18 pages 36 minutes read

Derek Walcott

The Almond Trees

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1985

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Historical Context

The entire body of Derek Walcott’s poetry explores the implications of Caribbean identity in the postcolonial world. The history of the West Indies is complicated because for more than five centuries European entrepreneurs, industrialists, and venture capitalists settled into the Caribbean and, without regard to the impact, imposed European traditions, cultures, and religion on the indigenous people. In addition, these same predatory, mercenary forces ruthlessly exploited and plundered the region’s natural resources, largely by degrading the indigenous people into de facto slaves while also importing Africans through the transatlantic slave routes to do difficult and dangerous work on the plantations and in the mines.

“The Almond Trees,” however, offers a big-picture meditation on how the post-colonial Caribbean might handle that troubling history. By the time of Walcott’s emergence as the voice of Caribbean culture, the European occupation in the Caribbean was mostly symbolic, as West Indian nations, including Saint Lucia, began individually accepting independence from the British Commonwealth during the 1960s and 1970s. Walcott’s poetry suggests that despite the end of the empire, the Caribbean people still needed to process the impact of centuries of violent occupation and the displacement of entire indigenous communities from their own culture.