18 pages 36 minutes read

Derek Walcott

The Almond Trees

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1985

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Symbols & Motifs

The Fisherman

If “The Almond Trees” were a painting—given its lush sense of place, palette, and its careful detailing it reflects Walcott’s early interest in painting—the figure would barely be noticed: the lonely fisherman casting into the morning surf, his mongrel dog playing a careless game of fetch while the fisherman works his pole.

The fisherman is the lone Caribbean figure in the poem, and as such, compared to the carefree European tourists who will, within hours, stretch out lazily in the fierce tropical sun to tan, the fisherman symbolizes the practical, hard-working Caribbean people and their long-established relationship with the land and the ocean. Unlike the late-rising tourists, the fisherman is intent and diligent, up early; unlike the oiled tourists, he understands that the natural gifts of the islands are not to be wasted as a mere playground for the lazy and the wealthy. He works the land with respect—it is his livelihood. “Foam-haired, salt-grizzled” (Line 10), he embodies the spirit of the island’s working-class people.

The Sun/The Sand

In a poem that valorizes the community spirit of multiculturalism, positing that the way forward for the Caribbean culture is to embrace its past without shame or anger, the focus on the furnace-sun with its “fierce acetylene air” (Line 23) and the sand’s “white-hot ash underheel” (Line 28) symbolizes those elements of the beach