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Influence/Power of Storytelling in Midnight Robber

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    For the first part of the twentieth century Caribbean writers defined themselves and their culture in the language of their colonizers. But after independence, with a new self-determination and pride of origin, authors increasingly used local styles and vocabularies (Caribbean Literature). Black women needed to create their own identities and movement, thus the use of the oral tradition of storytelling. Caribbean women writers have perfected the art of storytelling in text so well that it is almost always expected (has become the standard) in their writings.

    Many Caribbean women writers use this mode of writing to convey a myriad of things: to give rise to personal identity, to progressively follow the characters and the changes which shape them, as a means of escape, freedom ND recreation of self and this is what makes storytelling so powerful. For many women there were no means of self-expression, no means by which to speak against the trauma and abuse they experienced. They were not allowed to hold onto their practices, culture and traditions but were made to embrace the ideologies of those who enslaved them.

    It wasn’t until women spoke/verbalized in the form of stories the atrocities they experienced, that they were free of their past for example Tan-Tan who was forced into exile, physically and verbally abused by her father, exiled Mayor Antonio and her step-mother Jauntiest, however it wasn’t until she took on the persona of the Robber Queen and told her story, that she was able to free herself of the pain and the trauma she experienced at their hands. “Tan-Tan couldn’t take it. ” “She kill she daddy.

    The guilt come down ‘pond she head,” “The Robber Queen get born that day, out of excruciation. ” It was through Tan-Tan’s own admission that we are able to see how she is evolving as an individual. The utterance of these lines bring about an emerging self, it seems she is gaining the courage to speak the unspeakable that she has carried in silence for so long. This silence in a sense has been such a burden for her to bear, that it is a relief now for her to finally gain a voice and verbally let it out.

    Which she does so eloquently through the persona of the Robber Queen. In order to speak and be understood women writers have often tried to dismantle the boundaries that limit them, challenging not only narrative style but the conceptions of characters and language itself. Mary Arrogate in her article An storytelling tribal languages are kept alive. We see this in Hypnosis’s use of her own patois; style of writing within the text.

    She uses the patois to protest against the “torturer’s tongue” and allow her characters to take ownership of their stories, to liberate themselves and protest against the language of the colonizers. The novel begins with poetry that speaks to the language that has been thrust upon these enslaved/colonized people and their struggles/battle with identity. “this tongue sometimes my only tool not mine entirely but what is? This identity crisis and substituted language has caused them to loose who they truly are and question their whole being.

    In a sense it forces them to rebel against the language we know as Standard English, this language does not really define who they are as a people, it is not their native tongue and therefore they can’t completely identity with it. However through the use of the patois Hopkins allows the characters and audience to relate to the text, situation, and circumstances on a more personal level. The two narrators uses this patois throughout the text to make their stories more meaningful as well as it adds some authenticity to the text, giving the characters and the audience more ownership.

    The power of storytelling reveals the issues that were not allowed to be availed in society. American International Affairs professor Lyn Grabbing in her study of the post-Apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Committee in South Africa, observes that “storytelling is significant because it is a way for victims, perpetrators, and bystanders to construct a common memory of past. ” Although it does not erase pain, or completely do away with contentious issues, the act of sharing stories provides at least a starting point for moving forward.

    In the case of Midnight Robber, storytelling was a release mechanism for Tan-Tan to bring to light the “secret”, the unspoken AIBO of the incestuous relationship between her father and herself. She was able to tell her story through the persona of the Robber Queen, something she was not able to accomplish on her own. “But the dreams, the dreams” “Is which world she living in; this daddy tree, or the nightmare daddy world? ” “Prayers didn’t do no good, out. Antonio chased me all night. Through this medium we are also able to see that this unspoken taboo had an adverse effect on her physically and psychologically because she was unable to sleep, she had repeated nightmares about it. Because she felt she had no way of expressing her feelings and Ewing able to deal with the rape, she seemed to render herself helpless and as a result it paid a toll on her physical state as well as her mental state. Tan-Tan’s mental state deteriorated. Muff satisfy? Mocked Bad Tan-Tan. ” “He right, said the Bad Tan-Tan voice. You is a trial, you is a wicked crosses for people to bear. Subconsciously, she suffered a split in personality. There were several moments throughout the novel when she would have bouts with Bad Tan- Tan. However, once she told her story she was relieved/freed and was able to become herself. In Midnight Robber the Sees uses the folklore as moral fortification or the enslaved, down trodden and the abused. The Sees presents the Robber Queen as inspiration and a mythical heroine against the injustice of the weak, and under privilege people. Hopkins strategically uses folklore as part of the storytelling technique.

    It serves as a vehicle to pass on Tan-Tan’s experiences to her folklore has been used in Caribbean women writings to pass on history, traditions, customs, and practices that may have been lost or forgotten through the passage of time. Folklore is powerful because it transcends time. In the novel, the Sees serves as the facilitator of the folklore throughout the novel. It’s through the Sees that Tuba is made privy to the plights of women in general and more specifically his mother Tan-Tan, the Robber Queen. Folklore was used to reveal the unspeakable as well as those things that people would have wish to forget.

    Some short stories by Caribbean women writers feature a female protagonist speaking in her own voice, telling her own story and coming to understand herself and her circumstances, which we see is very evident in the novel. Through folklore Tan-Tan was able to recreate herself, rather than being the victim she became the heroine (The Robber Queen). Instead of accepting her fate as the abused and down trodden she chose instead to use her experience as a catalyst to help others, who may have had the same or similar fate.

    When we look at Tuba as the primary audience for the folklore, this speaks to the writer’s attempt to bring an end to the incestuous cycle that his father/grandfather inflicted on his mother, so we see where the storytelling in the form of folklore is indeed powerful because it has the ability to stop, prevent, bring an end to societal ills. Folklorist William Bassos states that folklore has many cultural aspects, such as allowing for escape from societal consequences. In addition, folklore can also serve to validate a culture, as well as transmit a culture’s morals and values.

    Folklore can also be used to assert social pressures, or relieve them, for example in the case of humor and carnival. By exploring these stories says Arrogate, we are able to glimpse into the past, while carrying the ideals, thoughts and believes of a nation into the future for younger generation to explore, which is the hope with the story being told to Tuba. Overall Hypnosis’s use of storytelling as a mode of literary expression was highly effective and very skillfully done. Storytelling is indeed a powerful technique that will continue to be used by many Caribbean women writers, including Hopkins.

    It will continue to be a mode that writers use to past down history, culture, customs, traditions, escape the societal ills, give rise to personal identity and recreation of self because it is a technique that they take solace in. They seem to be most at ease with style and it lends itself more to their style of writing, it is what they identify most with. The audience of this type of writing would appreciate this mode as well because it tends to captivate them more, it draws them n on a more personal level and allows them to experience the story from another perspective other than the one being told.

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