SOCIAL ANALYSIS: EARL LOVELACE: HIS VIEW OF TRINIDAD SOCIETY IN ” WHILE GODS ARE FALLING” AND” THE SCHOOLMASTER”

At first Lovelace seems to suggest a movement from the city back to the land because, in spite of the hardship of life in the country, he sees there both greater independence and self-satisfaction for the individual, as well as an easy and effective group integration. Finally, however, the solution comes for Walter when he realises that a man cannot be always running away but “has to fight right where he finds himself or lie down and let them walk over him.” The individual must seek involvement, and only through participation in the problems of his home, his neighbourhood, and his society can he achieve satisfaction with himself and find a meaning for his life. The author continues,

“Participation is the fundamental pillar upon which to build a strong nation:” and

“the real object is to get in motion a force of community consciousness and community participation which in time will solve if not all, at least the majority of our ills.”

Perhaps it might be said that Lovelace’s solution to the problem of meaning for the individual is too simple and too pragmatic, or too practical and “preachy” to be acceptable in any large or universal scale. Yet in the context of the Trinidad of today as presented by his novel this viewpoint seems to be both important and logical.

Lovelace is writing about the ordinary man in post-Independence Trinidad and he seems to imply that the ordinary Trinidadian seeks independence. sees it as progress, demands and expects more from it, yet fears its coming and seems unable to accept the greater challenges which are inherent in this political and social change. They both long for progress and change, and fear them. At first political change seems to mean “the death no not the death, but the strangulation of the individual. I see not men, not individuals, but Party cards and badges.” Finally, however, it is seen to be the first step towards the freeing of the individual from old systems of values to a new feeling of compassion for, and understanding of, his environment. In the recognition of this feeling he can find his place in the society.

The novel, then, ends on a note of hope. But Lovelace himself shows the greatest ambivalence in his acceptance of progress within the society. He seems to yearn for an earlier simpler time when men were more sure of themselves and of their role in the society. He seems to associate change, dissatisfaction, frustration and loneliness with the city. The country is more static: Walter’s time at Nuggle passed in passionless and dreaming laugh-ter, but even here a way of life which was simple and satisfying, is being slowly eroded. And Lovelace views this erosion with sadness:

“You begin with desire, with desire comes knowledge and with knowledge comes the realisation of one’s limitation, the extent of one’s ignorance. You begin to develop a new set of values.”

Again “it’s progress. Is this kind of living like there’s no tomorrow.” It is even interesting to note, as part of this ambivalence, that Walter’s father is maimed and becomes “less than a man” by a tractor, the symbol of a mechanical and technical world. He is only able to regain his manhood just before his death in the simple singing and laughter and entertainment of his friends.

In Lovelace’s second novel THE SCHOOL MASTER (published 1968) the author is not as completely contemporary as he was in WHILE GODS ARE FALLING. Here, however, we see clearly, what was merely a suspicion in the earlier novel, that Lovelace really loves the country and country-life and therefore writes of it with greater ease and understanding than he does of city life. The novel begins richly with a setting which is at once pastoral and realistic.

“Dry season reach now. Sunlight blazes on the hills. and scattered between the hills’ valuable timber trees the cedar, angelin, laurier-matack, galba and the mahoe the poui is dropping rich yellow flowers like a madman throwing away gold. Down on the flat and in the crotches of the land where the two rivers stagger through the blue stone, so plentiful in Kumaca, the water is clear and in places ice cold.”

Kumaca, a setting which is a natural paradise, is a remote village cut off from the rest of the society. Here the way of life is traditional; the young men grow up and pick cocoa on the larger estates. They plant and reap on their own piece of land. It is hard work; but it is satisfying work. Life in the village has a dependable coherence, a certain clearly defined rhythm in which the village moves as a group. Here each one tolerates and regards the other as equal, without attempting to introduce moral values which are out of context with the demands of the environment.

We are reminded however that for all its remarkable qualities, all is not completely well in Kumaca. For the young there is no future save working on the cocoa estates and subsisting on their piece of land. Robert Assivero has polio and there’s no money for medical attention; we know that bush medicine is powerless and that all his young promise will be strangled. Kumaca is completely cut off from all modem influences and ideas. As Dardain says: “And I sit down here, and know that the world bigger than Kumaca ┬áin fact sometimes I feel that Kumaca not even in the world.”

The peasant community of Kumaca is about to enter the modern world through the introduction of a school and subsequently of a road linking the village to the larger towns around. And once again we are caught in Lovelace’s world of discreet ambiguity towards the ideas of progress and change, reflecting similar themes and attitudes to those already postulated in WHILE GODS ARE FALLING. The villagers view the coming of the school with excitement and joyful anticipation. To them it will introduce a clear-cut variety of simple pleasures:

” … everyone feels in his heart that it will be a great and wonderful thing to hear his son read a letter, and for himself to understand the words he has written down on paper for himself.”