attempted to explain regarding rhythm as being the unifying factor of Caribbean culture. Part of this description reads, "the buyers buzz around like a swarm of flies; they haggle, they gesticulate, they laugh, they babble in the harmonious colonial patois." (Benítez-Rojo, 1992, p. 79) Now, this imagery is excellent- reading it, I can envision what Benítez-Rojo is explaining. However, the author is using the quote to prove his point that except for rhythm, there is no common theme in the islands of Caribbean as far as culture goes. The incentive/ motivation for utilizing imagery is at the other end of the spectrum of Cliff’s motivation. Cliff’s motivation is to communicate to the reader how it is to live in the Caribbean. She is not writing to analyze or make sense of how it is, though her use of historical background offers some clues as to the development of the Caribbean society. For example, the following is a description of a funeral procession Cliff, as character Clare, witnesses it:
The procession moved forward underneath a steady hum, which at first seemed of the same key and pitch, but soon differentiated into harmony, led by the high falsetto of a man, whose voice circled the hum and turned it into a mourning chant. The words of the chant were strange, unrecognizable. (Cliff, 1995, p. 50)
It is important to note that Cliff does question elements of Jamaica’s society. Works such as The Diary of Anne Frank provoke questions...