A Flag on the Island (1967) brings together short fiction written at various times. ‘My Aunt Gold Teeth’ (dated 1954) the earliest of Naipaul’s collected writings, is set in Hindu rural Trinidad. Its amusing illustration of the way the community was changing through contact with other cultures reveals the antagonisms at the heart of social relations; the comedy of deceptions, feelings of guilt and family recriminations results from giving in to the temptation to try the ways of others. An orthodox Hindu’s wife resorts to Roman Catholic prayers to overcome her barrenness; when her husband, a pundit, dies her prayers are said to have caused his death and she is told that she does not deserve to have children to care for her in old age. The aunt’s ignorance of the significance of both the Hindu and Catholic rituals she practises, as well as the various ethnic animosities within the community, foreshadow the title story ‘A Flag on the Island’, written (1965) during the time Naipaul was working at The Mimic Men. The two stories and the novel are in part about communal antagonisms and the cultural confusions and mimicry of cultural behaviour that occur when different groups are brought together and society is in a period of change. The title story is also concerned with commitment and the dangers of the Americanization of the West Indies.
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