- ‘Thou hast shewed thy people hard things: thou hast made us to drink the wine of astonishment’. (Psalms 60:3)
- Discuss the hardships the people of Bonasse experienced during that time. (7 marks)
- Explain Eva’s role in the community during that time of challenge. (10 marks)
- Discuss the effectiveness of the choice of Eva as narrator.
The novel The Wine of Astonishment by Earl Lovelace is narrated by Eva Dorcas, wife of Bee Dorcas and mother of five children. Eva tells the readers of all that is happening in that time, which is the Second World War and afterwards. In the novel, the theme strength, hardships and hope as well as others can be seen, strength can be seen with Bolo and the warriors, also, with the people of Bonasse themselves, especially the Baptists, as even though they are constantly being opposed, harassed and oppressed, they still fight, and continue hope that things will get better. The title is very effective, as it is an excerpt from the Bible, which shows not only that the people are going through hard times or struggles, but that the book and them also centre or revolve around religion, and most of the problems or trials they face are ones because of their religious practices.
As stated before, many people face hardships in the novel, these hardships gives the reader a greater understanding about the characters and how they deal with their problems and it also helps the novel to progress, and makes the books title more effective. The first chapter opens up the reader to a hardship that is seen throughout all or most of the novel; the hardships the Spiritual Baptists face as they are being persecuted. In the novel, the Spiritual Baptists are seen to go through many hard times/challenges. They are not allowed to do certain practices which separate their denomination from others, like ringing the church bell while worshipping, clapping too loudly or even ‘catching the Spirit’. The church people were so harassed and targeted by the police, they had to move their church far away as to not get disturbed, but still the police would find them and harass them, especially once when they caught them breaking the law and brought them to the police station. In those days, only Catholic and Anglican people were respected, and so, only they would advance in the world. No matter what level education you have, it you weren’t Catholic or Anglican, you would not be able to succeed; Ivan Morton’s mother had realised this after Ivan Morton had sit his exams multiple times, and although he was smart enough, he did not advance until his mother had converted them to the accepted Catholic faith.
Also, the community and the people of Bonasse had to face hardships when they were forced to not follow their traditions or ‘roots’. All things they were used to doing, all the practices were used to like having carnivals and their well-known stick-fights were banned by the government due to the Second World War. Because they weren’t allowed to follow their traditions, some people went astray, picking up new habits/lifestyles, especially since there were Americans on the island. The people who decided to stay in the old mind-set, those who clung to the old lifestyle were even more the more opposed; also, due to there being many American soldiers on the island protecting it, there results in a greater abundance of currency, resulting in a more materialistic and ‘everyman for himself’ as opposed to the former community living. And another hardship the people experienced was that they were still facing hardships, even though they had one of their own on the Council. They believed Ivan Morton would be a gateway leading them out of this time of hardships, leading them to freedom, but they realized that Ivan Morton did no such thing once he was placed inside the council.
As said earlier, Eva is the narrator of the novel The Wine of Astonishment. In the novel, it can be seen that Eva has multiple roles in the community. One of her first roles is being the wife to Bee Dorcas, which means to be able to understand him and his ways and to support him. Eva is seen in the novel as being the person Bee confides in the most. Eva can see and notice when her husband is not well, stressed or unhappy. She knows how to cheer him up and how to deal with that situation. Also, from that point, two roles can also be seen; one being that she is the mother of her children, and the other being that, since she is the wife of the pastor, that makes her the mother of the church, which can be seen as a symbol of the village, so Eva is a wife, mother and church/village mother. The novel shows that she plays the role of mother when it tells us she worries about her children, this can be seen when she tells us that she is wondering about her son Taffy, and if he is still okay and why he doesn’t write. It also shows this when she is their strength and gives them explanations when their father was not doing as he said he was going to do, which was break the law. She also shows her motherliness when takes care of the children, guides and encourages them and when she bridges the gap between the children’s expectations and that of the father, seen in the time when Bee did not break the law, and Eva kept reassuring Reggie that Bee was still a man, and that he will do as he said and break the law. She is seen as the church/community mother when people from the church or community go to her to confide in her and ask for her help, seen when the father of the two females that Bolo had taken went to Bee for help and advice, but since Bee was not there, or since Bee was not present, he trusted Eva enough to explain to her what was happening. Also, she is seen as the church mother when she offers support for the people in the church family, and when she assists her husband in church doing church activities.
Earl Lovelace made an excellent choice in making Eva the narrator. This is so because, as she is a mother as well, she would also have hardships of her own, hardships that only mothers will have. Also, Eva is very close to the situation, and although it may have some bias, the information presented is in detail, not only exactly as it happened very vivid with all the uses of literary devices; information was also intimate and personal as she had a personal relationship with all the characters. Also, Eva knows the history of each character, and hence tells only the important parts related to what is happening, but gives the reader enough information to understand what is happening and why it is happening. And finally, Eva gives information about everybody, but it is only certain characters she gives personal information about, and she considers herself one of these characters. Another is Bee, and also Bolo and how he felt and why he felt and did the things he did. She gave us enough information behind what happened to Bolo earlier that made him turn out the way he did and do the things he did. Also, in the novel, Eva had a lot of free time, so she would have enough free time to tell us the story.
In conclusion, it can be seen that Eva is a very good choice for the narrator. She was able to capture all the hardships the people of Bonasse had to face and was able to present it to the reader in a very fine way. Also, it can be seen that Eva’s roles in the community help to get the information that make up the story through people telling her stories, and this is very helpful as she, or women in those times, weren’t allowed in certain places and so she had to rely on second hand source to know what happened.
-Jordon Hayles (5Pool4 Literature)
2) According to Eva in The Wine of Astonishment, ‘the sickness for money was the disease taking over everybody.’
a) Explain the reason for the sudden influx of money in society. (7marks)
b) Identify a character who embraces and one who rejects this new lifestyle that has been driven by money and explain how all of this is shown.
c) Say whether or not this change is a positive one. Explain your answer. (8 marks)
The Wine of Astonishment, by Earl Lovelace, is narrated by a female, Eva Dorcas. She is the wife to Bee Dorcas, the pastor of the Shouter Baptist Church, and together, they have five children. Throughout the novel, change has been introduced; change to views, culture and morale. It is told to us by Eva that some people do not readily accept this change, and that some reject it, some even fight against it.
In the novel, Eva tells us how people would change, so that they can easily earn the American money which is the more popular. This is so, because of World War II. Because of World War II, American soldiers were dispatched to Trinidad to protect it, they had even set up a Base. With them, the Americans brought along their own currency, the American currency, which had a higher rate than their own Trinidadian currency. With the Americans being all over the small country, their currency was gained, and circulated a lot in Trinidad, resulting in an influx of money. Money was also easily earned and given away; doing little to no work on the Base had made a man from Bonasse, Mitchell, far better off than he was before the Americans. Americans, or anyone who had enough money and wanted their needs satisfied, would easily give money up to girls, which, in the end, resulted in prostitution.
Throughout the story, the theme of change is presented to the readers. In Bonasse, everyone was one, they were family, and happily and firmly followed culture and tradition, some more firmly than others, for example, Mitchell. Mitchell, as mentioned before, easily discards his old lifestyle for a new one that would increase his wealth. He went to work for the Americans on the Base just to make a lot of money easily, and when his work time had ended, he did not revert to his old living styles or mannerisms, he had embraced the Americans’, flashing his wealth about, and inappropriately touched girls because he thought he had money enough. One character who greatly contrasts Mitchell is Bolo. Bolo, even when there was a great abundance of money he could easily earn more, stuck to his simple lifestyle, climbing coconut trees for a meagre pay compared to that of the ones he would have gotten if he worked for the Americans. Also, he still believed in a sense of community and oneness, eventhough, because of money, most people had gone into an all for themselves attitude.
The change shown in the story is both positive, and negative. From an economic end, this change is very positive and advantageous. With the influx of money, the Trinidadian economy must have been thriving and growing, but, it is also negative as, it shows that money can be seen as an evil force, causing family and close friends to resent each other, hatred in a community or society, seen when Bolo had returned from jail and showed his long time hatred towards Mitchell by ruining his snackette’s business. Money had also caused many females to degrade themselves to make money to survive in a society run by it. It also puts people out of jobs, as the market vendors that sells ground provision would have less to sell. Hence, it is more negative than positive.
In conclusion, it can be seen that one reason for great change in Eva’s society was money; the need to earn it and then to spend it. It can be seen that money changed people, but some people remained the same, holding on strongly to beliefs that were waning, also, that although this money has positive effects on the society, it is mostly negative, as many views were analysed and seen as negative.