B Wordsworth by V S Naipaul – ISC workbook answers : Theme of escapism


B Wordsworth : Theme of Escapism

Question :  How does the short story “B. Wordsworth” explore the theme of escapism ?
Answer : Escapism is the tendency to escape from reality by indulging daydreaming, fantasy or entertainment.  Escapism can be defined as a mental diversion of mind from realistic world to a purely imaginative world,that allows people to forget about the real problem of life. 

     Escapism is one of the theme of the story “B. Wordsworth’s” which reflected through the protagonist B. Wordsworth.

      The story is set in post colonial  Trinidad, Port of Spain during the Great Depression, a time of economic hardships. Financial crisis and dire poverty compelled people to refrain from indulging in entertainment. With no buyers or appreciators for Poetry,  poets were losing the inspiration to write great poetry.
       B. Wordsworth, being poet also experienced the same neglection and rejection. When he tried to sell his poem on mothers, not a single copy was bought by anyone and even insulted by the people. Like the narrator’s own mother on buying his poetry she said – 
“Tell that blasted man to haul his tail away from my yard …….”

       In an attempt to deal with the rejection B. Wordsworth embraced escapism by excessively praising his own poetry.   He was disillusioned and lived in a dream – like  world. The reality did not please him. He admired the attributes of the great romantic poet William Wordsworth but never went ahead with writing his greatest poem. The poet calypsonian built an imaginative world for himself he would consider himself equal to  William Wordsworth. As he says that his name is “Black Wordsworth. White Wordsworth was my brother. We share one heart.”

      It is his escapist nature that  B. Wordsworth  took shelter in the lap  of nature because it provided him relief from the vicious realities of life. The narrator says  “we went for long walks together. We went to the Botanical Garden and the Rock Gardens.”

    B. Wordsworth was presented as an isolated man. He was not shown interacting with  anyone  except the narrator throughout the story. The narrator was a young, innocent and inquisitive boy, devoid of any cunning or vice. He loved  observing nature and he used to see the poet as a fatherly figure, he is the poet’s soul companion. The poet also loved him, fed him and shared with him his dreams and ambitions and made him a part  of his  escapist  world by telling him of the “greatest poem in the world ” which he was supposedly writing, at the pace of one line per month.

        B. Wordsworth kept telling the young  boy – that he had the eyes of a poet, he constantly trained the child artist but did nothing to cultivate the artist in himself. He has not achieved anything in reality, as his dreams are all!in his head, he had just created an imaginary world of happiness to deal with the cruel reality. The element of escapism is very strong throughout this story, as B. Wordsworth  not just made the boy – narrator’s escape from the realities of his mother’s abuse. 

        B. Wordsworth’s actions did not complement his dreams and aspirations. He wished to write a poem   that would speak to all  humanity one day – as he says to the narrator  about his poem – 
 “…..in twenty – two years , I shall have written a poem that will sing to all humanity.”

     But he never succeeded.  In his attempts to embrace fully a sense of escapism, he tried to hide his failures from both himself and the narrator. 
       In the end of the story, it became evident that B. Wordsworth was conscious of his stagnant nature and he shattered the boy’s illusion of a romantic world with his confession that everything about him was imaginary, he finally confessed the boy that the story about the boy poet and the girl poet was not true, he had  just made up and further he said – “All this talk about poetry and the greatest poem in the world, that wasn’t true either.”

     With this confession, he allowed the boy to discover reality and to become what he (B. Wordsworth) never was – a part of the real world.  He did not want the boy to share the same fate as his, so he freed the boy from his imaginary world to face reality.

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