The Enemy


V. S. Naipaul

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Themes and Colors
Familial Love and Conflict Theme Icon
Fear Theme Icon
Shame and Dishonor Theme Icon
Colonialism, Power, and Revolt Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Enemy, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Familial Love and Conflict

Fundamentally, “The Enemy” is about the narrator’s relationship with his mother. This relationship is characterized by conflict, even hatred, yet also by an underlying love. At the start of the story, the narrator explains that his mother hates his father, and she also resents the narrator for choosing his father over her when his parents separate. She calls him “your father child […] not mine.” The narrator bonds with his father during…

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Fear is a powerful force in “The Enemy,” transforming the characters’ relationships with one another—sometimes driving them apart, sometimes drawing them together, sometimes even deciding matters of life and death. The first episode of fear occurs soon after the family moves from the barracks of the sugar plantation to a nearby house, when a man comes to the house and threatens them. After this, the family lives in constant terror, keeping weapons nearby. At…

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Shame and Dishonor

At many points in the story, the narrator is motivated by a desire to escape from shame and dishonor. As he grows older, he becomes more attuned to social approval and disapproval. He is aware, for instance, that there is something shameful about his father dying (apparently of fright) during a thunderstorm, reflecting that “it appeared that for the rest of my life I would have to bear the cross of a father who died…

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Colonialism, Power, and Revolt

“The Enemy” is filled with instances of disobedience or revolt against authority figures, both within the narrator’s family and within colonial Trinidadian society more broadly. The story takes place in the 1940s in Trinidad, when the country was still a British colony. Throughout the colonial period, Trinidad’s economy was fueled by sugar plantations. Although both slavery and indentured servitude had ended by the period when “The Enemy” is set, even “free” labor on these…

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