Dereck Walcott’s play entitled The Sea of Dauphin focuses on the lives of a few fishermen who finds accepting the death of their fallen friends to be very difficult. In this play many individuals are found dead on beaches due to being drowned in the sea. This tragedy causes the fishermen and other residents to become fearful of the sea, for they believe that at any moment they too would be killed. As a result of their fear the fishermen try their best to tread lightly by only carrying those who had years of experience and departing land at a particular time.
In the play the characters’ actions are executed based on the physical state of the sea. Thus, the sea is a symbolic representation of freedom, oppression and detachment of religion. For the sea allows the characters to express their thoughts, issues and fears. The sea likewise acts as though it is a counselor, for the men can go out to sea and voce their thoughts without feeling uncomfortable. On the other hand, the sea is a protagonist within the play, because the characters utilize it to escape from the social world. For, many of the individuals discussed within the play are told to have committed suicide, as they could no longer cope with the difficulties within their society. An excellent example of this aspect would be Hounakin who decided to kill him, because he saw no purpose in living after his wife died. In line 360 of the play Hounakin states, “Houna will not kill himself. This sea has many navels, many waves, and I did feel to die in Dauphin sea so I could born.” In this statement Hounakin reveals that by allowing himself to drown he would no longer be force to face the difficulties of this life, because there is a new life beyond death that is free from misery. In this aspect, the sea acts like a door or pathway that transitions the characters from one life to another.
The sea in this play also is a symbolic representation of oppression. In lines 434-439 states “Dauphin people build the church and pray and feed you, not their own people, and look at Dauphin! Gadez luil! Look at it! You see? Poverty, dirty women, dirty children, where all the prayers? Where all the friends all the money a man should have and friends when his skin old? Dirt and prayers is Dauphin life, in Dauphin, in Canaries, Micoud. Where they have priest is poverty.” In the play Dauphin experiences poverty and the sea reflects the economic situation by being rough and violent. In this state the sea depicts the struggles these individuals encounter and hardships they are forced to endure because of the poverty. On the other hand, the sea also represents a detachment from religion. For in the previous quote the character blames the church for the poverty that the people are currently enduring, as it seems that all their praying and hard work resulted in nothing occurring. However, the character’s blame God, for in the play they state that the ocean is God’s spit. This suggests that the characters feel that God has abandoned them in their time of need and has now resulted in taking away the men. Thus, there is a sense of hatred for God and religion within the play.
In conclusion, the sea in the play represents the multiple hardships the characters face in terms of poverty, loneliness, death and religion as well as their dislike for anything that involves God.