Parrot’s Motif in Art and Literature
The motif of the parrot is another metaphor for colonial mimicry. As in Robinson Crusoe, here Harry and Jackson are accompanied by a talking hotel parrot. Jackson feels mocked by the “pre-colonial” parrot as the only word it utters is “Heinegger”. For Jackson, the “prejudiced” parrot embodies the colonial principles and ideas while for Harry the parrot is merely repeating its German master’s name because for him “the war is over.” This shows the disparate perspectives of the coloniser and the colonised. The parrot mocks the absurdity of Harry and Jackson’s existence as a master and slave in a postcolonial society, long after such hierarchies are supposed to have been erased. Bhabha also explains the subversive use of mimicry. The colonizer civilizes the natives to create a ‘domesticated other’ to assist the colonial project. The natives might sometimes misappropriate their role, mocking the very discourse the colonizer is trying to propagate. Jackson’s attempt at playing Crusoe is criticized by Harry as imperfect and he is infuriated at the mocking return gaze of the colonized, Jackson. This mockery evokes laughter which in itself is a renouncement of the master-slave roles that are imposed. Walcott juxtaposes pantomime, a distinctly ‘British’ form of popular entertainment with the Calypso tradition of Trinidad and Tobago. This dichotomy between a pantomime actor from the English music hall and an ex-Calypsonian, further reinforces the carnivalesque nature of the play since a native tool of political resistance is integrated into a purely ‘colonist’ art form.
During colonisation, there is a descent of the native land from paradise into a Third World country. Walcott, in his essay The Figure of Crusoe equates Crusoe to Adam, the first inhabitant of second paradise. He is the archetype of the coloniser who wreaks havoc in a peaceful land, stripping it of its resources and identity and leaving it barren, begging for alms. In Pantomime, the dilapidated condition of Harry’s hotel is symbolic of the postcolonial state of the Caribbean islands. Jackson’s persistent resentment towards the coloniser’s exploitive nature is evident. He says, “You come to a place, you find that place as God make it; like Robinson Crusoe, you civilize the natives; they try to do something…you say “you go back to your position as slave…I will keep mine as master.””Through the carnivalesque rendition of the English literary classic Robinson Crusoe in the play Pantomime, Walcott transgresses boundaries, mimics the pretensions of ruling classes and reinterprets social positions. Who should play Crusoe? Who should play Friday? Who is in charge now?
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