Ti-Jean and His Brothers

by

Derek Walcott

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Ti-Jean and His Brothers Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Derek Walcott's Ti-Jean and His Brothers. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Derek Walcott

Derek Walcott was a Saint Lucian poet, playwright, and professor. He comes from a multiracial family, which is a theme he explores in much of his work. Walcott’s father, a painter, died when he was one year old, and Walcott, his twin brother Roderick, and his sister Pamela were raised by a single mother. His mother was headmistress of a school, which meant reading and writing were priorities in the family’s household. Walcott published his first poem at age fourteen, and graduated from the University College of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica. After graduation, Walcott moved to Trinidad, where he founded the Trinidad Theatre Workshop in 1959. He published several plays in Trinidad before moving to the United States to teach at Boston University. In 1981, Walcott was granted a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. He published Omeros, his most famous work, which is a loosely rendered Caribbean interpretation of the Odyssey. In 1992, Walcott received the Nobel Prize in Literature. Just a year before his death, Walcott was knighted, becoming one of the first knights of the Order of Saint Lucia.
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Historical Context of Ti-Jean and His Brothers

Published in 1970,  Ti-Jean and His Brothers corresponds with the rise of the postcolonial literary movement. The themes of colonial rule and local resistance were popular among many writers from the formerly colonized world, notably India, Nigeria, the Caribbean islands, and South Africa. The historical events associated with the setting of the play itself are slave rebellions and the end of slavery in the Caribbean. Ti-Jean’s act of resistance at the end of the play corresponds with both successful and failed slave rebellions across the Caribbean Islands, many of which took as their central action either the reclamation or the destruction of sugar plantation land.

Other Books Related to Ti-Jean and His Brothers

Like Ti-Jean and His Brothers, The Book of Night Women by Marlon James also addresses the theme of colonialism in the Caribbean. The novel’s protagonist, Lilith, is born into slavery and orphaned in early childhood. Like Walcott does in Ti-Jean and His Brothers, James analyzes the variety of responses that colonized peoples have to their colonizers. In the novel, Lilith both hates the slaveowner and also aspire to obtain a position of privilege by pleasing the overseer and owner of the plantation. Gros Jean embodies the latter sentiment in the play with his desire to impress the Planter by working hard, while Ti-Jean represents the rebellious side of Lilith. In both works, the authors explore the complex relationships of the colonized to their colonizers. No Telephone to Heaven by Michelle Cliff also shares thematic similarities with Ti-Jean and His Brothers. Just as Ti-Jean eventually destroys the Devil’s plantation in an act of uprising against his slave masters, the protagonist of Cliff’s novel, Christopher, is a groundskeeper who murders his white Caribbean boss’s entire family. Cliff explores the themes of racism and colonialism in the modern age, when colonial forces from other countries are no longer present but legacies of colonialism such as colorism and classism live on and continue to subject poor, black Caribbean people to poor treatment. Like Walcott, Cliff champions the uprising of her characters against the racist and postcolonial forces that oppress them.
Key Facts about Ti-Jean and His Brothers
  • Full Title: Ti-Jean and His Brothers
  • When Written: 1957
  • Where Written: Trinidad
  • When Published: 1970
  • Literary Period: Postmodernism, Postcolonialism
  • Genre: Postcolonial literature, Caribbean literature, fable, play
  • Setting: An unnamed island in the Caribbean
  • Climax: Ti-Jean burns down the Devil’s plantation.
  • Antagonist: The Devil
  • Point of View: Third-Person Limited

Extra Credit for Ti-Jean and His Brothers

Homegrown Literature. Walcott said that Ti-Jean and His Brothers was his “most Caribbean” piece of writing, due to its incorporation of folkloric elements. Papa Bois, for instance, is a character commonly referenced in Caribbean narratives.

Lifelong Themes. The religious overtones in Ti-Jean and His Brothers are echoed in many of Walcott’s earliest writings. The first poem he published was inspired by his devout Methodism, and even drew criticism from local Catholic priest.