Marxism, Naturalism, And Allegory In Roger Mais' Novels
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DepartmentEnglish and Languages
ProgramMaster of Arts
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The problem of this study was to examine in Roger Mais' novels, The Hills Were Joyful Together, Brother Man, and Black Lightning, Mais' interpretation of Jamaican poverty and its effects. In order to conduct this study, the writer employed both Marxist theory and fundamental concepts of naturalism. Essentially, the characters in The Hills are deficient because of economic limitations and fate, leading to discontent, violence, and murder. Mais' second novel, Brother Man, illustrates his pessimism about the general lifestyle of the poor, and, as in The Hills, describes death, gloom, and despair. Although the characters in Black Lightning hold similar values as those in the above two novels, Mais presents these characters less harshly. All three novels evidence Marxist ideologies, as Mais was sympathetic toward the strengths and weaknesses of the poor. Even though Mais speaks from this Marxist perspective, he draws upon a seemingly incompatible, naturalistic view when he suggests that his characters are determined by environment, rather than free will. These are contradictory premises, in light of the Marxist suggestion that proletarians can change their circumstances through a raising of class consciousness, whereas naturalists tend to depict human beings as defenseless victims of circumstance. From another point of view, these two positions are oddly compatible because both attempt to explain why the poor are routinely defeated. Mais channels the above didactic impulses aesthetically by converting his narratives into quasi allegories; for in all three novels there is an underlying pattern in which the setting acquires a metaphorical or in some cases a symbolic quality. This symbolic setting, in other words, becomes the initial chain of a predictable novelistic structure — setting, character experiences, and consequences of character actions. Despite his critics, therefore, Mais has contributed significantly to Jamaican literature by emphasizing the plight of the Jamaican poor, not only describing them realistically, but also evincing a Dickensian sympathy for their struggles, disillusionment, and disintegration.