The Caribbean Identity

Powerful Essays
The Caribbean Identity

The way in which Benítez-Rojo and Mintz tackle the question of Caribbean identity in their articles, is a removed, objective ideal, in contrast to Michelle Cliff’s portrayal of Jamaican identity. Cliff’s portrayal touches the heart and soul of Caribbean identity. While Mintz and Benítez-Rojo are investigating trends in the Caribbean as a whole, from an outside perspective, Cliff offers the personal, tactile imagery of what it is to live in the Caribbean, utilizing the objective account of history as a background. Furthermore, Cliff deals with Jamaica, one island in the Caribbean, while Mintz and Benítez-Rojo are dealing with the Caribbean on a grand scaled overview. The fact is neither article can be taken as complete truth. In fact, although Cliff uses history in her novel, I believe the account of history from someone who has completely accessed the interior of a place, is always going to be biased. Likewise, Mintz and Benítez-Rojo in making their hypotheses, are lacking an insider’s view. It is the difference between a Caribbean person and Caribbeanist, respectively. Therefore, while on a logical level, an analytical level, Benítez-Rojo and Mintz’s, conclusions as to Caribbean identity could rightly be accepted, these two authors do not possess the experience and intensity to make me as a reader, convinced of their conclusions.

Benítez-Rojo and Mintz do utilize imagery in their texts. For example, Benítez-Rojo quotes E. Dovergier as a manner of displaying with images what he has attempted to explain regarding rhythm as being the unifying factor of Caribbean culture. Part of this description reads, "the buyers buzz around like a swarm of flies; they haggle, they gesticulate, they laugh, they babble ...

... middle of paper ..., it seems to be in Jamaica specifically, the elite and ruling class are never going to understand what it was like to be a slave or possibly never admit that it was wrong to encourage slavery. Those who were slaves or relatives of slaves, understand the horrors associated with slavery and will not be able to forgive completely the naivity and self involvement on the part of elite in continuing slavery. For as Clare says, although emancipation eventually came, as well as official freedom of Jamaica from Britain, there is no essence of complete freedom.


Antonio Benítez-Rojo, The Repeating Island (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1992)

Michelle Cliff, Abeng (New York: Penguin, 1995; orig. 1984).

Sindney W. Mintz, “The Caribbean as a Socio-Cultural Area,” in M. Horowitz, Peoples & Cultures of the Caribbean (Garden City, N.J., 1971).
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