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Names Questions and Answers 5 & 2 by Derek Walcott

Names Questions and Answers

 

 1. Why does the poet emphasise the word “race”.?

[Names Questions and Answers ]

Race is the word that indicates the self-entity and the social identity which is the key question raised in the poem. It also indicates the urge to find out the self, the personal on a trajectory of colonial settlement in the Caribbean islands.

2. Under what context the references are made ……… “The goldsmith from Benares, inque the stone-cutter from Canton, the bronzesmith from Benin.”

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As the poem opens up under the wide starry sky amidst the deep blue sea, it talks about the people residing over there. The island not only has the native Americans, who are the indigenous population of Caribbean but also the population who have been brought by the British Imperials from Southern China (canton), Africa (Benin) and India (Benaras) to work in the island as indentured labourer to serve the British population. These people have lost their identities and are desperately searching for the “I” in their individual way at times in despair and at times introspecting within how they would introduce themselves to their future generation.

 

3. Expand on the line – “listen my children”.

The poet seems to indicate through the words “listen my children the derogatory and patronising way in which the coloniser would speak to the African native presuming that the natives were with no intelligence. It could also seemingly allude to a colonial classroom where the native children are taught European languages.

Since the Caribbean islands have been colonised by the French and English, both these languages have populated into the Caribbean sensibility. It is interesting to note that the French words in the depiction are being translated into English and not into any indigenous language.

4. “With nothing in our hands ” – Justify the lines.

The poet seems to see history as nothingness. His understanding of history could be well interpreted from his essay “The Muse of History” where he looks at “amnesia as a true history of the new world.” He strongly feels when the new World would fight there could be the need to respond to the traditions of Europe. Thus, he treats history as nothing that emerges out of the conundrum of a colonial past. This thought of nothingness is echoed in the lines, here, too.

5. How is the loss of identity and the cry for that “terrible vowel” portrayed here?

In the poem. Walcott positions himself as a Caribbean. He uses the horizon to state his Inability to figure out the beginning, the long-cherished identity! Within the Early European community who have settled in the Caribbean Island, there exists a sense of loss as they have left their country for whom they are often nostalgic yet they are in a place working with a mission to explore the new colonized world. These dual feelings generate a kind of unhappy moments deep within, a feeling that arouses keen desperation to find out the true identity and belongingness. Simultaneously, it paradoxically affirms the irony, the stark difference between Europe and the new world. He feels the naming of the new world by the colonizer, which is partially driven by nostalgia for European past, is futile as this untamed terrain of the New World bears no resemblance to the sophisticated Elegance of Europe. It is just the colonials attempt to acclimatise themselves with the new World by naming the New World after their past world. Yet all efforts at doing so are the pointless conspiracy to make an exile look like a home.

Looking on the contrary picture, Walcott also refers to the indigenous culture and identity of the native which is on the verge of becoming a lost identity because of the New world. The racist predilection of the colonizers and their pejorative use of racial identity also has put the aboriginal in an absolute state of confusion and sadness. The natives find themselves trapped within the Invaders culture which is nothing but a threat to their own indigenous identity. The poet uses irony to address the varied ways in which the colonizers address their alienation from Europe whether by transplanting architectural patterns or by shortening names associated with the old world into monuments or by recreating versions of monuments and architectural marvels.

Thus, both the natives as well as the colonists suffer from their loss of identity and are sad in their own ways. All these have enhanced the loss of their uniqueness and has created desperation to find out the “I” which is the inner cry.

6. “No nouns” – What does it imply?

Name accord a particular place, object, entity or organism, an identity. To name a thing is to have access to it, to know it and oftentimes to possess it. Naming then is not only a linguistic act but also is rooted in a matrix of power. Hence noun or naming is very important. In case there is no name there is a loss of Identity, a loss of personal entity, personification.

7. What does poet mean by that ‘I’?

“”That I”” connotes subjectively of the colonized individuals. The preceding line suggests that the phonetic sound of the vowel I, a long drawn aieee, is a cry. Walcott’s choice of the adjective terrible indicates that an individual is coming into identity is a painful process mired in discordant affiliations.

8. “Was it nostalgia or…Irony” – Explain the lines in brief.

Through these few words the poet rhetorically asks if the naming of the New World by the colonizer is driven by nostalgia for European past or else is it an irony that affirms the stark difference between Europe and the New World. They want the Grand and glorious past of theirs through the replica to convert the rough terrain of the Caribbean Island into a sophisticated elegant land to reminiscence the past.

9. What does Cabbage Palm refer to?

Cabbage palms referred to the mundane cabbage palms that offer a striking contrast to the grandeur and Splendour of Castile and Versailles.

10. “Which the sea erased again, to our indifference” – Explain with reference to the context?

The naming of the New World by the early colonizers romantically posits the White man as Adam in paradise hu Christens everything. Walcott has argued elsewhere that the privilege of naming The New World eliminates an ethnic past. It is this erasure that Walcott alludes to in these lines. Naming and renaming are acts that should be regarded with Indifference since they are driven by varied social political agendas that could be detrimental to individual subjectivity

11. Why is ‘Olive oil’ mentioned here?

The poet is referring to olive oil with reference to the Levantine which is the Eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea where olive oil is produced in plenty. The poet

is depicting the sense of loss for the early Europeans in leaving their own country. It evokes a sense of nostalgia for the homeland left behind in order to explore and WE 245 colonize in the New World.

12. “Where was there elegance / except in their mockery?” – What does the poet want to convey? ” 

Walcott seems to affirm that it is irony rather than nostalgia that influences the naming of the New World. The untamed terrain of the New World bears no resemblance to the sophisticated elegance of Europe. Walcott uses irony to address the varied ways in which colonizer addresses his alienation from Europe. Colonizers attempt to use architectural Marvels and monuments in different versions as replicas in the New World cannot bring that true world to the new settlers. Hence, according to him it is just a mockery that colonizers are trying to exercise to connect their present to their past memories. 

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