The experience of literature is both intellectual and emotional, as well as known and felt. When private, it can be purely subjective. This is perhaps because the audience experiences the anguish and joy of the characters in the story it reads. The descriptions of lyrical reflections or faraway places on the human condition are most instrumental in engaging the senses and opening the hearts and minds of the reader to new possibilities that transcend their daily lives. Nevertheless, in order to bridge this gap of emotional and individual subjectivity, conducting a literary analysis and a formal discussion of a work of literature demands the collective use of rules, assumptions, and a shared vocabulary to enable the reviewer to describe the literary effects. By exploring Pollard Velma’s review on Barbara Lalla’s Uncle Brother, this paper finds that literary analysis does not only recognize that the definition of literature is objectively fixed but also acknowledges that the medium of literature does not create a transparent window between the meanings of the author and the minds of the readers. Pollard Velma clearly pinpoints the major literary effects by utilizing the main elements of literature.
Velma’s review of Uncle Brother begins by remarking the writer’s inspiration. She claims that Lalla’s literary works often depict some form of historical representation of events and that Uncle Brother is a perfect illustration. This view of Uncle Brother as a historical novel resonates well with the novel’s focus. The work is composed of multiple and varied perspectives that convey a sense of history and evanesce in the reader’s consciousness. In this manner, the audience is introduced to a brief Caribbean history through traces of Indo-Trinidadian tales of culture, immigration, and origin. In fact, Lalla extends the narrative across several generations and merges major events with civic and domestic conflicts. It is also important to note that Velma’s representation of the author portrays Lalla as an omniscient narrator who sees into each character’s mind and comprehends all the action. The author’s inspiration and her point of view are clearly indicative of this.
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When it comes to the plot, Velma presents Uncle Brother as a rich narrative. Perhaps the clearest way to give a general indication of the nature of plot in a modern novel as Uncle Brother is to begin by discussing the concept of plot. According to Karkness (450), a plot is “the particular temporal synthesis effected by the writer of the elements of action character, and thought that constitute the matter of invention.” Although Velma does not use this approach, she distinctly singles out the plot by giving a temporal synthesis that contains two characteristics: Firstly, it operates as a unifying and organizing principle in Lallas’ work and secondly, it operates in time. Her review highlights the novel’s events from Nathan’s ancestors’ arrival from India to his life in the south of Trinidad. On close analysis, one is able to notice that the review accurately describes the events of the novel in a brief fashion, including the tale of Nathan’s family history, the community’s involvement in hunting activities, and the importance of forests to the village-dwelling communities. At the same time, Velma maintains Nathan’s importance in the development of the plot. Her commentary exemplifies that Lalla has succeeded in presenting the main events of the novel in an interrelated sequence.
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Although Velma’s comments on the characters appear exhaustive with regard to the plot, she does not directly elucidate the dynamism or static nature of the main characters. In a work of literature, characters can either be dynamic or static. While dynamic characters grow and change over the course of the story, static characters remain essentially unchanged (Kirszner 91). Velma’s review on Uncle Brother portrays Nathan as a strong character who is unchanged by the challenges of life. She first includes a quote from the author’s note of the book claiming that “The character of Nathan Deoraj is to some extent drawn from life, inspired by a remarkable man with an unwavering commitment to family. There is a factual basis for the account of a father’s death followed by a brother assuming the care of his siblings” (Lalla 297). In addition, Velma sees Nathan as a character who perpetuates the long tradition of upholding family values and facilitating the theme of the importance of family. He is represented as the backbone of the family and a strong unchanging figure in the narrative. Most importantly, Velma recognizes her as a teacher and mentor to the family. This justified view portrays the character of Nathan as a static one.
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Uncle Brother’s use of architypes gives the reader the deepest level of characterization. These elements have remained instrumental in helping Velma to focus and externalize the archetypical qualities. In essence, extroverts prefer the external world of things while introverts tend to choose the internal world of thoughts. Velma indirectly describes Nathan as an extroverted individual by explaining his social life and communal relationships with his family members and the villagers. Notably, Velma she that other characters who come across Nathan remain memorable in the rest of the narrative. She also asserts that Uncle Brother is more of a tale of one man (Nathan), his family, and the relationships between him and his siblings as well as the descendants and other people. This characterization comes out as a narrative perspective and point of view by which Lalla reveals the personality of the main character. It also functions as a way of making that character (Nathan) to seem more real to the audience.
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Lastly, Velma’s review exposes various themes and conflicts that interweave to bring out the plot of Uncle Brother. A theme presents the central idea in a work of literature. It provides a unifying point around which the setting, characters, plot, symbols, the point of view, and other elements are organized. It is imperative to differentiate between a theme and a topic of work. Velma correctly highlights the importance of family, the importance of education for all, hard work, and the use of opportunities as the main themes. Significantly, Lalla intertwines these themes in a historical timeline that invokes the reader of the Trinidadian and the Caribbean chronicle. On the other hand, conflict is the struggle in the plot, between opposing forces in a work of fiction. Although Lalla’s Uncle Brother does not particularly involve a conflict between a protagonist and an antagonist, the novel simultaneously embarks upon the inward struggles of a character who wrestles with his self-induced obligations in order to be an inspiration to his kith and kin. To add a linguistic flavor to the narrative, the author adds a variety of Trinidad English and Creole as well as the voices of the Indian community. The representation of many voices in one story constructs a culturally rich narrative which the audience can enjoy to explore, not only because of the intersecting themes but also because of the diversity of the tale. As Velma says, “Language is perhaps the most important feature of any geographical location, any culture” (Pollard 145) She uses this phrase to collectively represent the cultural richness of Uncle Brother through its use of varied dialects.
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In sum, Velma’s review of Uncle Brother considers important elements of a literary analysis. She examines the themes, characters, point of view, characterization, setting, style, conflict, language, and themes to create a clear understanding of the meanings of the author and the minds of the readers. Evidently, literary criticism is a multifaceted activity. It contemplates the interpretation, study, appreciation, and judgment of literary texts. These aspects are further interconnected processes that fundamentally form a sequence that focuses on fomenting literary perception. Nevertheless, in order to perform the last step, which involves the appreciation of works of literature, it is critical to consider important elements of literary works and acknowledge the challenges involved. Appreciating literature demands the mastery of literary analysis which, in turn, implies that the reviewer has to assimilate theory. In other words, the theoretical configuration of major tenets and principles is necessary for the process of studying, analyzing, and appreciating literature fully. Thus, practical criticism and theoretical criticism go hand in hand to constitute literary criticism as demonstrated by Velma’s review of Uncle Brother.
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