Death, Despair and “udda tings” in Dauphin

Derek Walcott’s Sea at Dauphin is a colorful play that comes alive on the page.  The characters provide so much for a reader grab a hold of I didn’t know where to begin.  I actually really enjoyed it, and even though it is a play, reading it was not tedious or confusing.  I’m sure the play would be amazing to watch but I don’t feel a must to watch it being performed, unlike a few of the other plays we’ve read that watching it would assist in understanding, this play, I believe, accomplished what Walcott intended even by reading it.

The dialogue between the characters is natural and unforced.  (Like I ain jokin I really dig da freedom of usin my regular erryday speech an obviously  Walcott proves it can be done without alienating ya audience. Dr. J you been living here for a while, I know you got me).  And can we please discuss this cooyon Afa and his strong-willed yet compassionate shipmate Augustin?? These character’s near fist fight moments were intense but slightly comical.  However, the seriousness of the topics are not lost through the characters wit, cussing and antics.

One topic brought to light but not overly discussed as it became a sermon-like warning, was alcohol abuse.  It was obvious that these people were drowning their sorrows in alcohol – it seems to sooth them and distracts them from their despair.  Walcott does not just leave this as a solution, he provides an exemplary warnings against such behaviour – Hounakin falls and dies after drinking (it could be suicide but it could also be due to self medicating because of depression which leads to his fall) as well other another getting terribly ill because of drinking too much. I believe Walcott is clever in they way he presents his commentary because the cautionary tales are not so much thrown in the reader’s face.  Other topics Walcott portrays is the displacement of the elderly, once Hounakin loses his “woman” has no true placement in the society and colonization plays a role in their belief system and governance, all of which is discussed on some level.  And the play does this in less than 600 lines – BRAVO!

Additionally, Afa who seems angry and proud with an unwillingness to listen to anyone makes him a likely character to provide commentary on death and despair but an unlikely character to bring insight and reason, all of which he does.  He discusses Bolo and the other men that die at sea and he is obviously hardened by the job he must do to get by, he tells the young boy to go be a mechanic – all because the sea has taken so many lives, yet he continues to go out on the sea at 4am each day. However, in his rant to the priest Walcott shows another reason for Afa’s anger.  The people of Dauphin have little to live on, still trapped in a colonial system they take care of the priest whilst they go hungry, the priest will preach and pray but is blind to the fact that Ranka has died because her and Hounakin refused to beg for medicine.  The play was well written and captivating though filled with death, despair and udder tings.

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