ISC Echoes B. Wordsworth : workbook answers – issue of identity


B.Wordsworth : by V.S.Naipaul

Issue of identity –

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Question :       How  is  the  issue  of identity  reflected  in  the  short  story, B. Wordsworth?

Answer:  “B. Wordsworth” is a  short story, taken from a collection of stories     “Miguel Street ” is known for featuring strange and odd characters – struggling for their own identities and B. Wordsworth is one of them.

       Issues of identity and its meaning in the world, is one of the significant themes around which the story revolves. This is the story of a young boy  – narrator – who grows and learns the lessons of life and leisure with the help of an elderly man B. Wordsworth. Throughout its length the story highlights the man’s struggle to search for his true identity. He was seemed to be trapped in between the two world, one from where he belonged – his own society and the other which has created by his own imagination and which never accepted him as a part of it. 

         B. Wordsworth experienced the identity crisis and was alienated from his own native society. He was perceived as a stranger to his own people, as he supported western education and followed the western ideology as a sign of superiority, he had difficulty in finding his real self. He had to struggle to prove his identity.

That is why when the policeman asked him – “what you doing here?” 

He answered “I have been asking myself the same question for forty years.”

This shows his inner identity crisis.

        To find a recognition he created his own world, although imaginary but  having his new identity – which he had always aspired to become. In order to give himself a new identity he accepted the dressing and language of his western colonisers. He also changed his name to B. Wordsworth.

B. Wordsworth’s way of dressing and speaking –

      Being a colonised Trinidadian man, he dressed like his colonisers. In narrator’s own words – “He wore a hat, a white shirt and black trousers.”

         He tried to imitate the English not only in his way of dressing but also in the way he spoke. He spoke impeccable English but it didn’t sound natural. 

“His English was so good, it didn’t sound natural, and I could see my mother was worried.”

      He rejected his native dialect. B. Wordsworth then failed to identity himself either with his native people or with the colonisers.

His Name –

His name, B. Wordsworth where B. Stands for”Black ” and his claim that  White  Wordsworth was his brother,  seemed to be a failed efforts on his part to identify himself with famous romantic poet William Wordsworth.  He aspired to associate himself with W. Wordsworth by the fact that he could “watch a small flower like the morning glory and cry.”  

        He aimed to write the greatest poem in the world  which would sing to all humanity but in reality nobody had ever bought a single copy of his poetry.

B.Wordsworth’s Death –

        Towards the end of his life, we found  B. Wordsworth  caught between the two worlds. No recognition and appreciation from his own world and no acceptance by the world of his aspirations. He did not want the boy to follow his footsteps and end up wrecked or meet the same fate. For this reason only, he revealed,at the time of death, that his attempts to identify himself as a great poet were all a lie. The story  about the boy poet and the girl poet, all the talk about poetry wasn’t true at all. He pretended to be working on “the greatest poem in the world” but did not produce any result. 

      On his death bed he set himself free from all the illusions and died. 

“It was just as though B. Wordsworth had never existed.”

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