How “To be a man, among we men”

Named for a slum in Port of Spain, Trinidad, Miguel Street is the story of a place. At the same time, it is also the story of a boy.

The seventeen chapters of Miguel Street are often anthologized separately as short stories, but read as a novel they constitute a Bildungsroman—in the European tradition, a novel of development or education—that traces its hero’s progress toward manhood, culminating in the hero finding his place in the world. Naipaul appropriates this European tradition to comment upon the emergence of Trinidad as an independent nation. (It achieved independence from Britain on 31 August 1962; Miguel Street was published in 1959 and set during the 1930s-40s.)

“Bogart,” the first story, concludes with what might be called Miguel Street‘s “thesis”: after abandoning two women, one of whom has borne him a child, Bogart finally returns to Miguel Street “‘To be a man, among we men’” (16). The narrator is being brought up without a father, but he is surrounded by older men, among them Bogart and those who admire him. What kinds of manhood do they represent?

Rex Harrison (1908-1990), Hat’s namesake

Humphrey Bogart (1899-1957), Bogart’s namesake

Each of the stories or chapters tends to focus on one character. For your reading response this week, choose any of the stories assigned for Thursday and describe what it says about masculinity on Miguel Street. How does the character or incident you’ve chosen illustrate the sort of man produced by this community? What does the narrator learn? How does this “lesson” build on or counteract those from previous stories, previous men? For example, how do the initial ambitions of Elias, subject of  “His Chosen Calling,” Wednesday’s last story, challenge or reinforce these norms?

As usual, your ~100 words on this topic are due at 11:59 PM, Tuesday, September 10. See you then!

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25 Responses to “How “To be a man, among we men””

  1. Kierra Collins Says:

    PoPo’s story was interesting because he was so different from the other men and was not as well liked. PoPo really didn’t work much but his wife did. This made her the provider in their household because she was the one who brought the money home. In the eyes of the other men, PoPo didn’t do any real work. His “thing without a name” certainly didn’t make any money for him. He was a thinker, an idealist of a sort. This is the kind of character we have not seen too much on Miguel Street just yet. When he started to actually make things and make a profit after his wife left, the men started to respect him a little more. He would also hang out and drink with them more. It seems that a man who can hold his liquor or run with the best of them is well respected on Miguel Street. PoPo was arrested and sent to jail which also seems to be like some type of badge of honor on Miguel Street. I believe this is probably more based on his reason for having been arrested (beating up the gardener who ran away with PoPo’s wife) than simply having spent time in jail. I think the negative change in PoPo’s behavior and attitude illustrates how men on Miguel Street are expected to act. It’s not enough to simply behave like everyone else but the reasons behind the behavior seems to be what the men look at and judge other men by.

  2. Erin Roepke Says:

    From what I’ve read so far of this novel, the men of Miguel Street don’t seem to amount to much. They don’t get much work done, some are having affairs, and some are beating the snot out of their wives and children. One man who doesn’t seem to line up with the rest of the Miguel Street gang is B. Wordsworth. Like the other men we’ve met so far in Miguel Street, B. Wordsworth does not seem to get much constructive work done, but he aspires to be a poet. He dreams of being the greatest poet in the world, and of writing a poem that all human beings can relate to. A few of the other men also have dreams–Elias wanted to be a doctor, and PoPo wanted to make “the thing without a name”–but none of these other men hang onto their dreams as tightly as does B. Wordsworth. Wordsworth also seems kinder and not as rough as the other men of Miguel Street; he gives the narrator mangoes and takes walks with him, and there is no mention of him having been in jail. I think the narrator learns from Wordsworth that dreams are worth pursuing, even if the dream ultimately fails; this would countert-act what the narrator learned in the chapter about Elias wanting to become a doctor. In Elias’s chapter I believe the narrator learned exactly the opposite thing from what he learned from B. Wordsworth–that dreams should just remain dreams, because the pursuit of a dream will surely end in failure.

  3. Eric Hardin Says:

    Each chapter in Miguel Street seems to highlight a different type a man that is found in the world. From PoPo’s story, the reader experiences the life of a lazy unmotivated man who relies on his wife for everything. It is as if the traditional roles of men and women have been switched in this story, since PoPo’s wife is the one who makes money and put’s food on the table. PoPo, instead of trying to support his wife and make a living, is instead drinking away his wife’s hard earned money, and constantly working on “the thing without a name”, which seems to be absolutely nothing at all. Unfortunately, this type of behavior from PoPo is seen as exemplary behavior from a man on Miguel Street. After PoPo’s wife finally left him, Hat says, “We was wrong about PoPo. He is a man, like any of we.”, which shows how those men like Hat and the gang on Miguel street look up to those who are just able to drink and sit around all day long. However, PoPo learns that this does not make him happy, and he goes to win back his wife from the man who took her. Winning his wife back is the least of his worries though, as PoPo is soon arrested for stealing furniture and just changing their appearance. This disappoints the narrator, and shows him that taking the short cut to success or happiness can just make you unhappy in time, and also cause trouble for yourself and those around you.

  4. Kevin Pridgen Says:

    In the first few chapters of the book the narrator learns subjective variations of the term masculinity. Bogart and Popo project a similar representation. Each character is sort of bipolar in between their disappearances. Although they were accepted in the community, their demeanor changed and they sometimes started conflict even on over small remarks. Popo’s excuse was concerned with his love-life and women, that was apparent when he became happy once again when his wife returned. George’s representation was one of dominance, which in his context was negative. Ranging from calling the narrator obscene names to physically abusing his family, which eventually led to the death of his wife. It is worth noting that all three stories involved heavy rum consumption which may have played a role in the ‘psychologics’ of the three. Each story builds off themselves; In each preceding chapter the narrator is given the opportunity to compare the new character to the previously introduced one. This provides the interpretation that the term masculinity is subject for each character.

  5. Monet French Says:

    The story I chose was “the Thing Without a Name.” In this story, Popo was not accepted by the men on Miguel street because his wife made all of the money and he spent all of his time building, but never actually building anything. The narrator looked up to Popo as he was always making “the thing without a name.” Once Popo’s wife left him he became popular amongst the men and they decided to befriend him. Popo began to drink rum and become angry and aggressive which according to page 21 made him an “accepted member of the gang.” This is an example of how masculinity is perceived on Miguel Street, it is a single man who drinks rum and gets aggressive. As shown in other stories such as the story about George, men were abusive towards family members. Popo’s story counteracts off of the story about Bogart because, Bogart left the woman he impregnated to “be a man, amongst men,” while Popo was not seen as a “man” until after his wife left him. At the end of the story Popo is no longer building “the thing without a name,” which saddens the narrator. I think that the narrator learns from Popo’s story that being considered masculine does not necessarily make you a better person.

  6. Nikki Medas Says:

    I was very intrigued by Popo’s story. He started off different from most men, keeping busy creating “the thing without a name.” The men of Miguel Street did not consider him a real man, but a “man-woman” who rarely worked and relied on his wife as the bread-winner. Things changed when he became angry and resentful at the gardener who took his wife. He then suddenly became “one of the gang” once he started drinking and swearing. What I find particularly interesting about this story is that the narrator did not admire this new side of Popo. The boy does not have the same opinions as the other men on the block. He prefers the kind creative men who do not succumb to the status quo. While Popo’s personality differs from Bogart’s calm and collected spirit, George’s aggressiveness, and Elias’ drive, all three men endured a similar thing: change. In each story, the narrator shines light on a time in their lives that truly changed them. Bogart became frightening after he left and returned; Popo became crude after issues with his wife, and Elias gave up all hope. Through these stories we get a sense of the expectations of the men on Miguel Street, but we also see it through the lens of a boy who has different expectations. This makes for a very interesting and dynamic set of short stories.

  7. Molly Wright Says:

    In V.S. Naipul’s Miguel Street, he depicts several different men, each accompanied by different personalities. “George and the Pink House” is the portrayal of a man whose masculinity is derived from asserting his dominance over his weaker, more vulnerable family members. The pink house suggests that George, despite his physical aggression, does not possess any respectable masculine traits, but rather, claims his manhood undeservingly. Furthermore, because he is somewhat of a social outcast, we can infer that the community disagrees with his chief character traits- drunk and abusive. Through George’s wife’s death, daughter’s wedding, and own funeral, the narrator learns that George’s lack of respect for himself (alcoholism) and others (abusive) result in a lack of respect for George himself throughout the community.

  8. Kyle Carline Says:

    I agree with what Nikki Medas says about how our narrator did not like this new side of Popo. Although the other men claim him as part of the guys now. Alcohol so far has had a strong role in this narrative. I think there is a tight bond between manhood and alcohol. Elias did not drink at all and he had to continually lower his expectations. On the other hand I wouldn’t be too sure if he drank like his father did, that would help him pass those exams. Elias seemed to be at a part of his life where he had to be a man. His family has fallen apart and he doesn’t want to fall apart with it. So he tries to succeed and fails, thus becoming a cart driver. I believe he is the type of man this community produces. One who has to lower their expectations to survive and likely become an alcoholic.

  9. Brenna Geraghty Says:

    The character of George in Miguel Street is a sad caricature of common perceptions of slum life. He is rough, mean, unforgiving, and deeply unhappy. On page 26, George’s house is described as being dirty and unwelcoming and scary- the sort of image a lot of people get when they think of a slum. But the other people and houses in the street which the narrator describes all seem so vibrant and full of life, making George stand out more. He seems beaten down by life, and like the slum life itself, beats down those around him. I think one of the most notable things about George, however, is the fact that he eventually dies when his son Elias tries to make something of himself. If indeed he is a personification of slum life, the author seems to be indicating that it is possible to put that behind you forever by working hard.

  10. Morgan Cain Says:

    The story I chose was “The Mechanical Genius.” All the men of Miguel Street don’t really do much of anything in their day to day lives. Most are described as being not really worth much since most are either beating their wives or having affairs with others. This behavior is considered a part of everyday life on Miguel Street. Uncle Bhakcu, the so-called mechanical genius, is very similar to these other men. He beats his wife regularly and even makes her pick a rod for that particular reason. She doesn’t seem to mind. The narrator of the story seems to look up to his Uncle Bhakcu, much like Popo. He says he likes them because they are both artists in their own way. Neither seemed worried about the money and instead just seem to enjoy what they do. The narrator admires this in both and this idea of the “artist” appears to build between the two characters; Popo and Bhakcu.

  11. David Brunson Says:

    “The Thing Without a Name” paints a very good portrait of standards of masculinity in the Caribbean islands. Popo, the protagonist is attempting to conform to European standards of masculinity through his carpentry work, but he lacks talent, and is referred to as a “man-woman”. This is a product of the colonial tendencies to deny adequate access to education to those living on the islands. When this fails, he resorts to what sociologists refer to as “innovation” though stealing furniture rather than making it, running against the grain of colonial structure. This further emphasizes his masculinity, especially when he is arrested, showing how criminality is often glamorized and masculinized in impoverished cultures. Popo’s use of violence against the man who his wife runs off with, and their eventual re-joining fully establishes his status as a man.

  12. Caroline Gibbons Says:

    My absolute favorite chapter so far has been “B. Wordsworth.” This chapter deals with the question the narrator puts to B. Wordsworth: “Why you does cry?”
    B. Wordsworth helps him understand that it is okay to feel and express sadness; we live in a world where a morning glory can be sad because its bloom is ephemeral, but there’s also the sadness of injustice. The narrator has to deal with the emotional fallout of his mother beating him, and when he sees B. Wordsworth old and sick he compares seeing imminent death to getting slapped in the face by his mother. Wordsworth teaches the narrator both to cry and to cope as a man must do (as when he tells the narrator to look at the stars and think about how far away they are). Wordsworth helps the narrator sort out his feelings while at the same time showing him that he can experience sadness from many different sources.
    Wordsworth teaches him about what it means to be a man with feelings and how to be true to those feelings.
    There are more things that could be said about Wordsworth’s mode of living and how that reflects on his manliness. I don’t consider begging to be manly, but Wordsworth goes against the grain in the face of authority in his being a poet (not a useful or manly job.) I love the response he gives the police officer who asks “What you doing here?”: “I have been asking myself the same question for forty years.” In that answer is the essence to his manliness–he’s operating on a different level than everyone else. His own autonomy to think differently, more poetically is what makes him a man, though perhaps not what the rest of Miguel Street would consider such. I think the previous stories–Bogart for example–are more about fitting in as a man in the man-group, but B Wordsworth was far more focused on how the individual has to cope.

  13. Paige Connors Says:

    I am most captivated by the cultural imperialistic/colonialist ideas of masculinity connoted in “His Chosen Calling.” This chapter centers on Elias while also bringing the narrator out of the periphery and into clearer focus. Elias’ masculinity would seem to stand in direct contrast to that of the other men on Miguel Street; the boy is non-violent to the point of passivity, a teetotaler, and uninterested in manual labor whereas the other men on the street revere aggression and territoriality, bask in alcoholism, and earn a living from highly physical activities that either they or their wives perform, jobs that are sometimes (as in the case of Eddoes) inherited. So contrast seemed clear until I took a close look at the reception of the different characters (in this reading, Popo, George, Bogart, and Elias) by the rest of the gang. Elias is, in this hyperaggressive sense, less masculine than Popo (who is accused, after bringing his wife back home, of being something less than a man), but the gang automatically likes him, whereas they are at least dismissive of Popo, if not entirely willing to disown him altogether. This is, I have concluded, because the men in the gang recognize that Elias aspires to conform to colonialist ideals by rising above his social class (and perhaps the aspirations of many people of his race) and becoming a doctor. Oppressed by the British and by cultural imperialism, presumably constantly reminded how superior the white British are, I don’t doubt that the men of Miguel Street hold in high esteem the man who can conform to British ideals while also defying the space designated for him by white supremacist (heteropatriarchal…) British society. I also wanted to briefly discuss the narrator’s interjection that he receives higher scores on the Cambridge Senior School test than Elias does. The poorly-masked sense of pride the narrator derives from his high score illustrates the importance of conformity to white British/Western ideals for the younger generation. I ALSO wanted to discuss Bogart’s fixation on Humphrey Bogart and the ways in which his reconfiguration of his own identity reflect maybe the injection of not-necessarily Trinidadian/Tobagonain visions of masculinity into the gang at Miguel Street. This post is so long (sorry/not sorry) and I must confess that I love talking about gender identity/presentation.

  14. Allison Burlingame Says:

    In “The thing with a Name” we see how Popo goes from not being respected to being respected as a man. No one liked Popo because he never had to work. He could fully rely on his wife to make all the money and provide for all his needs. Once his wife left him he instantly became respected. There seems to be this idea on Miguel Street that one can’t have an easy life and be completely respected. Once the men found out that Popo had been stealing though things changed again and they respected Popo once again. It is even said that he “was really a man” because of the thievery.
    It seems that honesty doesn’t make a man on Miguel Street. This is reinforced in the last scene where the narrator is upset when he sees Popo actually working. Instead of seeing the value in Popo actually working the narrator is disappointed. This is ironic because initially all the men were annoyed with Popo because he didn’t have to work, but now they respect him more because of his thievery. It seems that a real man is respected when he works, but not with complete honesty.

  15. Jasmine Gascey Says:

    The stories in V.S. Naipaul’s Miguel Street were really interesting and a little disheartening. The only story that ended with and o.k. ending to me was “The thing without a Name”, but it seemed like the author was disheartened at the end of it. It was strange to me how someone got the reputation of being a man on this street. It seemed like one had to drink, curse, and terrorize innocent people. When they are doing right by themselves they are not considered a man according to Hat and his crew. Popo in the “The thing without a Name” was basically looked at as not a man until his wife left him and he started to drink along with the other “men” of Miguel Street. It was interesting to find out that he had always wanted to be part of that group but when he was actually a part of it he didn’t like it or himself, he just wanted his wife back. He works and works on trying to get his wife back even though he did it by thievery . You can compare this to the story in the novel “His chosen calling”. Elias had also worked hard to achieve his dreams, but while Popo got what he wanted in the end, Elias did not. I think this taught the reader that if you don’t keep working towards your dreams then you be stuck but if you work toward your dreams in the right way then you can achieve them. These two stories gave an example of both of these points.

  16. Tyler Chappel Says:

    From this weeks reading I chose to focus on the chapter entitled “The Coward.” Of what has been digested so far, each chapter revolves around the child protagonists interactions with different male characters in his neighborhood; Miguel Street. Through these interactions he is slowly given the clues of what will eventually amount to his manhood. In “The Coward” the boy recounts his relationship to a man they called Big foot. The boy just like most other men around the town found Big Foot terrifying, mainly because of his towering physical appearance. However, upon slow and careful interaction the two, against all odds, form a relationship. While together, in a moment of chaos next to the ocean, Big Foot runs panicked by a Dog’s bark and cut his foot on a bottle. During this moment of vulnerability the boy sees the truth hidden behind his intimidating exterior; that Big Foot is a kind and gentle person inside. This story to me stood out. Big Foot seemed on the outside to represent the prototypical male figure. He was big, physically dominating, and had a reputation about town. However, on the inside he represented something wholly different, not what was expected. This dichotomy within Big foot is eventually brought to light when he loses the boxing match to an unproven British boxer (Imperialism?) and cries, revealing the true nature of his character. I believe this teaches the boy an important lesson in humility, and also that true masculinity comes from within. In this case the fear of what was not understood, actually gave no cause to be afraid at all. This story I felt built on the others well. It reinforced the idea that masculinity on Miguel Street can be found in many forms, however, the truth always surfaces.

  17. Mihret Kabilovic Says:

    In the chapter “His Chosen Calling,” Elias begins as a character with a lot of ambition. However his ambition is severely curtailed by his abusive father. His father, George, is a worst case scenario of what a man on Miguel Street can become. Elias has aspirations of being a doctor; however his home life is less than ideal with George and affects him psychologically. Elias however fools a lot of people, and himself, into believing that he is above the tough guy persona that most men on Miguel Street exhibit. Elias however learns quickly that he is not as smart as people believed. He fails his first exam, and passes it on the second attempt, however he fails it on his third try, showing that he was fortunate and was not quite as superior as he let on. Another important characteristic about Elias is that unlike most of the men on Miguel Street, he was not vulgar. The narrator mentions that no one heard him swear or be rude toward anyone else. By the end of the story Elias has become so disenchanted because of his continuous failures he curses at Hat when he tries to help him. Elias begins to use vulgarity for no other reason than to assert his toughness, or masculinity like all the other men on Miguel Street. The lesson from this chapter could be that eventually Miguel Street will wear a man out, and it will cause you to become just another tough guy.

  18. Talesia Johnson Says:

    The men and masculinity displayed on Miguel Street seem to embody European stereotypes about men of color. They are lazy, lack motivation and are abusive to their wives. They do not display the patriarchal values that are typically attached to European societies or colonies. The integrity of the male characters is not measured by their willingness or ability to provide for their homes, yet it is measured by how much power they possess over the women in their lives. For example, in Bogart, the title character is quiet and mysterious in the beginning; yet when he returns each time he is fatter and a little more boisterous. It is revealed that he left his wife who could not have children. Then he disappears a second time after marrying and impregnating a younger woman that he leaves with no choice but to raise his baby. His identity and confidence with regards to his manhood was in his abilility to have children, yet he had no intention of providing for them. Also, the referencing of his ability to speak with an American accent has double meaning. It seems that American pop culture was admired by the men on Miguel Street; for they imitated American styles and referenced characters from American movies. Because Trinidad was an English colony many of their influence and sense of prestige was influenced by their colonizers culture rather than their own traditions. Having the ability to speak without a Caribbean accent was impressive to the other men but speaking with an American accent was cool. This comes off as a bit obnoxious when Bogart’s imitations of the actor Bogart is described; hence the Miguel Street Bogart has no identity of his own. My point is that the men of Miguel Street may not be accurate portrayals of these men and their life conditions, rather they are purposely being described from the point of view of the “white gaze”.

  19. Jacqueline Davis Says:

    The idea of masculinity seems confused on Miguel Street. Its as if the men are unsure or afraid of the role they are expected to fill as men. Beginning with Bogart who abandoned what could be considered his most important role as a man and that is being a father. I wanted to focus however on George. He is the tragic stereotype of what type of man comes from his environment. He seems to have self abused to the point of projecting it onto his loved ones. He speaks about his sons education and how proud he is and then turns around and savagely beats him. Which makes me feel as though he is partially unaware of his true self and the pain he has caused. George is the only one whose character didn’t receive validation in his chapter.

  20. Hannah Lickey Says:

    Since most people decided to talk about Popo, let’s not. (Although his character gives the most detail as to what is entails to be a man on Miguel Street). I will discuss George, the father of Elias. He was told to be like Popo because he let his wife do all the work, and made no money for himself, but in addition to that he beat his wife and the rest of his family including Elias. This is the distinction between him and Popo, and causes George to be an outcast in Miguel Street. Popo, who is hated by the male society, is at least included by being gossiped about and insulted. Popo is a matter of distinction and is therefore recognized by the gang. George is not discussed, rarely talked about, and when he is it is in passing. In this way he is not considered a man by the men of Miguel Street, and not even a person.

  21. Erin Israel Says:

    Masculinity on Miguel street is not derived at all in the same way as in America where men are expected to be breadwinners, I think that to call them lazy would be to ignore several complexities of Island life or life in a small economy such as they are in. They all want men in their community to be successful. For instance in “His chosen calling” Street describes the various jobs that keep the street running and the nature of the school system. They describe how the whole street is invested in Elias’ test scores. He describes the cart drivers as the aristocracy because they only work during the mornings and have the rest of the day for leisure which is more similar to the American definition than other people seem to think because we do have a “leisure class.” Masculinity in this community seems to be defined by inclusion and/or approval by an elder member of the community and a certain set of interests which the “junior miguel street club” where they talk about sports and philosophize about life.

  22. Maureen Ogando Says:

    In the chapter or short story “The Thing Without A Name” we are introduced to Mr. Popo, a carpenter who seemed to always be working with no product being produce. He is referred to as “man-woman”, “not a proper man” on Miguel street because his wife worked to provide for the household not Popo and carpentry. Masculinity on Miguel street seems to be compared to how a man can support his family in the case of Mr. Popo. Popo’s wife works in a big house with a gardener we later learn she runs away with possibly due to the fact that he worked. But Mr. Popo gets his wife back and it’s not until the end we learn through stealing and redoing his home. Our narrator notes the change in Mr. Popo after his wife left; how he finally acquired the friendship of the other men on Miguel Street like Hat and Errol. In that community the men drink often and talk of cricket and football things Popo often didn’t participate because we worked on the the thing with no name. On page 21 we see that Popo is finally categorized as a man because of his rum drinking, crying, anger, and finally the urge to fight others after his wife’s departure. Our narrator sees that this behavior is what makes a man and not the behavior that drew him to Mr. Popo in the first place. The previous story of Bogart categorizes a man of little talk and much mystery. However what lesson is shared between these two stories are the point our narrator reflects of how the mistreatment or lack of treat to the women in the these men’s lives are seen as taking away from their manhood. For Bogart it is leaving the two women destitute and for Popo allowing his wife to support the whole of the earnings.

  23. Alexandra Evans Says:

    I chose Bogart to be a special character of mine. His mannerisms remind me of a lot of men in this day in age. It seems as though being tough, not caring about what women feel or think, and money is respected immensely on Miguel street. Bogart seemed to embody those things cohesively very well. I felt like the narrator learned that this particular man is a symbol of what a successful, private man should be. I notice in a variety of men that they love preserving their privacy in anything that deals with sex, business, and money. It always seems as though men love to be surprised by another’s achievements and not led on by noisy details and long, wordy promises. Bogart represented the perfect dangerous, money/women attracting male. They respected him and feared him when they found out what he was actually capable of because of his previous private manner. It’s obvious that Elias’s ambitions were contradicting what the perfect man should be on Miguel street. He chose a higher level of opportunity that these men weren’t even contemplating. In that day, you could probably call him a visionary. The rest of them were stirring up dreams of becoming street sweepers. That’s pretty amazing to think about. After they saw how Elias was making MONEY being an educated teacher, they soon came to respect him just as much. Privacy/secrecy and money is what these men really want to me.

  24. Dean Mirshahi Says:

    The male figures in Miguel Street are abusive, delusional, and seemingly more indifferent than Rip Van Winkle. Bogart and Popo, two of the male figures that the narrator looks up to you or at least understands that others hold them in regard, don’t have proper jobs, ambitions, or moral compasses. Popo, a man who goes to jail for thieving, is labeled as “a bigger man than any of us” (24) by the narrator. Once Popo returns from jail, he comes back “as a hero” and is described by the narrator, “He was one of the boys. He was a better man than either Hat or Bogart” (25). Obviously, this backwards attitude on manhood is one that all the men of Miguel Street are seemingly content with having as the narrator describes Popo’s time in jail as the, “thing that could happen to any of us” (25). Oddly enough, when Popo finally loses his apathy and begins to make actual furniture instead of “things without a name” the narrator is saddened because this change is the end of the purity and love that crafting had once given Popo. Clearly, the narrator is blinded by his innocence, which ignores the lack of ambition in men that Popo and the rest of the male figures of Miguel Street represent. The men of Miguel Street are supposedly meant to not work, as Popo explains, “Women and them like work. Man not make for work” (19). I’m not sure the lesson that the narrator can learn from these men, who blame women for their problems and who drink, play cards, and lack any kind of motivation to move up in the world.

    The narrator learns that apathy is accepted and even encouraged, particularly in “His Chosen Calling” in which Elias desires to be a doctor yet settles on cart driver because he “really like the work” (45). Elias is thought as a genius and after persevering through an abusive home and the death of his parents, Elias still desires to become a doctor, leaving his past behind. However after failing his exams, all of his supporters blame England for failing him, as they wouldn’t want someone from Miguel Street to be successful. These same supporters blame Trinidad for failing him on his sanitary inspector exam as well, illustrating the “blaming” game that the people of Miguel Street play. Elias eventually settles into the path that seems to have been set from his beginning, to be a cart driver. All the other boys of Miguel Street want to be cart drivers because they are given the rest of the days off and can go on strike for whatever reason they desire, not for true convictions, only for ones that are opportune. The narrator, despite admiring his countrymen’s indifference and enjoying Elias’ failure, decides to take exams himself and leave Miguel Street. Reading this, it seems that the narrator is patronizing his people and explaining that getting out and finding success is not as difficult as they supposed. The narrator has seemed to learn through these bored men, like Bogart, that accepting your fate and making excuses will only stifle you and despite being understanding and even admiring some of these men, the narrator always seems distant from the story of Miguel Street and it’s a space that the narrator has created in order to break away from the Trinidad that he has been exposed to.

  25. Kaitlin Bradley Says:

    It is obvious, after reading the first few chapters of Miguel Street, that there is a strong male presence. Throughout the chapters, we follow the narrator, a boy, who introduces us to each of the men living on this street and of their struggles of manlihood. Each chapter (so far at least), plays a significant role in showing the boy’s progress in learning what it means to be a man through the lessons of his neighbors. In the chapter, The Thing Without A Name, we meet a man who they call Popo. Popo is a supposed carpenter who is always keeping himself busy without ever really getting anywhere with his work. He is also known to like intellectual conversations about birth, death, etc. Whenever he is found working in a shop, he is known for working on “a thing without a name”. On this subject, I did some further research online, on the eighteenth century collections page (found through VCU’s library database search) and found that in 1749, there was a book printed by the name of ,“The thing without a name. In favour of every body, and in favour of no body”. This book, also dealing with English/irish politics is oddly similar to Miguel Street, in the way that you meet multiple different men and learn what it is like to live like such a man, in the eighteenth century. In Popo’s case, the neighboring men don’t respect him as a man because he is too dependent on his wife. Popo then results to drinking his rum to build up his outward manly confidence within himself, which results in his “conceited” reputation. He later loses his wife to another man and results to more drinking. The anger, resulting from his drinking, causes him to toughen up and beat up on everybody. He then becomes more popular among the “manly” neighborhood. But then brings his wife back under false pretenses and again, loses his respect among the neighborhood. It seems as if in order to be accepted by this neighborhood, you must be some sort of criminal or tough character.

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