In Dream on Monkey Mountain, Derek Walcott takes a different approach to representing the theme of the book. Instead of the following realism by default, the book embarks upon a strange journey of portraying the storyline through a fantastical narrative. Makak, who is the 60-year-old hermit named after a closely eponymous monkey Macaque, finds himself in the midst of a surrealistic dream. This “dream” is encapsulated very well by Walcott as the story progresses in a way that does not have a realistic sense. The characterization along with the storyline develops to reveal curious occurrences such as they return to a life of the character, Moustique, with a new beginning. Indeed the style of narrative, theme, and characterization chosen by Walcott (1970) engenders a sense of surrealism that is something never been done so well in writing.
The employment of supernatural forces and apparitions in the play adds value and an unusual sense of surrealism to the characterization. One of the characters named Basil is a cabinetmaker who symbolizes death in many of the scenes. In fact, Basil appears in scenes whenever death seems definite for a character. The way he sports a dark coat and hat also portrays the darkness of his character that is meant to reflect compatibility with his symbolism of death. Throughout the play, Basil plays an important role in Makak’s journey up till the monkey Mountain. So Walcott (1970) has made a successful effort to incorporate a magical and fantastical theme to his play that adds a surrealistic sense. This is why the play holds the attributes that distinguish itself from other writings made along the lines of surrealistic narrative.
Of significance, importance is the location and setting of the entire story. The choice made by Walcott to base the story on an unnamed island in the West Indies adds a sense of curiosity in the play. Also, the location is significant in understanding the deeper symbolism in the play along with its references to cultural myths and other socially constructed perceptions. A tinge of satire can be observed as Walcott goes on to articulate the “dream” through symbolism. The employment of the Caribbean setting is crucial to the development of an environment characterized by native, folk traditions.
The use of ghosts and otherworldly figures is fairly apparent in the play. The use of magic adds to the dream-like effect the writer intends to have on the audience. Healing and magical sense are created through a specific style followed by Walcott. The choice of a Caribbean setting also helps to reinforce that effect along with the fact that the play employs a style characteristic of a ritualized play. Also, embedded within the play are many symbols that are open to various interpretations including the view that it was meant to be against colonialism and about racial pride. Overall, the characters play their role well and help to build a surreal effect. The setting adds relevance to the theme. The output is, therefore, one that is often carnivalesque with all the hidden symbolism and interpretations.
Walcott, D. (1970). Dream on Monkey Mountain. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.