The Enemy

by

V. S. Naipaul

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The Narrator’s Father Character Analysis

The narrator’s father is a complicated figure in “The Enemy”: he’s at once authoritative and abusive yet also tender toward his son and fearful of the very people he oversees. The narrator’s father is a driver on a sugar plantation who mistreats the laborers, as if they were enslaved, and he also treats his wife (the narrator’s mother) harshly. He insists on moving from the barracks of the plantation to a nearby house, where mysterious voices outside (implied to belong to the vengeful laborers he’s wronged) threaten the family at night. The narrator’s father ignores his wife’s pleas to leave the house, apparently caring neither for her nor his son’s safety. He eventually becomes so abusive toward his wife, shouting and throwing things at her, that she leaves him. At first, the narrator’s father copes with the terror of living in the house by aid of an eclectic spirituality, mixing together Hinduism, Christianity, and his own imagination. As he falls ill, he becomes closer to his son, teaching him about God, gravity, and the mixing of colors. He ultimately succumbs to his fears one night during a massive thunderstorm. Imagining that the laborers he has wronged will be able to do anything to him and his son under the cover of darkness and the noise of the storm, insisting that he can hear their voices even when his son can hear nothing, he dies from what his son assumes to be fear. Whereas the narrator’s father begins as an authority figure over his workers and family members, at the end of his life he is portrayed as a weak and pathetic figure, dying of fright at the imagined voices of the people he has wronged. The narrator initially identifies and allies himself with his father and the authority he represents while rejecting his mother. But later, after his father’s death, he recognizes his relationship with his father as one of potential domination and is grateful for his death.

The Narrator’s Father Quotes in The Enemy

The The Enemy quotes below are all either spoken by The Narrator’s Father or refer to The Narrator’s Father. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Familial Love and Conflict Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Cambridge University Press edition of The Enemy published in 2018.
The Enemy Quotes

She hated my father, and even after he died she continued to hate him.

She would say, “Go ahead and do what you doing. You is your father child, you hear, not mine.”

Page Number: 207
Explanation and Analysis:

The real split between my mother and me happened not in Miguel Street, but in the country.

My mother had decided to leave. my father, and she wanted to take me to her mother.

I refused to go.

My father was ill, and in bed. Besides, he had promised that if I stayed with him I was to have a whole box of crayons.

I chose the crayons and my father.

Page Number: 207
Explanation and Analysis:

We were living at the time in Cunupia, where my father was a driver on the sugar estates. He wasn’t a slave-driver, but a driver of free people, but my father used to behave as though the people were slaves. He rode about the estates on a big clumsy brown horse, cracking his whip at the labourers and people said—I really don't believe this—that he used to kick the labourers.

I don’t believe it because my father had lived all his life in Cunupia and he knew that you really couldn't push the Cunupia people around. They are not tough people, but they think nothing of killing, and they are prepared to wait years for the chance to kill someone they don’t like.

Related Characters: The Narrator , The Narrator’s Father
Page Number: 207
Explanation and Analysis:

Everybody agreed on one thing. My mother and I had to leave the country. Port-of-Spain was the safest place. There was too a lot of laughter against my father, and it appeared that for the rest of my life I would have to bear the cross of a father who died from fright. But in a month or so I had forgotten my father, and I had begun to look upon myself as the boy who had no father. It seemed natural.

In fact, when we moved to Port-of-Spain and I saw what the normal relationship between father and son was—it was nothing more than the relationship between the beater and the beaten—when I saw this I was grateful.

Page Number: 210
Explanation and Analysis:

My mother made a great thing at first about keeping me in my place and knocking out all the nonsense my father had taught me. I don’t know why she didn’t try harder, but the fact is that she soon lost interest in me, and she let me run about the street, only rushing down to beat me from time to time.

Page Number: 211
Explanation and Analysis:

Slowly the friendliness died away. It had become a struggle between two wills. I was prepared to drown rather than dishonour myself by obeying.

Page Number: 212
Explanation and Analysis:

At times like these I used to cry, without meaning it, “If my father was alive you wouldn’t be behaving like this.”

Page Number: 212
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Enemy PDF

The Narrator’s Father Character Timeline in The Enemy

The timeline below shows where the character The Narrator’s Father appears in The Enemy. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Enemy
Familial Love and Conflict Theme Icon
...enemy. He believes that she misunderstands and disapproves of him. His mother always hated his father, even after he died, and she considered him his father’s child. The split between the... (full context)
Colonialism, Power, and Revolt Theme Icon
The narrator’s father is a driver on a sugar plantation in Cunupia, on Trinidad. He is violent, treating... (full context)
Fear Theme Icon
Colonialism, Power, and Revolt Theme Icon
...narrator’s family starts out living in the barracks of the sugar plantation, but then his father insists on moving to a nearby wooden house. His mother is afraid and tells him... (full context)
Fear Theme Icon
Colonialism, Power, and Revolt Theme Icon
...he goes to another room and walks around saying “Rama! Rama! Sita Rama!” because his father has told him to say this whenever he is in danger. (full context)
Fear Theme Icon
Colonialism, Power, and Revolt Theme Icon
...was only to frighten us, and we were certainly frightened.” From this point onward, his father always carries his gun with him, and his mother keeps a cutlass nearby. (full context)
Fear Theme Icon
Colonialism, Power, and Revolt Theme Icon
...say things such as how they are lost and need lights, or how the narrator’s father’s sister has died suddenly, or how there has been a fire at the sugar mill.... (full context)
Familial Love and Conflict Theme Icon
Fear Theme Icon
Colonialism, Power, and Revolt Theme Icon
...killed and cut into pieces on their steps. The narrator’s mother starts to beg his father to let them move out of the house. But his father refuses, as if he... (full context)
Familial Love and Conflict Theme Icon
After the narrator’s mother leaves, his father falls ill and spends much of his time in bed. The narrator stays by him... (full context)
Familial Love and Conflict Theme Icon
Fear Theme Icon
The narrator tries to make up tricks to show his father. But when he finally finds a trick he feels certain his father doesn’t know (rubbing... (full context)
Familial Love and Conflict Theme Icon
Fear Theme Icon
The narrator tries to assure his father that they will be safe, that they have the gun and cutlass to protect themselves,... (full context)
Familial Love and Conflict Theme Icon
Fear Theme Icon
Shame and Dishonor Theme Icon
Colonialism, Power, and Revolt Theme Icon
The narrator explains that his father died of fright. Everyone they know insists that he and his mother must leave the... (full context)
Familial Love and Conflict Theme Icon
Shame and Dishonor Theme Icon
At first, the narrator’s mother tries to “knock out all the nonsense” that the narrator’s father taught him, but she soon “[loses] interest” in her son, simply beating him from time... (full context)
Familial Love and Conflict Theme Icon
Shame and Dishonor Theme Icon
Colonialism, Power, and Revolt Theme Icon
...so, the narrator still refuses to sit in the hammock. He cries that if his father were still alive, his mother wouldn’t act like this. (full context)