Roger Mais's Protest Novels: A Revolt and Self-Affirmation Mandate for Marginalized Blacks
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Type of WorkText
DepartmentEnglish and Languages
ProgramDoctor of Philosophy
The problem of this study was to examine how Black marginalized individuals in the Caribbean use hybrid cultural practices—religion, family life, and creative arts—to protest societal dictates and simultaneously affirm their identity. Specifically, the marginalized use hybrid practices to cope with and simultaneously challenge the status quo that relates to their social, economic, and political climate. Mais adjoins his artistic sensibilities and skills to his writing, illustrating his intertwined overt and covert agenda of passive aggression—to effect desired change. Thus, in seeking to understand the mentality of the downtrodden population in Jamaica and their coping mechanisms, the researcher evaluated the problem identified in this study by critically examining Mais’s three multi-faceted novels: The Hills Were Joyful Together (1953), Brother Man (1954), and Black Lightning (1955). Mais’s three novels illustrate overlapping reasons why deviating from traditional religious practices, family structures, and creative arts necessitate the fundamental changes that the marginalized, in their seeming defenseless and naïve state, demands. Mais unmistakably demeaned societal values through the subtlety of his craft, which was predominantly apparent in this discourse. To establish the premise for this exposition, the researcher delved into historical facts that pre-date Mais’s affirmation and protest mechanisms. Additionally, the researcher employed theoretical works on colonialism, postcolonialism, cultural, socio-economic, and religious theories to advance the scope of the discussion. Although Mais’s novels evidence postcolonial readings, a lingering colonial mode pervades, particularly illustrated through the projection of the social institution of marriage as the standard for decent family decorum and traditional religious practices as the preferred or acceptable norm. Likewise, Mais examines Jamaican cultural norms in the form of creative arts—traditional dances, folk music, and crafts—which were derived from African and other historical experiences that the indigent used as coping and revolting tools. Mais’s novels also discuss the correlation between poverty and rebellion. Notable is that these selected novels structurally raise a thorough awareness of the strategies that poor people use to protest the system and simultaneously affirm themselves. In addition, Mais uniquely magnifies and celebrates his characters, despite the eventualities that he realistically inserts into their everyday existence, while he deliberately undermines any possibility of dignifying the actions or inactions of the colonizers and their oppressive “Babylon” system.