In The Castle Of My Skin Summary

George Lamming

In The Castle Of My Skin

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In The Castle Of My Skin Summary

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In the Castle of My Skin is a 1953 novel by the acclaimed Barbadian author George Lamming. This autobiographical novel was lauded by critics like Sartre and Wright, as a realistic depiction of growing up in Barbados during a period of great change. The story takes place over nine years of the narrator, G’s, life from the ages of nine to seventeen. The narration switches between the first-person G, and the third person. The novel does this to juxtapose and also connect G with the overall population of Carrington, Barbados, as they both change and grow.

On G’s ninth birthday there is heavy rain which brings about devastating floods. His mother shouts out the window to a neighbor that it is G’s birthday, and the neighbor responds that the flooding is a blessing. His mother agrees, but G is critical of their interpretation of the flooding. The next day, the rest of the village is examined. G’s mother bathes him outside and he is made fun of by the other children, who peek at him over the fence. One of the children, Bob, gets punished, and when G goes to see for himself, his own mother punishes him, for forgetting he was naked

The other villagers talk about their bothersome children and their relationship with the landlord. Mrs. Foster, a neighbor, is shocked that the landlord gave her some tea and sixty cents. The story then moves back to G as he goes to school. That day they are lectured on the relationship between England and Barbados, as they are to be inspected by the colonizers. The students cheer, as that’s what they have been taught to do. Some of the students are curious about slavery as they have heard bits and pieces about it, but the school will not give them more detail. One child uses the Bible to rationalize slavery. The students are happy when they receive pennies from the inspector.

Savory sells food from a cart in the village. Some villagers gather with Mr. Slime, a teacher at G’s school who is moving up in the world politically, to discuss the recent strikes at the docks, where many of the villagers work. They wonder out loud to Slime if striking is wise, as the landlord, Creighton, is part owner in the shipping company. They wonder if the strikes will turn into the kind of civil disturbances happening in nearby Trinidad. One day the British Empire will end, they believe, but they chat about cricket instead.

G spends time at the beach with some friends, as they talk about life and try to catch some crabs. One of his friends almost drowns and a fisherman saves him, while saying he should have just let him drown. They grab their clothes and head back to the village. They pass worshippers performing a ritual, but decide to move on. They discuss how Creighton and Slime are the only two important men in the town. They also discuss how Slime wants to sell land back to the villagers.

They pass by the landlord’s house and decide to peek inside. There is a fancy party going on, as they are celebrating the arrival of a new ship. The boys hear a noise nearby, which turns out to be Creighton’s daughter, caught in  a compromising position with a man. As they leave, they step on an anthill, yelp, and are chased by an overseer and some sailors.

An old woman relates a conversation she had with Creighton. She paid her rent, but he is worried about how the village is changing. He believes his daughter was violated, blaming it on “vagabonds” who live in the village—even though she was really with a sailor. The old woman wonders if Creighton will sell the land and leave, even though he feels a sense of responsibility for it.

Soon, the tension reaches breaking point and there is fighting in the main city. No one is quite sure what is happening, but the police presence is gone and none of the shops are open. Apparently, the workers and police began fighting and riots broke out. The rioting started as a strike, which was prompted by a speech given by Slime. An old woman claims her son has been shot dead. Everyone left in the village is scared and confused. People arrive with weapons, and they are supposedly after Creighton. Creighton is spotted walking down the street, dirty and disordered. The men consider attacking him, but they decide not to, since they don’t have Slime’s approval, and he escapes.

Time passes and Creighton remains landlord. G has received a scholarship to attend high school, and there he hears about World War Two, which is being fought overseas. The Barbadians are unaffected until they hear of Germany occupying France, at which point some of G’s classmates decide to enlist. G is encouraged to develop his academic abilities by a teacher and ultimately gets an opportunity to teach in nearby Trinidad.

Creighton sells the land to smaller landowners, who decide to evict the current tenants. The villagers are incensed, including Mr. Foster. It is discovered that it is Mr. Slime who acquired the land, and instead of keeping his promise to give the land back to the people, he has kicked the villagers out, or decided to charge them extravagantly high rents for their homes.

As G prepares to leave for Trinidad, he thinks about leaving his home behind. His friend Trumper returns from studying in America and discusses his experiences with G. He talks of some of the luxuries like telephones and electric fans, but also tells G about the politics. Trumper tells G that to truly understand his race and heritage he must leave the island, as it is the only way to achieve identity. G is prepared to do so. But he wonders about the people he is leaving behind who will never be able to leave and learn more about themselves.