The word literature is most commonly used to refer to works of creative imagination such as poetry, drama, fiction as well as non-fiction.
It represents the entire culture of a people, including their language and history. Through literature people are able to conserve their way of life and history, making it easily accessible to later generations. This also helps to preserve their culture and propagate it to younger generations.
Apart from this function, literature also serves to entertain people. Through activities such as reading, listening to poems and oral songs and watching plays, people get to be entertained and at the same time line important life values (Gelfant & Graver 12).
It is also used to introduce people to entirely new ideas that they have never heard of and may even find difficult to understand. Written literature is not a new phenomenon however, with the first proof of writing being traced as far back in time as the Sumerian civilization.
This paper strives to compare and contrast the works of different authors hailing from the Caribbean region whose works centered on some sensitive issues.
Slavery was rampant in the Caribbean region, especially during the 19th century. The Europeans who colonized the area opted for slavery to run their plantations as it was cheaper for them. The slaves were not treated well at all, as is seen in the stories Drought and Pioneers, Oh, Pioneers.
In both tales, the slaves appear to lack even the barest of necessities such as clothing and shoes, while their masters live as kings. The main character’s family in Drought has to make do with only one meal a day, and yet the work they are doing is backbreaking (Magill 112).
They also seem to be treated as animals, evident in Pioneers, Oh, Pioneers where the master’s wife, even after being greeted by the two girls goes on her own way as if she never heard them.
The girls seem to be used to this rude treatment and do not mind it one bit. The living conditions that the slaves had to put up with were also appalling, as seen in Drought, where an entire family is forced to live in a tiny cabin.
When it comes to social movements and stigmas, the authors chose different ways to depict these issues. In both Pioneers, Oh Pioneers and Some People are Meant to Live Alone we find characters who are somewhat antisocial. Uncle Arthur, a character from the latter, is a man who is reputed to be unable to live with anyone.
Two wives leave him and he ends up killing his old schoolmate just to get his peace and quiet. The fact that he lives alone seems to be something of a taboo in that particular society, because he is treated like a pariah, normally being used to scare children who are out of line by telling them they will be sent to spend the night in his house (Mendes 62).
The farmer’s wife in Pioneers seems stuck up, preferring to ignore people she considers lower than her, such as the slaves. Drought however, has more positive social examples. Even though the family of slaves in question lives in abject poverty, they still share the little they have. They always eat together everyday, a practice that helps to form strong bonds between them.
The main economic activity in the Caribbean region at this time appears to be farming, specifically plantation farming. In Frank Collymore’s Some People are Meant to Live Alone, the author paints a picture of Uncle Arthur’s house which can only be seen when the cane plantations are harvested. The story of Pablo’s Fandango, told by Alfred Mendes is set on a cocoa plantation.
Eric Walrond’s Drought however seems to lead to a different activity. The lead character works in a quarry as some kind of miner. In each story, the people who actually do the backbreaking work either get little or nothing at all for their trouble. Most of them are slaves and squatters, and work for their masters either for nothing at all or for very little pay (Hart 121).
It is evident that all the characters across all stories live in abject poverty. The characters in Drought are unmistakably the worst affected, with their youngest child dying from ingesting marl, probably because she was hungry yet there was no food to give to her.
Another issue that was addressed differently by the authors is the ability of the people to respond to changes in their environment as well as their way of life. Uncle Arthur from Some People are Meant to Live Alone does not handle change well. After his wife left he got used to living by himself until his schoolmate came along. His new roommate’s changing habits so annoyed him that he ended up murdering him and dumping his body in a river in the end.
Coggins Rum from Drought however, seems to take everything in stride. This quality is best seen when he is arguing with his wife about what to eat when an animal attacks one of their chickens. In light of the situation, he quickly turns the wounded chicken to food, thus showing how quick he is to adapt to situations in life (Watson 121).
In conclusion, we can see that literature can be used for a lot of purposes. From these four stories, it has been used to entertain people, teach people life lessons and also it acts as a keeper of historical records. People reading the literature in the future will be able to ascertain exactly what used to transpire during those times.
Gelfant, Blanche & Lawrence Graver. The Columbia Companion to the Twentieth- Century American Short Story. Columbia: Columbia University Press, 2000. Print.
Hart, James. Oxford Companion to American Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. Print.
Magill, Frank. Short Story Writers. Pasadena: California Salem Press, 1997. Print.
Mendes, Alfred. Pablo’s Fandango and Other Stories. New York, NY: Longman, 1998. Print.
Watson, Noelle. Reference Guide to Short Fiction. Detroit: St. James Press, 1994. Print.