The Wine of Astonishment - LITERATURE NOTES

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Born in Toco, Trinidad Born in 1935 Spent most of his early years with his maternal grandparents in Tobago He was an avid reader He currently lives in Trinidad and Tobago His passions in life are cricket and football

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While God’s are Falling, 1964 The Schoolmaster, 1968 The Dragon Can’t Dance, 1978 The Wine of Astonishment, 1982 Jestina’s Calypso and Other Stories, 1984 Growing in the Dark, 2003 Is Just a Movie, due for publication in August 2010 on

SUMMARY The book is about Eva and Bee Dorcas, members of the Spiritual Baptist Church. It is about their experiences of being persecuted for their religious affiliation and the faith that they have in Ivan Morton to change their situation. The character Bolo is also at the forefront of this story because he embodies the result of not being able to be a man in a society that does not view being Black as valuable. SETTING Time / Place:
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The story is set over a 20 year time period, 1932 – 1951 Set in a small, remote village in Trinidad called Bonasse

Political structure:
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Trinidad was still a colony under the British Empire Trinidad was ruled under the Crown Colony system – Head of State in England governed the island via the Governor, who was his or her representative Political power, therefore, lay in the governor, assisted by a Council Universal adult suffrage (right of all adults to vote) did not occur to Trinidad until 1946. Power still lay in the hands of those who owned plantations and these people, in turn, controlled the instruments of power; the legislature, the courts and the police.

Economy:      The economy was still predominantly agricultural. each with its own cultural and religious practices. cocoa. The petroleum industry was just beginning to make an impact. patient and long suffering He is very persistent. loud singing and highly expressive behavior during worship. Trinidad was still a series of small villages connected by a network of tiny roads. as seen in his lobbying for Ivan Morton Shoulders his responsibilities well and does not view them as a burden . Chinese. hence. coffee. travel between villages was infrequent Religion:     The protagonists in the novel are Spiritual Baptists/ Shouter Baptists This religion arose out of a fusion of Protestant Christianity and African Orisha elements The religion was outlawed in 1917 on the grounds that they disturbed the peace with their bell ringing. White). Subsistence farming (production of foodstuff for domestic use) was the norm World War II led to the establishment of American bases. MAJOR CHARACTERS Eva Dorcas:      The wife of Bee Dorcas and mother to 5 children She is the emotional support for her husband She is a strong Christian The story is told through her eyes (1st person narrator) She is patient and long suffering Bee Dorcas:        Eva’s husband and father of her 5 children Pastor of the Shouter Baptist church in the text He is a strong Christian He is considered to be the pillar of the community He is very wise. Black. sugar. See video clip of Spiritual Baptist in Grenada at the bottom of this page. which introduced opportunity to earn money WW II also introduced a consumer attitude to life in Bonasse Social structure:   Trinidad boasted a very diverse Creole society populated by a variety of ethnic groups (Indian. coconuts and citrus.

and the church. and abandoned Eulalie and their illegitimate baby The community chose him to represent them on the Council and he became a true politician. Buntin:     Black owner of the local shop He believed in Black empowerment He was not a good businessman. seen as a hero/warrior figure Was imprisoned for 3 years for defending his mother. via Joyce Eventually marries Joyce Mr. during a police raid of the Shouter Baptist church Later becomes the terror of the community because of how he bullied every-one after his return from prison A brave. yet simple character that was crushed by the realities of life as a black man in Trinidad Ivan Morton:      Local boy who was considered to be the pride of the community because he was ‘bright’ Failed his college Exhibition examination twice He eventually became a teacher within the community He married a light skinned girl from Tunapuna. talk without action MINOR CHARACTERS Clyde:    Ivan Morton’s driver A lot of second hand information about Ivan is gleaned from this character. a lot of people owed him and his shop was virtually empty by the end of the book He enjoyed the company of his patrons Mitchel:       Carpenter on the American Base Money-lender and contact man Owner of the local shop that eventually ‘competes’ with Buntin’s shop An example of some-one who has profited from the American presence in Trinidad Bolo destroys his establishment He campaigns for Ivan Morton during his bid for re-election to the council .Bolo:      Local stick fighting champion Initially beloved and admired by the community.

via Clyde . 1st time Raided the Shouter Baptist church He was unsympathetic to the Shouter Baptists Primus:    Quiet and gentle resident of Bonasse He tried to be friendly with every-one Bolo kidnapped his two daughters Winston:    Oldest of the Dorcas children 19 years old at the beginning of the story Leaves Bonasse to become a police Taffy:     16 years old at the beginning of the story The most troubled of the Dorcas children He got in trouble with the law and had to flee to Port of Spain Also the most charming of the children Joyce:   15 years old at the beginning of the story Reader gets all the second hand news about Ivan Morton from her.Clem:     The polar opposite of Bolo Calm and able to go with the flow A musician who eventual leaves Bonasse to become the successful Lord Trafalgar He got along with everyone Eulalie:      The most attractive girl in Bonasse Widely believed that she would eventually marry Bolo She dated Ivan Morton instead She became pregnant by Ivan and was abandoned by him She eventually went to live in the United States Corporal Prince:      He was tall and stocky Enforced the law at all costs Arrested and brutally beat Bolo.

Chapter 4: In this chapter. Bee decides to break the law because the church is slowly dying. along with three of their children: Joyce. Bolo . The formulated a plan to be ‘quiet’ in the way they worship and to try to ‘put a man in the Council’. Chapter 2: This chapter charts the changes in Bonasse and how it affects Bolo and Clem. and the change that Americans had on the cultural identity of the people was emphasized throughout this chapter. He disappoints the community. In the end. Reggie has failed his examination and the couple debates whether or not to ask Ivan Morton for help. Gem and Reggie. a law is passed that makes the church illegal. hence stick fighting. The reader is introduced to the budding relationship between Joyce and Clyde. The chapter ends with Reggie being placed in a high school after previously applying without his parents’ knowledge. The banning of carnival. Bolo losing his temper and its tragic results. Other things that occur in the chapter are: the tragic tale of Eulalie/Ivan/Bolo. then eventually got married to Clyde At the end of the book. while Bolo just could not accept change and became disruptive. as well as Bolo’s disappointment in the church’s apathy.  Dated. became a reality. when he does not support the Shouter Baptists. the reader learns about Bee’s children. and her husband Bee. Clem accepted and went with the flow. The pride that is felt about its existence and perseverance is expressed by Eva. thereby forcing the members to plot to keep the church alive. however. and the coming of Prince. It becomes apparent that the hope of the community rests on this young politician’s shoulders. Chapter 3: The church plays a vital role in this chapter. she is pregnant with her first child Reggie:      8 years at the beginning of the text A very intelligent young man Preparing to take the college Exhibition exam in the middle of the text Gets caught up with talk of black empowerment at Buntin’s shop gains a place in high school on his own initiative. as well as their response to his talk of ‘breaking the law’. However. at the beginning of the text Gem:    4 years old Youngest child Playful and very ‘bright’ CHAPTER SUMMARIES Chapter 1: The readers are introduced to the narrator. Eva. Winston wants to become a police and Taffy wants to leave Trinidad.

he tried to stick fight and faced cowards. but what is known is that the Shouter Baptists were legalized. while the Winston leaves Bonasse in order to become a police. It ends.sits in church as a question mark and eventually leaves. Chapter 8: This chronicles Bolo’s descent into a mode of destructive behavior: (a) obtaining a job and (b) extorting products from the market vendors. The reader is not made aware of whether or not he is reelected. Chapter 7: This is a very dramatic chapter that highlights Bolo’s release from jail and the extent to which things had changed during his incarceration. Bee was left with no choice but to sell his cow to avoid going to jail. but Bolo intercedes on behalf of his mother. Chapter 10: Election time and Ivan is on the trail. however. Bolo’s fame extends outside Bonasse in this chapter. as well as her views on the implications behind Ivan Morton’s procurement of the house on the hill. Chapter 6: This chapter is all about the campaign trail and how diligently Bee worked to get Ivan elected. Chapter 9: Joyce. however. while Bolo kidnaps Primus’ two daughters. in accordance with his new position. The police intercede and Bolo. as well as Primus’ youngest daughter. Chapter 5: Bee breaks the law continuously until the church is raided. He is beaten and subsequently imprisoned for three years with hard labour. Despite this tragedy. but he barely succeeds at this. An air of freedom and joy pervades this chapter. attracting all the youngsters. gets killed. the Dorcas’ only daughter. Bee tries to get men to ‘challenge' Bolo. Buntin’s shop becomes ‘black empowerment’ central. is that on the cusp of their great victory. to join the discussions. THEMES Racism Women in society Religion Education vs. with Eva’s observation of the changes that Ivan makes in his life. the spirit left the church. rum shop and gambling shop. The chapter ends with the destruction that he wrought on the drums in order to express his anger and frustration. gets married. Eva hears it in the music that the boys play on the steel pan. Everyone is dragged to jail. while Bee finally ‘breaks the law’. The irony at the end of the book. since that is what he wants. thereby highlighting the severity of his anger. He tried to get land and did not succeed. Taffy stabs a boy and runs off to stay with his uncle in Port of Spain. religion Change Power and authority Violence . including Reggie.

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