Yet Leigh refuses to be intimidated by their nesting.
Get cast in your next role today.
Leigh — bright and tenacious, however muddled — is motivated throughout Huracan to discover the truth about her family, as far as she can. Now an elderly man, Robert McCaulay is constitutionally unwilling to talk to his daughter about anything which challenges his stated position, private or political. You should go back to the US. Too late for what? Leigh, he argues, must migrate.
Yet, if Leigh were to accept this position as fact and board a flight bound for New York City, what would this mean for her? Multiplied three million times, what would accepting this attitude mean for Jamaica? Here is a man who, after abandoning his wife for another woman, takes up refuge in a setting that provides comfort to him only because its plantation walls conceal all the truths and hypocrisies and secrets which might call him to change.
Site Information Navigation
But Leigh? No, she minds neither drilling nor drowning. She whines, pushes, prods, cries. When her father reaches for the remote control, craving the white noise of CNN, she stops him. Tell me, tell me, tell me. Crowds in Kingston gather to watch an NBC reality show in the way they gathered a year prior to watch Usain Bolt slow down, blow a kiss, then cross the Olympic finish line.
Too hastily, the contours of white Caribbeanness are flattened. Huracan gives us a glimpse into what a book titled White Skin, Black Masks might read like.
The Village Voice
White gal! He wore a vest and torn shorts and his eyes glared. Leigh McCaulay turned her head away — it was a familiar, damning description, echoing from her childhood. She watched the traffic light, which remained on red. She was not a tourist. She wanted to explain this to the man. I was born here.
I am coming home. Leigh has just arrived in Kingston, where she is met by Danny, a fellow employee at the homeless shelter where she will work. To whom? To the vagrant? To herself? Assumptions, she is aware, will be made about her roots, about her class, about her intentions. She looks away.
In the airplane, on her way to Jamaica, Leigh feels a desperate need to bond with the Jamaican collective. Are her anxieties self-imposed? In her desire to be Jamaican, is she sabotaging herself, seeing problems where there are none? The novel quickly silences these questions. The third-person omniscient narrator zooms out to give us a vision of Kingston that identifies Leigh as white. But Leigh is fine. For Kingston Refuge. Leigh McCaulay. Race, ultimately, is a fiction. In no place might such a self-examination be more fraught than in the realm of spirituality. John arrives in Jamaica in , from Glasgow; like Leigh, he is also approaching middle age.
Trained as a Baptist minister, he has strong ideas about love and piety and forgiveness, but his beliefs are often tested by the will of the people of Fortress, a community still floundering a century after emancipation. Early in his tenure as pastor of Fortress, John becomes acquainted with a magistrate, Henry Bannister. Upon first meeting John, Bannister expresses profound contempt for the Baptist sect. Keeps them quiet. For a man learned in the confidence of the law, Bannister tiptoes on tenterhooks.
And for good reason. Hypocrisy necessarily leads to comfortable elisions. Or is it Bannister?
The narrator leaves it for us to explore these questions. Curiously, Protestantism grants us a similar opportunity. A core element of Lutheran and Calvinist and Baptist theology — if not in effect, then at least in intent — involves a constant interrogation of presumed spiritual authority.
Christianity for Smyth — and for John McCaulay — is a breathing, dynamic, evolving thing. Christianity for Bannister is a means to an economic end. Drink some rum with a father? See two black girls playing in the dusk? Intimacy would require him to connect the Anglican creeds he repeats each Sunday with the emotional truths contained in his soul. Earth becomes sky and the sky came down to touch the hills and even the air was thick with water. He could describe Bonnie Valley in numbers: seven hundred and eleven slaves, four hundred and ninety men, two hundred and sixteen women, thirty-five children — more or less.
The children were always dying or being born — numbers were constantly in flux. Six hundred hogsheads of sugar annually. Eight white people. Zachary can only make lists for so long, however. Constantly, Zachary is equivocating, comparing, rationalizing, relating life to lines written by Voltaire and Virgil. He wanted to see how difficult it was. I gave her that scar. But our humanity is our burden, our life; we need not battle for it, we need only do what is infinitely more difficult — that is, accept it.
The failure of the protest novel lies in its rejection of life, the human being, the denial of beauty, dread, power, in its insistence that it is his categorization alone which is real and which cannot be transcended. The disadvantage of writing from mottoes, for Baldwin, is stylistic: the texture of the narrative is constrained by a set of inherited ideological assumptions. Such assumptions neutralize the matrices of human impulse we ought to discover in the novel.
Everywhere in Huracan , Zachary is in the position to protest, to kick back, to preach. He has other things on his mind: finding a girlfriend, finding a purpose, finding some chamomile for his mosquito bites. We can trust McCaulay, we feel. She asks how they — how we — might respond. His horse abandons him.
He fashions a splint out of a branch. The downpour becomes more torrential. He takes refuge in a cave. Victoria is the one with the dry fish and the water. Zachary is exhausted and hungry. He felt manic and laughed at his own words. He had heard dozens of versions of that plea, but the blows had fallen nonetheless. There was no reason to imagine mercy from Victoria. Perhaps another slave might have extended an arm and helped him, but not Victoria.
She would kill him. Earlier in the novel, Victoria, pregnant, was suspended from a tree branch and flogged. And even if she were caught: she survived being whipped with a child in her belly. In that space, constructions of whiteness and blackness all but fall away. A fringe benefit of desperation is the reprioritization it inspires.
A man wants to go home.
A woman wants to find one. Gales and thunder stand in their way. Zachary sees Victoria. And when he does:. He wondered how old she was; whether she had left her family as a child or as a mother.
He wanted to touch her, to reach out and hold her, she who held his life in her calloused hands. He wanted to hold her like a lover or a weeping child, to bring her his strength and comfort; to draw strength and comfort from her, to assert his dominance and to relinquish his soul and his body to her forever. He waited. But at which point?