The narrative of Omeros is multilayered. Walcott focuses on no single character, unlike Homer with Achilles in the Iliad and Odysseus in the Odyssey. Rather, many critics have taken the "hero" of Omeros to be the island of St. Lucia itself.
The story can be divided into three main threads, all of which are introduced in Book One of the poem. The first is the story of the Homerically named Achille and Hector over their love for Helen, with considerable attention paid to Philoctete, an injured fisherman based on Homer's and Sophocles' Philoctetes. The second is the interwoven story of Sergeant Major Plunkett and his Irish wife Maude, who live on the island and must reconcile themselves to the history of British colonization on St. Lucia. The final thread is that of the poet-narrator, who comments on the action of the poem and partakes in many trans-Atlantic journeys and wanderings himself.
The poem is ambitious in scope. Walcott takes on Homer, Virgil, and also Dante, as the form of the poem is reminiscent of the Dante-invented terza rima. Themes presented in this poem include nostalgia, colonialism, historiography, homecoming, paternity, poetry, and love. If any theme binds the characters together, it is a universal human desire for communion with the past.
Walcott has also been praised for his rich and inventive use of language in Omeros.
Walcott was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992.
Part I: The battle for St. Lucia moves north away from the island. Rodney storms after the French fleet towards Guadeloupe to cause a destruction so loud it will be heard in Europe--a reference to the relationship between the carnage in the Caribbean and the peace across the ocean. This is the history read by Plunkett in his books, one that he finds dry and impartial. These pamphlets and lists of "factual fiction" dismiss the emotional truth of the island's real history; they avoid the "repetitious details" which allude to a superstition that the Major himself cannot believe in. Except once, when, upon discovering Helen in his room sliding Maud's bracelet on her arm, he succumbs to her command and witnesses the real history of the island in her beauty. The words in empire history books tell him nothing in comparison to the sight of Helen trying on the bracelet.
Part II: After Helen leaves the bedroom Plunkett picks up the bracelet. It coils and slithers into a snake, telling the major the power Helen's beauty holds over him, how it is she who is the master of his desire and temptation; it is she whose appeal portrays an accurate history of the island--her beauty is like the island's, she IS the island. The bracelet says: "all History's appeal lies in this Judith from a different people, whose long arm is a sword, who has turned your head back to her past, her tribe", and says that Plunkett is "Like an elder, trembling for Susanna"(97). Plunket defends his purity, saying that his actions and thoughts are "meant to help her people, ignorant and poor" (97). The bracelet hisses in reply, "But these...are the vows of empire." Plunkett is left disturbed over the representation of Helen, that she is not just a servant but a temptation that proves his history, thoughts, and conscience are false.
Part III: The scene cuts to the village where the division between the French and Anglo sides is described. On the British side local boys play cricket, and on the French side there is a church, with "a cemetery of streaked stones and the tower of a Norman church where the old river died"(98). Wandering along the ruins the major searches through the midden, or mound of trash, near the cemetery for something he does not at first know. Like a burial ground of waste, the cemetery is built over the site of an old French outpost, and underneath the rubble he finds two brass regiment buttons. The buttons are not precious artifacts or relics, but instead the same as pieces of "domestic trash" put aside with the rest. Like the sites of Pompeii, Carthage, and Troy, the historic truth is buried at the bottom of a decaying dump, piled onto by generation after generation. Plunket is looking for any artifact proving the glory of the facts that his books speak of, but instead he finds a trash heap. Simply put, all empire history is rubbish.
Circe- A goddess in Greek mythology who lived on the island of Aeaea and appears in Homer's Odyssey. Circe is represented as a sorceress who transforms her enemies into animals. Gros Ilet-a section of St. Lucia.]
Susanna-In the Book of Daniel, Susanna was put to death for adultery in a blackmail organized by elders who watched her bathing naked.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Susanna_%28Book_of_Daniel%29
Judith-In the Book of Judith, Judith killed Holofernes, the commander of the Assyrian army who was attacking the Israelites.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Judith
A map of locations described in Omeros.
Part I: Book Seven begins with the narrator overlooking the beach from his hotel balcony. Watching the waves he sees a coconut bob in the water with a dog barking at it on shore. The coconut begins changes shape into the marble head of Omeros (Homer, the Greek poet) whose locks of hair rise from the sea foam. The dog barks at the sight with joy. Then the weather darkens and clouds gather overhead; Omeros transforms into Seven Seas, whose elbows are driftwood logs and head reappears with "an ebony hardness" (Omeros, 281). The sea figure shifts between Seven Seas and Omeros, but in essence they are the same: both blind poets born from the sea. "So one changed from marble with a dripping Chiton [tunic]...to a foam-headed fisherman in his white, torn undershirt" (Omeros, 281). Walcott descends to the shore.
Part II: The floating mass from the sea (Omeros) leads the author to a steep cliff on the island of St. Lucia. In this sublime setting the author is able to see the beauty of the island "through her own eyes, her own blindness" (282), and not through the lens of the Greek poet. The island's beauty has become free from any Classical or European influence and all author's wounds heal.
Part III: The author talks to Omeros about seeing him in London. The poet explains that as time moves on more people forget about his work and that the hero is a drifter through space and time. That is why he was unwelcome outside the museum and thrown down to the river in chapter XXXVIII. The author confesses he hasn't read the entire Odyssey, and the poet tells him to read the rest. Feeling bad, the author professes the influence Homer's works have on him, and despite his inability to finish the book he understood his poetry more than anyone else. "Master, I was the freshest of all your readers" (Omeros, 283). They leave the cliff. As they walk Homer asks the author how he knew to call him by his Greek name, Omeros. The author recounts the conversation between him and the Greek girl. Homer reminisces about his love for Helen, saying that the real truth in his stories was this love. "That ten years' war was nothing, an epic's excuse," he says (Omeros,284). Homer asks if "they", the present civilization, still fight wars and the author affirms, but not over beauty or a girl's love. The Greek poet replies that "Love is good, but the love of your own people is greater." The author explains it is for this reason that he has looked for Omeros.
So one changed from marble with a dripping chiton in the early morning on that harp-wired sand to a foam-headed fisherman in his white, torn undershirt.. (Omeros, 281)
Chiton has two meanings. In Ancient Greece the chiton was a form of clothing worn by both men and women; it was the outfit for the goddess Aphrodite.
The chiton is also a mollusk found in the sea.
Omeros and the Parkinson's Institute and Clinical Center Enter into a Collaboration Agreement to Evaluate Novel Target for the Treatment of Movement Disorders.
Oct 01, 2008; Omeros Corporation and The Parkinson's Institute and Clinical Center announced that they have entered into a collaboration...