07 October 2010
Down the dead streets of sun-stoned Frederiksted,
the first free port to die for tourism,
strolling at funeral pace, I am reminded
of life not lost to the American dream; 5 but my small-islander’s simplicities
can’t better our new empire’s civilized
exchange of cameras, watches, perfumes, brandies
for the good life, so cheaply underpriced
that only the crime rate is on the rise 10 in streets blighted with sun, stone arches
and plazas blown dry by the hysteria
of rumor. A condominium drowns
in vacancy; its bargains are dusted,
but only a jeweled housefly drones 15 over the bargains. The roulettes spin
rustily to the wind—the vigorous trade
that every morning would begin afresh
by revving up green water round the pierhead
heading for where the banks of silver thresh. Making Meanings
1. Did you find yourself sympathizing with or questioning the speaker’s viewpoint? Explain.
I found myself questioning the speaker’s viewpoint. He seems to be a native, but he never takes a clear stand.
2. What is the tourist reminded of as he strolls the streets of Frederiksted?
“…life not lost to the American dream.”
3. How does Walcott ironically represent the “good life” of “the American dream”? How does
his picture compare with your ideas of "the American dream" and "progress"?
He seems to be content with what he already has. His picture sort of conflicts with what I imagine to be the American dream.
4. How do you explain line 2? What other images in the poem suggest decay and emptiness?
I believe he was saying that the port was once a beautiful place that was “improved” by tourism and Americans. The image of the condominiums “drowning” in vacancy suggests emptiness as well.
5. What positive images suggest the island “simplicities” that once existed in Frederiksted?
The exchange of goods seemed to be the only simplistic thing about the poem. 6. Sum up what you think Walcott is saying about the changes he sees. Who or what is responsible for the changes? Are the changes for the better or for the worse? I believe Walcott was saying that the Virgins were changing, evolving forward to some complex development that the speaker appreciates, but feels overwhelmed by. He blames the change on tourism, saying “…free port to die for tourism”. These changes are for worse.
Extending the Text
7. Have places within the United States fallen victim to “the American dream” in ways similar to Walcott’s description of Frederiksted? Explain your answer, and discuss your reactions.
Most certainly. Sandals Caribbean resorts do this quite frequently to islands such as Jamaica and St. Lucia. I feel ashamed at how we Americans indulge in these foreign places that we have no reason to be in. We change, warp, and distort these places until they can support our fat wallets and greedy hearts.