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MovingCrossing the Mangrove by Maryse Conde

September 12, 2018by was73100

“Crossing the Mangrove,” by Maryse Conde is set in 1986 on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. The story is told through the eyes of the many inhabitants of the island who are uncomfortable with the arrival of a strange foreigner who has come to live amongst them. Francisco Alvarez-Sanchez mysterious story invokes themes of past and present Caribbean life and stories from the villagers are combined to connect the fascinating tale. The novel reflects the Creolite diversity of the inhabitants of Guadeloupe.

In “Crossing the Mangrove,” several recurring themes prominent in Caribbean life are evident. Colonization and class perspective are amongst the more dominant themes. Guadeloupe was colonized by France in the 17th century and, like many Caribbean islands, Guadeloupe became a slave trading center. A story told by the strange recluse Xantippe shows how colonization ideals of the past are still present on the island today. As a young man Xantippe was happy go lucky. This gave the French ruled gendarmes (police) reason to interrogate him. They insinuated that he had enemies and burned his cabin down. Xantippe describes how he lost everything and his life was changed for the worse, forever. This activity is reminiscent of Cesaire’s equation: colonization = “thingification.”

Class perspective exists on the island of Guadeloupe but to a lesser extent than in the previous novels. The Ramsaraz and Lameanes families are upscale. They own land for farming and flower nurseries. They have large houses and they drive French built Peugeots. Although a peasant and servant population exists it is not featured prominently in the novel. Instead, something of a middle class society comprises the majority class of the characters. Moise the mailman, Emile Etienne the historian, and Lucien Evarist the writer are amongst a cast of Francis middle class friends. But it is assumed that Francis belongs to the upper class due to his tales of travel and adventure, his ability to purchase the aging Alexis estate, and daily truck deliveries of household appliances such as a TV set, a refrigerator, a stereo set. The inhabitants of Riviere au Sel are envious of this and question his occupation and work ethic as a writer. They ask, “Was a writer a do-nothing, sitting in the shade for hours on his veranda, staring at the ridge of mountains for hours on end while the rest sweated it out under the Good Lords hot sun.” One must get the sense that the class perspective presented in “Crossing the Mangrove,” is a good representation of society in…


Source by Frank Cardello

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