This book asks that later generation to stop taking the truth of Lamming’s claims of novelty for granted and to redefine that tradition in West Indian imaginative writing so that readers meet Lamming, Mais, and Selvon after having made the acquaintance of their literary forebears. The 1950s would not lose but gain in novelty. A reader of early West Indian literature and newspapers might well experience In the Castle of My Skin as both familiar and revolutionary. In the opening chapter as his mother bathes young G. and the yard watches on, the reader would recognize the yard as the space of the black working poor, recognize also its unmarried women, its decrepit structures, its creole language, its calypsonian comedy. Later, that reader might see in the young boys’ discussion of comically disastrous marriages echoes of the court reports in newspapers such as the Jamaica Times, in which the working poor make a mockery of matrimony. He or she might compare Trumper’s assertion that for people in the village, “it don’t matter who marry who, as soon as they is that marryin business, everythin break up, break right up,” with the lesson of the Beacons yard fiction that marriage and the yard were fundamentally incompatible.2 When the young boys Trumper, G., and Boy Blue overhear a sailor seducing the landlord’s daughter on a trash heap, he or she might recall Mendes’ fiction of white degeneracy, perhaps “Boodhoo,” in which the planters young English wife has passionate sex on a patch of rotten leaves with her husband’s mixed-race son.


Unmarried Woman Head Teacher Urban Worker Black Middle Class Moral Ignorance 


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  1. 1.
    Lamming, The Pleasures of Exile (1960; reprint, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1992), 38.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Lamming, In the Castle of My Skin (1953, reprint, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1991), 142.Google Scholar

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© Leah Reade Rosenberg 2007

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