Optimism, hope and Resilience in In the Castle of My Skin By – George Lamming

In In the Castle of My Skin, George Lamming presents people’s optimism, hope and resilience as mechanisms to deal with the remainders of colonialism and continue the struggle against the persisting exploitation in the Barbados society. These people of the Barbados society are seen as the strongest representation of patience and persistence. Possessing tremendous veneration for life and the small elements of beauty of life they engage in a perennial journey of efforts to deal with whatever problems they face and to hope for a better future for themselves at the face of adversities. Through the use of humour, Lamming presents a picture of the Barbados society that is afflicted with a sense of loss and pain. Humour is used not only as a defense or resistance mechanism but also as one that portrays protest and something that can be used as a coping device against the humungous stature of the present problems for the people. Even though it seems as if there is no escape from the situation they are, the people seem to be with no fear of loss. They are extremely resilient and every time there is a disaster of some kind, they stand up and reconstruct whatever is lost. They seem to possess a strange disaster preparedness caliber and are found positive with immense hope for the future.

Probably it is optimism that makes the society strong and united all the time. The damages done by the flood, the killing of the pumpkin vine and accidental falling off of the fence by Bob and numerous other losses, instead of drawing them all apart with sorrow and resentment, actually bring them all together. There are multiple accounts of privacy being challenged and yet instead of bitter feelings a sense of togetherness arises from each fallen wall. Once, as Lamming relates, “The two yards merged. The barricade which had once protected our private secrecies had surrendered.” (10). And yet another time he relates, “In the corner where one fence merged into another, and the sunlight filtering through the leaves made a limitless suffusion over the land, the pattern had arranged itself with absolute unawareness.” (18). A depiction of the situation in a manner like this is suggestive of the positivity that encapsules not one person, but the entire community. The boy’s mother protecting Bob in spite of the fact that he killed the vine and drew the fence down, the boy being naked all through the incident, the peals of laughter from girls and people surrounding the rest of the fence – that evidently swayed due to the laughter – , the act of another woman walking past the fallen fence to give the news about an eight year old boy trying to sell the fowlcock, are all evidences of optimism, resilience and hope for a better future in the face of adversities. The image of the “corner where one fence merged into another” creating an impression of a “limitless suffusion over the land” also renders a strong sense of unity that is created inevitably due to the optimism the people carry in their minds.

Later in the book, an encounter with the conversation between the old man, Pa and the old woman, Ma provides another confirmation of the compulsive positivity and hope for the future. Ma seems to be very optimistic about the one Mr. Slime who looks like a liberator for the people of this place. However, it is not just optimism and hope for the future but what this optimism and hope bring in for them – a compellingly sturdy capability of resilience. They fall and yet they stand up every time they fall. As Lamming puts it, “Generations had lived and died in this remote corner of a small British colony” (19), yet their indomitable spirit to rise above each failure to never let go hope that enables them to look into the future with renewed exuberance is admirable.

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