The Fortunate Traveller

by ashleywestenberg

Ashely Westenberg

A Portrayal of the Third Horseman: FAMINE

“The Fortunate Traveller” displays beautiful and tragic ironies of the relationships between races and cultures; exposing the truths and horrors of famine, greed and the ingenuity of the Catholic Church. Derek Walcott is an incredible writer who has the ability to say one word and create a thousand emotions. “The Fortunate Traveller” is the story of a man who leaves his simple life and finds himself overwhelmed by his new one; that of a traveller engaging in international relations. The common theme of this particular story by Walcott is the injustice of famine; again and again Walcott points out a variety of ways of how the world “have not charity”.

Walcotts’ protagonist is plagued by the things he sees; this is also ironic because many think he is “so fortunate to see the world”. The sadness surrounding his travels is undeniable. Walcott captivates the reader by continually exposing truths that are humbling and horrific. For me, reading “The Fortunate Traveller” brought up many emotions, yet pulled me in closer, breaking down personal barriers. Walcott is able to capture his purpose in this particular quote : “and the brown globe crack like a begging bowl, and though you fire oceans of surplus grain, and have not charity.

Another theme of the story is the assimilation of the Western World. Pushing religion and white culture on all other minority groups; causing their ways to near extinction, or at the very least almagamating all races and at the same time creating untruths about the minorities while hiding true history. The most common corruptor in “The Fortunate Traveller” is the Catholic Church. Walcott even suggests the church is like Nazi Germany in this description: “as Albert Schweitzer moves to the harmonium of morning, and to the pluming chimneys, the ground swell lifts Lebensraum, Lebensraum.” Also, how Catholic’s are traitors like their very own Judas the betrayer of Jesus; “on Severn’s estuary the pieces flash, Iscariots salary, patron saints of spies. I thought who cares how many million starve? Their rising souls will lighten the worlds’ weight.”

I will not give more of the story away because it deserves to be read in its’ raw form; each verse is equally beautiful and haunting. As well, it would be unfair to write more of Walcott’s work in order to make mine appear better. “The Fortunate Traveller” is a must read for those who love history and literature, and for the unaware. His writing is not always easy to interpret (I will admit I used to help me for facts I did not understand whose meanings proved to be important) but the effort is worth the time. Derek Walcott’s personal description of himself provides an example of how he became a “fortunate traveller” and how he is so intimately tied with history and reality:

I’m just a red nigger who love the sea,
I had a sound colonial education,
I have Dutch, nigger, and English in me,
and either I’m nobody, or I’m a nation.

I believe Walcott’s main focus is to expunge his readers of their ignorance and, in the case of “The Fortunate Traveller”, to provide a stark reminder that famine is unvalidated on a global scale; Walcott does this brilliantly.


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