Derek Walcott's Omeros and St Lucia

Powerful Essays
Omeros and St Lucia

Derek Walcott’s Omeros is an epic story which fits well into the classical tradition. Its numerous echoes of Homeric writing combined with the use of characters’ names from Homer’s stories are clear evidence to the fact that there is a major parallel to Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. There is no debate in this obvious fact. Omeros and Derek Walcott’s writing, however, are much more than a mere reproduction of classical Greek and Roman themes. Arguing this fact is an insult to Walcott and his masterful work. There are specific references in Walcott’s writing which make this work more than a reproduction of someone else’s stories and ideas. Omeros, although it is inundated with references to the works of Homer, is primarily the story of the island of St. Lucia. This island is the home of Derek Walcott, and so there is a natural connection between the author and this isle. Numerous episodes in the pages reflect different parts of the history of this island. Omeros is still most definitely a work of the classical tradition, but it is Walcott’s reflection on the island of St. Lucia which occupies the majority of the pages of this epic poem. It just happens that he uses the classical method to tell the story of this island and its history.

Before going into the places where the story reflects the history of St. Lucia, it would be beneficial to go over a brief history of the island. It was first settled in around 200 CE by Arawak (or Aruak) Indians. However, by 800, they had intermingled their culture with that of the Caribs. Europe’s relation and discovery of this island is a bit hazy. One belief is that Columbus discovered the island in 1502, although the more widely accepted belief is that it was discovered by Juan de la Cosa around the turn of the Sixteenth Century. There were, however, no European contacts on this island until the 1550’s, when a pirate in the area intermixed with the local residents of St. Lucia. The first attempt at colonization of this island occurred in 1605, when a group on English colonists were blown off course and ended up on the isle. However, after a short stay the few who were still alive were forced to leave. In 1639, a second group of Englishmen also fai...

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...X, i). This is where Walcott comes to grips with the fact that the native heritage of St. Lucia is slowly slipping away, and, sadly, there is no where else where one can find it. It is a fact which must be accepted and dealt with, there is no getting around it. Obviously Walcott utilized the character of Achille and put a great deal of his own character and beliefs into him.

This powerful epic poem reaches greatness on many levels. It is a poem which expresses the Homeric tradition of a classic epic work. However, interpreting Omeros as simply a modern day version of the Iliad or Odyssey takes away from the greatness of this work. Not only does Walcott borrow and play off ideas and themes expressed by Homer, but he brings his own life experience into the story and makes it part of the tradition. The way which Walcott uses Omeros to tell a great deal of the history of his native island of St. Lucia is remarkable. Walcott’s writing and telling of this epic poem is a credit to his heritage, homeland, and the classical tradition, and show that the epicpoem is still an outstanding work of art when used by a masterful writer such as DerekWalcott.
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