To the priest, however, the situation appears different. He tells Dandrade:
“I mean, you grow your cocoa, and hunt in the forest, and you have a way of life that is related to your economic and social situation .’ “This is not the simple matter that it seems to be. It involves a complete change, a complete break away from your traditional ways.”
The Priest reflects Lovelace’s own misgiving about the value of progress. He sees very clearly that it will involve loss even as it affords gain. Accordingly, the same dichotomy asserted in WHILE: GODS ARE FALLING, and involving either desire or ignorance (always remembering that knowledge means the knowledge of good and evil), now takes over.
The school is introduced and the Schoolmaster takes over the running of the Village. At first the changes are minor; the people are organized into a village council, the priest is greeted formally by a choir, rather than in the usual freely affectionate manner. Later comes the climax of all changes, a sacrifice of goodness and innocence on the altar of selfishness, avarice and knowledge, as, ironically. the daughter of the chief espouser of the school is raped and commits suicide and the School-master is murdered. Kumaca is changed forever. There is no turning back from those seeds of disintegration which have set in. As the Priest says “Something begins, it continues.”
The violent conclusion of THE SCHOOL MASTER is, however, handled with a great deal of delicacy. The entire novel is admirably controlled, and the climax is made to sub serve the theme, not override it. As in WHILE GODS ARE FALLING the novel ends on a note of hope and reconciliation, but again we feel that the author is not necessarily convinced that this hope and belief in progress will ever be truly realised.
As in his first book, he makes the point that each individual has a role to play in his society and that only by selfless participation of each for the good of all can the entire community benefit. As Dandrade says:
“You have to care about things, Manuel-boy. You have to care to improve yourself not only for you but for the place you live in, for the world you live. A man does have to carry the world with him.”
And in reviewing the events leading to the tragedy the Priest says:
“Patron was the one who could have been of great assistance, but he chose to stand by and look on.”
It is true that involvement, by itself, might not have prevented the tragedy. Indeed Dandrade.who is most involved, most unselfish, is the one made to suffer most greatly. Nevertheless, its total effect might not have been so severe had Patron helped.
In the figure of the Schoolmaster Lovelace projects a character who is not deeply complex but who rs able to act successfully in the novel both as a symbol and as a personality. On the level of personality, we can say, as Benn says of the Priest, “His intentions are good.” He is interested in the good of the villagers and accepts his role as a teacher and harbinger of enlightenment to a backward community. He works tirelessly to get the road through and thus to upgrade Kumaca’s economic potential. Yet he is a lonely figure, respected but not loved. He does not become a part of the life of the village; he cannot enter into its peculiar rhythm of life. Eventually he succumbs to seduction, fraud and corruption.
Lovelace delineates clearly the reasons for the Schoolmaster’s failure. Benn says of him:
“He is black, yes. But not of my own people.
Priest he is closer to your people. I think he is your people
He learned in your schools, and he wears the clothes the way you wear them, and he talks the way you talk and his thinking is that of
He is yours, priest.
He is not mine.”
Again, we see him offering money to Pedro for having guided him to the village, thus placing a cash value on the services which the villagers would view as a simple and generous giving to one of their own. This act makes it clear that the relationship between the Schoolmaster and the people of Kumaca is not one between equals, but rather between a superior and his inferiors.
Does Lovelace mean to imply here that the education of the peasant permanently divides him from the other members of his community, and that it changes his system of values to such an extent that he is open to corruption, forgets the loving and simple and valuable relationships with his own people and makes him lonely and alienated? The Schoolmaster becomes a representative of city life, of the colonial system which educated him, even of capitalism. He represents, then, according to Lovelace, anarchic forces which must break into the old peasant mores with devastating effect. Yet it is interesting to note that even though the Schoolmaster represents aspects of the white world, the Priest who is white also rejects him. Hence his total isolation. It would appear that the two immoral acts which the Schoolmaster commits are motivated by this isolation. The power conferred on him through the skill which is his education had made fraud too easy. Again, his education has acted as a block to the unthinking release of his emotions. He can no longer surrender to passion and has ruled it out of his life. Yet loneliness and an unexpected emotional release overpowered his restraint and caused the act of rape, which finally leads to his destruction.
Lovelace’s further treatment of the Priest and the Church is also interesting. IN WHILE GODS ARE FALLING, religion is definitely rejected as a panacea, and is further identified with the rich, as if God were on the side of the capitalist. In THE SCHOOLMASTER the priest is white, and while he is respected in the village he is told: “Your face is white, priest. Perhaps he does not trust that.” Yet he is not a symbol of the power of the white world; he rides a donkey, and the horse such as the Schoolmaster rode and such as Benn attempted to give to Captain Grant (again the symbol of giving as being only possible between equals) is the symbol of power in the novel. In the end there is a reconciliation with Benn who is the representative of the proud and independent thinkers among the peasant class. Hence we find that the colour of the priest is no barrier to full understanding between races and even between classes, once there is goodwill and self knowledge. Benn tells the Priest:
“Priest some men do not know what their best is. They do not do things from inside of them They do not know how it is inside their own hearts.”
This, of course applies to the Schoolmaster, but is also relevant to the Priest.