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Quotes

Quote #1

I was suddenly very much afraid […] I was certain that hidden in the room (behind the old black press?) there was a dead man's dried hand, white chicken feathers, a cock with its throat cut, dying slowly, slowly. Drop by drop the blood was falling into a red basin and I imagined I could hear it. No one had every spoken to me about obeah – but I knew what I would find if I dared to look. Then Christophine came in smiling and pleased to see me. Nothing alarming ever happened and I forgot, or told myself I had forgotten. (I.1.6.3)

This quote is awfully strange because Antoinette seems to know without knowing that there's an obeah charm in the room. How does she know what a charm looks like if nobody's ever talked about it? Is it possible that she's repressed what she's heard, just as she tells herself in the passage above that she's forgotten what she's seen in Christophine's room? The passage above is a great one to look at if you want to try to disentangle the weird dynamic of rumor and denial that goes into obeah's mystique.

Quote #2

I heard someone say something about bad luck and remembered that it was very unlucky to kill a parrot, or even to see a parrot die. (I.1.8.19)

It seems ridiculous that a parrot on fire could dispel a riot, but there you have it. The scene attests to the way superstitions operate: what a community believes to be true can generate its own objective reality.

Quote #3

But we have our own Saint, the skeleton of a girl of fourteen under the altar of the convent chapel. The Relics. But how did the nuns get them out there, I ask myself? In a cabin trunk? Specially packed for the hold? How? But here she is, and St. Innocenzia is her name. We do not know her story; she is not in the book. (I.2.4.2)

The novel creates its own mythical saint to suggest an analogy with Antoinette, who herself gets locked up in the hold of a ship and gets transported in the opposite direction – to England and Europe, rather than the Caribbean. The convent's worship of a girl's skeleton invites parallels with obeah rituals (the dried, shriveled hand of Quote #1 above). These similarities suggest that the lines separating obeah from Christianity, black magic from religion, are not quite so clear-cut as they appear.

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