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Eng 321 - Walcott and Self Reflection

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Mileena Maali

Professor Brown

ENG 321

3 December 2018

Walcott and Self Reflection

                 

                  In Derek Walcott’s essay The Antilles: Fragments of Epic Memory, Walcott makes incredible testimony about his beliefs of tourism and the effects it has on specific countries. Millions of people travel around the world in hopes to delve into a completely different culture and experience a lifestyle much different from their own. However, are these tourists truly seeing the culture of these different countries or a universally acceptable version of it? The argument Walcott makes in this prize-winning essay is not only two sided – but it is still an unresolved issue to this day.

          Tourism effects every country, every citizen and every person, differently. The positive effects are seen daily in different countries financially and culturally. Tourism brings trillions of dollars to countries internationally (“World Bank Data”) and is often times the sole source of a country’s income. Walcott’s stance is simple yet complicated. At what cost does a country and culture change their societies norms to fit tourists’ expectations?

        In his essay, Walcott discusses the possibilities of what happens to cultures as the tourism and “vacation expectations” grow. For example, Walcott states, “But in our tourist brochures the Caribbean is a blue pool into which the republic dangles the extended foot of Florida as inflated rubber islands bob and drinks with umbrellas float towards her on a raft.” (Walcott 81). This statement is very telling in the way the author feels about what is happening to these specific islands. The culture, food and people that once filled these islands have been swept under the rug in fear of not meeting tourism presumptions.

      Expectations from tourists also control how true to culture a certain country is. Although some people travel to a country in hopes of being on vacation and nothing more, there are others who want to be completely enveloped in a culture they’ve anticipated and hoped for. As Walcott speaks about his own tourism travels, he comes from the stand point of being a native to the Caribbean and also a tourist in many other countries. He explains in his essay that many cultures, when looked at from a tourist position, seem happy to display a beautiful song and dance for the entertainment of others. Walcott also dances with the idea that this display of a “culturally accurate” dance may also be exaggerated to please a group of people expecting their culture to be magnificently different from theirs.

           As Walcott was born in a position of privilege, having the ability to discover many different cultures and countries apart from his own, his comparison is very similar to characters in Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid. As Lucy leaves her own country in the Caribbean to come to America for the first time, Lucy, like many tourists, have an expectation of New York that she cannot shake. This wonderful place she envisioned for years as a child were much different than what she encountered when she arrives and is thrown into the western culture.

       This perspective has a much different effect on America than it does on the Caribbean. The Caribbean is in no place to disappoint any tourist, in fear that they do not come back, and the country loses that growing income. As a result of this, Walcott argues tourism in a biased light and glorifies the Agrarian lifestyle to be something much more than what it truly is. Walcott discusses these feelings of over justification many times throughout the essay. For example, he states, “I was filtering the afternoon with evocations of a lost India, but why ‘evocations’? Why not the ‘celebrations of a real presence’? Why should India be ‘lost’ when none of these villagers ever really knew it…” (Walcott 68). The author is confessing his thoughts about this country in a very romanticizing light, a light that is not the reality of the villagers and citizens who live in that country every day. This over justification and romanticizing of one’s culture is both a positive and negative result of tourism.

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