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The wine of astonishment


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The wine of astonishment

  1. 1. The Wine of Astonishment - LITERATURE NOTESABOUT EARL LOVELACE  Born in Toco, Trinidad  Born in 1935  Spent most of his early years with his maternal grandparents in Tobago  He was an avid reader  He currently lives in Trinidad and Tobago  His passions in life are cricket and footballEARL LOVELACE’S NOVELS  While God’s are Falling, 1964  The Schoolmaster, 1968  The Dragon Can’t Dance, 1978  The Wine of Astonishment, 1982  Jestina’s Calypso and Other Stories, 1984  Growing in the Dark, 2003  Is Just a Movie, due for publication in August 2010 onSUMMARYThe book is about Eva and Bee Dorcas, members of the Spiritual Baptist Church. It is about theirexperiences of being persecuted for their religious affiliation and the faith that they have in Ivan Mortonto change their situation. The character Bolo is also at the forefront of this story because he embodies theresult of not being able to be a man in a society that does not view being Black as valuable.SETTINGTime / Place:  The story is set over a 20 year time period, 1932 – 1951  Set in a small, remote village in Trinidad called BonassePolitical structure:  Trinidad was still a colony under the British Empire  Trinidad was ruled under the Crown Colony system – Head of State in England governed the island via the Governor, who was his or her representative  Political power, therefore, lay in the governor, assisted by a Council  Universal adult suffrage (right of all adults to vote) did not occur to Trinidad until 1946.  Power still lay in the hands of those who owned plantations and these people, in turn, controlled the instruments of power; the legislature, the courts and the police.Economy:  The economy was still predominantly agricultural; sugar, cocoa, coffee, coconuts and citrus. Copyright © 2012 Sickheadz Compiled by: Virgilio Cus
  2. 2.  The petroleum industry was just beginning to make an impact.  Subsistence farming (production of foodstuff for domestic use) was the norm  World War II led to the establishment of American bases, which introduced opportunity to earn money  WW II also introduced a consumer attitude to life in BonasseSocial structure:  Trinidad boasted a very diverse Creole society populated by a variety of ethnic groups (Indian, Black, Chinese, White), each with its own cultural and religious practices.  Trinidad was still a series of small villages connected by a network of tiny roads, hence, travel between villages was infrequentReligion:  The protagonists in the novel are Spiritual Baptists/ Shouter Baptists  This religion arose out of a fusion of Protestant Christianity and African Orisha elements  The religion was outlawed in 1917 on the grounds that they disturbed the peace with their bell ringing, loud singing and highly expressive behavior during worship.  See video clip of Spiritual Baptist in Grenada at the bottom of this page.MAJOR CHARACTERSEva Dorcas:  The wife of Bee Dorcas and mother to 5 children  She is the emotional support for her husband  She is a strong Christian  The story is told through her eyes (1st person narrator)  She is patient and long sufferingBee Dorcas:  Eva’s husband and father of her 5 children  Pastor of the Shouter Baptist church in the text  He is a strong Christian  He is considered to be the pillar of the community  He is very wise, patient and long suffering  He is very persistent, as seen in his lobbying for Ivan Morton  Shoulders his responsibilities well and does not view them as a burdenBolo:  Local stick fighting champion  Initially beloved and admired by the community, seen as a hero/warrior figure  Was imprisoned for 3 years for defending his mother, and the church, during a police raid of the Shouter Baptist church Copyright © 2012 Sickheadz Compiled by: Virgilio Cus
  3. 3.  Later becomes the terror of the community because of how he bullied every-one after his return from prison  A brave, yet simple character that was crushed by the realities of life as a black man in TrinidadIvan Morton:  Local boy who was considered to be the pride of the community because he was ‘bright’  Failed his college Exhibition examination twice  He eventually became a teacher within the community  He married a light skinned girl from Tunapuna, and abandoned Eulalie and their illegitimate baby  The community chose him to represent them on the Council and he became a true politician; talk without actionMINOR CHARACTERSClyde:  Ivan Morton’s driver  A lot of second hand information about Ivan is gleaned from this character, via Joyce  Eventually marries JoyceMr. Buntin:  Black owner of the local shop  He believed in Black empowerment  He was not a good businessman; a lot of people owed him and his shop was virtually empty by the end of the book  He enjoyed the company of his patronsMitchel:  Carpenter on the American Base  Money-lender and contact man  Owner of the local shop that eventually ‘competes’ with Buntin’s shop  An example of some-one who has profited from the American presence in Trinidad  Bolo destroys his establishment  He campaigns for Ivan Morton during his bid for re-election to the councilClem:  The polar opposite of Bolo  Calm and able to go with the flow  A musician who eventual leaves Bonasse to become the successful Lord Trafalgar  He got along with everyoneEulalie:  The most attractive girl in Bonasse  Widely believed that she would eventually marry Bolo Copyright © 2012 Sickheadz Compiled by: Virgilio Cus
  4. 4.  She dated Ivan Morton instead  She became pregnant by Ivan and was abandoned by him  She eventually went to live in the United StatesCorporal Prince:  He was tall and stocky  Enforced the law at all costs  Arrested and brutally beat Bolo, 1st time  Raided the Shouter Baptist church  He was unsympathetic to the Shouter BaptistsPrimus:  Quiet and gentle resident of Bonasse  He tried to be friendly with every-one  Bolo kidnapped his two daughtersWinston:  Oldest of the Dorcas children  19 years old at the beginning of the story  Leaves Bonasse to become a policeTaffy:  16 years old at the beginning of the story  The most troubled of the Dorcas children  He got in trouble with the law and had to flee to Port of Spain  Also the most charming of the childrenJoyce:  15 years old at the beginning of the story  Reader gets all the second hand news about Ivan Morton from her, via Clyde  Dated, then eventually got married to Clyde  At the end of the book, she is pregnant with her first childReggie:  8 years at the beginning of the text  A very intelligent young man  Preparing to take the college Exhibition exam in the middle of the text  Gets caught up with talk of black empowerment at Buntin’s shop  gains a place in high school on his own initiative, at the beginning of the textGem:  4 years old Copyright © 2012 Sickheadz Compiled by: Virgilio Cus
  5. 5.  Youngest child  Playful and very ‘bright’CHAPTER SUMMARIESChapter 1:The readers are introduced to the narrator, Eva, and her husband Bee, along with three of their children:Joyce, Gem and Reggie. Reggie has failed his examination and the couple debates whether or not to askIvan Morton for help. It becomes apparent that the hope of the community rests on this young politician’sshoulders. He disappoints the community, however, when he does not support the Shouter Baptists. Thereader is introduced to the budding relationship between Joyce and Clyde, as well as Bolo’sdisappointment in the church’s apathy. The chapter ends with Reggie being placed in a high school afterpreviously applying without his parents’ knowledge.Chapter 2:This chapter charts the changes in Bonasse and how it affects Bolo and Clem. Clem accepted and wentwith the flow, while Bolo just could not accept change and became disruptive. The banning of carnival,hence stick fighting, became a reality, and the change that Americans had on the cultural identity of thepeople was emphasized throughout this chapter.Chapter 3:The church plays a vital role in this chapter. The pride that is felt about its existence and perseverance isexpressed by Eva. However, a law is passed that makes the church illegal, thereby forcing the members toplot to keep the church alive. The formulated a plan to be ‘quiet’ in the way they worship and to try to‘put a man in the Council’. Other things that occur in the chapter are: the tragic tale of Eulalie/Ivan/Bolo,Bolo losing his temper and its tragic results, and the coming of Prince. In the end, Bee decides to breakthe law because the church is slowly dying.Chapter 4:In this chapter, the reader learns about Bee’s children, as well as their response to his talk of ‘breaking thelaw’. Winston wants to become a police and Taffy wants to leave Trinidad. Bolo sits in church as aquestion mark and eventually leaves, while Bee finally ‘breaks the law’.Chapter 5:Bee breaks the law continuously until the church is raided. Everyone is dragged to jail, but Bolointercedes on behalf of his mother. He is beaten and subsequently imprisoned for three years with hardlabour. Bee was left with no choice but to sell his cow to avoid going to jail. Buntin’s shop becomes‘black empowerment’ central, attracting all the youngsters, including Reggie, to join the discussions.Taffy stabs a boy and runs off to stay with his uncle in Port of Spain, while the Winston leaves Bonasse inorder to become a police.Chapter 6:This chapter is all about the campaign trail and how diligently Bee worked to get Ivan elected. An air offreedom and joy pervades this chapter. It ends, however, with Eva’s observation of the changes that Ivanmakes in his life, in accordance with his new position, as well as her views on the implications behindIvan Morton’s procurement of the house on the hill.Chapter 7:This is a very dramatic chapter that highlights Bolo’s release from jail and the extent to which things hadchanged during his incarceration. He tried to get land and did not succeed, he tried to stick fight and facedcowards. The chapter ends with the destruction that he wrought on the drums in order to express his anger Copyright © 2012 Sickheadz Compiled by: Virgilio Cus
  6. 6. and frustration.Chapter 8:This chronicles Bolo’s descent into a mode of destructive behavior: (a) obtaining a job and (b) extortingproducts from the market vendors, rum shop and gambling shop. Bolo’s fame extends outside Bonasse inthis chapter, thereby highlighting the severity of his anger.Chapter 9:Joyce, the Dorcas’ only daughter, gets married, while Bolo kidnaps Primus’ two daughters. Bee tries toget men to ‘challenge Bolo, since that is what he wants, but he barely succeeds at this. The policeintercede and Bolo, as well as Primus’ youngest daughter, gets killed.Chapter 10:Election time and Ivan is on the trail. The reader is not made aware of whether or not he is re-elected, butwhat is known is that the Shouter Baptists were legalized. The irony at the end of the book, however, isthat on the cusp of their great victory, the spirit left the church. Despite this tragedy, Eva hears it in themusic that the boys play on the steel pan.THEMESRacismWomen in societyReligionEducation vs. religionChangePower and authorityViolence Copyright © 2012 Sickheadz Compiled by: Virgilio Cus