17 pages 34 minutes read

Derek Walcott

Midsummer XXVII

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1984

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American Industrialization Versus the Natural World

St. Thomas is an island in the Caribbean covered in lush foliage and known for its abundance of natural elements, such as fruit-bearing trees, birds, animals, and aquatic life. Yet the presence of Americans and American interests changes the landscape so that it is more industrialized. The planes, plane hangars, fences, etc. displace some of the natural world both in the literal island and in the poem. The speaker sets up this dichotomy in the first lines: “that chain-link fence dividing the absent roars / of the beach from the empty ball park” (Lines 2-3).

In the next lines, he notes “an early pelican / coast[ing], with its engine off” (Lines 5-6) in a “gray, metal light” (Line 5). The light he describes is presumably the light of early morning or evening, yet it is described in terms of an industrialized world, as being “metal” (Line 5) rather than coming from the sun. The pelican is also transformed from a bird into something mechanical that runs on an engine. These metaphors demonstrate that the natural world is being colonized by the industrial world, much the way the people of the island are being colonized by Europeans and European-descended Americans.

Later, the speaker comments more directly on industrialization, writing: