Miguel Street

1731 Words Jan 27th, 2011 7 Pages
The Novel

Miguel Street has been variously classified as a group of short stories, as a series of sketches, and as a novel. The latter classification is supported by the fact that it is unified by a single narrator and by several patterns and themes. Furthermore, although each chapter is dominated by a single character, those major characters reappear as minor characters in other chapters. At the end of the book, all the characters who still live on Miguel Street gather to present to the narrator (who is departing for college) gifts representing their own attitudes toward life. Thus, the narratives are tied together, justifying the label “novel.”

According to V. S. Naipaul, the genesis of Miguel Street was a shout that he remembered from
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Although the book does not develop chronologically, it ends with the narrator becoming an adult and leaving Miguel Street, not to escape its judgments but to acquire an education. Unlike Elias, he passed the necessary examinations; unlike so many of those on the Street, he has a real opportunity to alter his life.

The Characters

Growing up in Miguel Street, the narrator learns to respect people whom outsiders might lump together as ignorant slum-dwellers. He comments, “we who lived there saw our street as a world, where everybody was quite different from everybody else. Man-man was mad; George was stupid; Big Foot was a bully; Hat was an adventurer; Popo was a philosopher; and Morgan was our comedian.” Naipaul reveals his characters by accurate recording of dialogue and through the narrator’s ongoing reporting of gossip, facts, and his impressions as well as those of others. In the beginning of “The Pyrotechnicist,” for example, the narrator contrasts the Street’s assessment of Morgan as “our comedian” with his own later understanding of Morgan’s personality. Then, Naipaul’s narrator sums up Morgan as “the sort of man who, having once created a laugh by sticking the match in his mouth and trying to light it with his cigarette . . . does it over and over again” and concludes by quoting Hat’s comment that Morgan is “not so happy at all.” Thus, in a sense,
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