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Abstract

Traditional critical reading of Walcott’s very early text The Sea at Dauphin has prioritized elements like misanthropy, blasphemy or even “passive nihilism”. My paper attempts to read the play in a more affirmative light, re- assessing how much life portrayed here is worth living, how the narrative offers up a morally worthy life when there is no spiritual salve. It aims to read the locus of the narration at the interface of life and “un-life” (to describe in Empedocles’ phrase). Despite recognizing contingency and pain the play interprets a mode of being that affirms values like will, strength, endurance. It exemplifies a strong life, against the type of life espoused by Christianity. Its principal character Afa, a veteran fisherman impresses as a complex study, a mixture of opposites, terrible yet shining. The narrative seeks to affirm fishing community’s negotiation with pain, suffering as a distinctive ethical imperative in overcoming chaos and confusion surrounding their lives. It confirms, as Nietzsche saw it, tragedy as affirmation rather than resignation. And here the gritty sailors of Dauphin leave a testimonial of ‘true optimism’ what Satre believed begins in ‘despair’.

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