Of the three characters given dialogue in the story, two of them speak a local dialect that might be called non-standard English. When B. Wordsworth first comes to the narrator’s house, the boy calls to his mother, ‘‘Ma, it have a man outside here. He say he want to watch the bees.’’ In the second sentence, the second-person form of the verb ‘‘to say’’ is used, instead of the grammatically correct third-person form, which would be ‘‘he says.’’
A bit later, the boy asks B. Wordsworth about his occupation: ‘‘What you does do, mister?’’ The inverted word order is noticeable (‘‘you does’’ rather than ‘‘does you, ’’ as well as the use of the third-person form of the verb ‘‘to do’’ (‘‘does’’) rather than the grammatically correct second-person, ‘‘do’’ (since he is addressing the man directly as ‘‘you’’). This is the exact reverse of the previous example, in which the second-person rather than third-person form is used.
The boy’s mother speaks in the same way. She says, for example, ‘‘You think you is a man now and could go all over the place?’’ The grammatically correct form of the sentence would be, ‘‘You think you are a man now and can go all over the place?’’
The examples here are not to suggest that the way these people speak is ‘‘wrong’’; they just show that the author is capturing the local idioms and making the story authentic, since that is likely the way people who lived in the poorer areas of Port of Spain spoke at that time.
In contrast to the other two characters, B. Wordsworth speaks in perfectly grammatical sentences. He has obviously learned carefully how to speak in this way. ‘‘His English was so good, it didn’t sound natural,’’ the narrator says. The contrast between B. Wordsworth and the way the others speak is another way of showing that B. Wordsworth does not really fit in his environment. He is clearly different from most people there. This is in keeping with his selfimage of being a poet destined for greatness.
B. Wordsworth models himself after William Wordsworth, who is known as a nature poet. B. Wordsworth’s identification with nature rather than with the human world can be seen in the environment he creates for himself. Although he lives in Alberto Street, which is part of the town, it does not seem like it to the young narrator. Not only is the yard green with several trees, but also ‘‘the place looked wild, as though it wasn’t in the city at all. You couldn’t see all the big concrete houses in the street.’’ B. Wordsworth’s environment is therefore in keeping with his perception of his vocation as a poet of nature, among other things. The natural environment is a symbol of his choice in life, to be close to nature.
A year after the boy has stopped seeing B. Wordsworth, he returns to Alberto Street but finds it much changed. B. Wordsworth’s hut has been demolished, ‘‘and a big, two-storied building had taken its place.’’ The trees are also gone, and ‘‘there was brick and concrete everywhere.’’ While B. Wordsworth was alive, there was a small portion of the town that seemed to be in harmony with him, but after he dies even that vanishes. The brick and mortar that replace the old hut and yard are a symbol of the march of progress that may improve the material conditions of people’s lives but perhaps also exclude something positive that B. Wordsworth, for all his failure and illusions, stood for. It is as if there is no longer a place for the romanticism that the boy associated with B. Wordsworth and absorbed from him. It has given way to the hard world of practicalities.
Sara Constantakis – Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, vol. 29, V. S. Naipaul, Published by Gale Group, 2001.