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Miguel Street by V.S. Naipaul
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's review
Mar 02, 10

V.S. Naipaul’s novel Miguel Street takes readers directly into the epicenter of life in the slums in Trinidad’s city Port of Spain during the years before and during WWII. The novel does not simply track the intricacies and experiences of one individual but instead focuses on many different yet interrelated individuals. As a result the reader is presented with essentially a mosaic of life in the slum that is Miguel Street. Through this “mosaic” which contains violence and humor, misery and glee, the serious & whimsical the reader is able to conceptualize life and culture in Trinidad’s slums. Naipaul introduces and guides us around Miguel Street through the use of a young unnamed narrator who tells the stories of individuals living on the street. In all there are 17 separate short stories which chronicle the actions of a particular individual and their place on Miguel Street. These individuals range from the bully Bigfoot who appears tough as nails but is in reality a crybaby; to Bhakcu the mechanic/tinkerer who doesn’t fix cars but instead breaks them. As outlandish as some of these characters appear at first with time they appear less and less absurd and begin to resemble individual we know in our own lives. There are also many issues that Naipaul constantly addresses both indirectly and indirectly. One of these reoccurring issues is the concern with bettering oneself through education. Both the narrator and numerous others (George’s son for ex.) attend school and take placement tests to ensure they will receive good jobs. However just good scores are not enough….you must “bribe” officials, a necessity we see time and time again across Latin America/Caribbean. Another reoccurring issue is that of domestic abuse and its place within Trinidadian society: Men must beat wives/children and display dominance. All things considered Miguel Street was a great and easy read that kept grabbing the reader’s attention while at the same time delivered a vivid depiction of life in Trinidad’s slums.
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