Presumably, however. for the Priest, the tragedy at Kumaca has led him to a moral crisis which has shaken him to the very foundations of his belief, a crisis which he is unable to resolve either as a human being or as the messenger of God:
“And it came to him that he needed a miracle.
A miracle was very hard to make, very hard to come by, and he thought that perhaps the days of miracles were gone, but he didn’t want to think this, because he was a priest, and priests had faith, priests believed. Yet he thou!tit it, and felt sad and useless. and less than a priest. But he was a priest, had to be . “
“His faith was not great enough and to pray seemed inadequate – not action enough, and as priest he was not good enough . . .”
“He could not help but wonder whether God did not look on, did not see alt, but left man to work out his salvation for himself.”
This kind of soul searching seems to be responsible for the priest’s subsequent humanity, his refusal to succumb to dogmatic pronouncements concerning the allocation of guilt in the death of the Schoolmaster and his ready acceptance of the villagers code of silence, and honour, and revenge. The understanding of these mores paves the way to friendship with and acceptance by the perceptive Benn. and perhaps later, by the Village.
Lovelace thus makes a division between the Priest as a man trying to solve the problems of human beings on a human level, and the Church as an institution. He states clearly.
“But he would like to know how much it had to cost to dig the grave and to prepare the coffin, and to do the various acts connected with the burial. All these were the responsibilities of the Church since the schoolmaster was also the responsibility of the Church.”
It appears that he tends to absolve the priest as a human being from all blame. like the School-master “he tried his best” “his intentions were good” bot, being human, although he had a premonition, he was unable to predict the final results of his action. The Church must therefore be considered as one of the disrupting forces which enters a well-defined community such as Kumaca and must therefore be aligned with Lovelace’s other instruments of anarchy, colonialism. capital-ism and city life.
In WHILE GODS ARE FALLING Lovelace had apparently experimented with some aspects of the form of the traditional novel. like most other West Indian writers. save perhaps Wilson Harris, he has not attempted any radical innovation in form which would perhaps be more expressive of the West Indian personality or way of life. His treat-ment of time here is a bit elementary; he begins in the present with Walter facing his dilemna, and the novel unfolds through a series of flashbacks as Walter reflects on his life. While these periods of retrospection tend to diffuse interest in the main theme.it is to Lovelace’s credit that these moments tremendously enrich the readers’ understanding of Trinidad society. There is a suggestion of James Joyce in his use of the speaking voice breaking off with little comments on the society, or on human life and human aspirations, such as the following:
“Losers and winners. What’s the difference?
What’s winning and what’s losing?”
“Boy, a tess can’t afford to get vex. A tess
have to know how to live.”
Which are relevant to the theme and yet tend to move out from the confines of the novel to rever-berate in the reader’s consciousness, as well as to enliven his apprehension of the society.
Lovelace has a tremendous gift for dialogue. This has been said of many West. Indian writers, notably Selvon and Austin Clarke, and Lovelace appears to continue the tradition. His perception of different types of Trinidad speech. according to class, education and locality is extraordinarily keen as is his ability to translate the variations of this rhythm into the written word. Occasionally, however, the ease with which he is able to do this become a disservice as he tends to become so carried away by the roll and toss of dialogue that he relates episodes and anecdotes which are vibrant and amusing in themselves but which are continued much longer than is necessary to establish their connection with the major themes.
WHILE GODS ARE FALLING has a large number of characters manv of whom are confined to specific areas of the novel, some who simply make an appearance in order to comment on a specific situation, and then disappear. Hence many of the characters of the novel are really more words than flesh; there is no attempt at motivation or psychological analysis except in the case of the main character, and possibly Andrew. A valid reason for this treatment can be seen in the thematic point which Lovelace makes about city life; that it is anarchic and lonely; that city-dwellers do not belong to a coherent group, therefore they never really understand each other. It is also perhaps true to say that Lovelace sees the society as being made up of separate groups which never truly interlock, except and until that vital effort at participation is made by each and every individual. It is also true to say that, to a certain extent, the seriousness of the overriding theme in the hands of a young novelist has tended, particularly in the latter stages of the novel, to over-ride the more technical aspects of the work, such as character and their relation to theme and strong preservation of the narrative line.
In THE SCHOOLMASTER Lovelace is far more at home. He understands the environment, his style is more mature, his ear for the idiom of a particular group of Trinidadians, in this case those whose ancestors were Spanish speaking, is again strongly evident. Again there is a large group of characters, but here the major ones are more clearly motivated and their insight into themselves has ripened. Plot and narrative are carefully worked out, so that theme and plot transmute themselves more easily into art, and the atmosphere of the novel tends to involve the reader far more closely than in WHILE GODS ARE FALLING. Of course there is less of a feeling of innovation in the form of this novel. Place, time and structure are all handled in a traditional manner and this has perhaps been responsible for freeing the novelist to concentrate on his style, with admirable results. His language here is extremely rich, the evocation of atmosphere is very satisfying with an enviable restraint and control rigidly exercised throughout. The approach to this novel reminds the reader of Thomas Hardy except that, perhaps, the realistic tropical landscape seems to exercise much that is sombre or depressing.
Perhaps the biggest problem with THE SCHOOLMASTER is the evaluation of the relevance of the theme for the Trinidad of today. As in WHILE GODS ARE FALLING Lovelace seems to ask,”what price,progress?” He accepts the necessity for change, for development, but he does not view it with any exhilaration, rather with a pervading nostalgia for an earlier time, no matter how difficult. This viewpoint seems unusual for a young man of thirty-three. Yet perhaps it is a relevant counter check to over-enthusiastic demands for more jobs, more opportunities more education, mechanisation industrialism, cities all the burning desires of this and other underdeveloped countries. He is perhaps pointing out the anarchy that the complete surrender to progressive impulses has caused in various other countries and reminding us of much that is valuable and human in older forms of existence. As such it is an emotionally appealing conclusion particularly when seen in the context of this book.
But if one believes in the inevitability of change and the value of education how meaningful can his conclusion be, intellectually? It is clear that he is not against education per se, provided that it is relevant to the society within which it is being introduced, and also as long as it does not rob the individual of his humanity. The dilemma of the preservation of goodness and innocence and warmth, in the face of knowledge and materialism is poignantly presented. One can argue that the author has failed to suggest a plausible way out of this dilemma; yet the fact that everywhere the debate continues unresolved must clearly render any such prescription premature.