Brother Man – Roger Mais
In Roger Mais’ Brother Man, the author uses various narrative techniques such as flask back, characterization, setting, themes, plot, and foreshadow to narrate the story. Each technique shall be described in detail in the remainder of this analysis. The use of flash back is evident in Part Three, Chapter Three (pg. 109) when John ‘Brother Man’ Power begins to compose his will and testament.
During this composition his entire life up to his arrival in Orange Lane (his current place of residence) is made known to the audience and images of his childhood in the church, his introduction to Rastafarianism, and the days before he became a religious man are brought into focus. Similarly in Part Four, Chapter Thirteen (pg. 154-6), Brother Man describes to Minette an incident which occurs during his youth. Through this description the reader is taken to an earlier point in Brother Man’s life, and is given insight to how he became the man he is at the time in which the story is actually occurring.
Roger Mais develops characterization not through lengthy descriptions or introduction but abruptly via the ‘Chorus of People in the Lane’, a recurring element (motif) which precedes each new section of the novel. The first ‘Chorus of People in the Lane’ which heralds Part 1 of the novel informs the reader that “Bra’ Man show de gospel way…”, thus, instantaneously the reader is aware of the fact that Brother Man is a religious person.
Characterization is further developed through the way in which characters interact with one another, the way they react in certain situations and occasionally the reader is given direct insight to what the character is thinking. The novel Brother Man is set in 1950s Jamaica. The entire novel seems to take place during the year 1951 as Brother Man states in his will and testament, “I, John Power, thirty-four years/was born in the parish of Kingston, in the year Nineteen Hundred Seventeen…”, thus, being thirty four years after 1917, the setting of the novel may be calculated to be 1951.
Many themes are explored in the novel Brother Man. Love can be seen between many of the characters, not only those engaged in romantic relationships but also between family members such as Jesmina and Cordelia, or friends like the love between Jesmina and Minette. The theme of deception centers mainly around the character Papacita, not only does he deceive Girlie about his infidelity, he also deceives law men such as Corporal Jennings about his illegal activities. Religion is explored mainly through the actions of the character Brother Man who is devout in his belief in God and is an avid reader of the bible.
Other religions namely Rastafarianism and Obeah (some may consider a religion) are also dealt with. The themes of insanity and desperation are best highlighted through the actions of Cordelia, who loses her mind after a succession of tragedies: her husband is incarcerated, she falls ill; her infant son also becomes sick with a mysterious illness. Desperate to cure her child’s illness she turns to obeah and when this too has failed her she suffocates her child before hanging herself.
Abuse is evident in the relationship between the characters Girlie and Papacita, a relationship so abusive it ultimately ends in death. Hatred is evident in many relationships within the novel. As the novel comes to an end the villagers display such a hatred for Brother Man that they beat him to within an inch of his life and leave him to die. Greed is best explored through the actions of characters Papacita and Fellows as both men counterfeit money as their means of employment. Jealousy and insecurity are highlighted through the actions of Girlie.
A woman so jealous and insecure about her partner’s infidelity that stabs and kills him. However, jealousy and insecurity may also be seen in Papacita’s actions. Jealous of the feelings he suspects Minette may have for Brother Man and insecure that she may prefer Brother Man to him, he frames Brother Man and has him arrested. There are many plots within the novel Brother Man, the main plot centers around the protagonist John ‘Brother Man’ Power, a Rastafarian known throughout his community as a healer and a man of God.
As the novel progresses Brother Man’s fame becomes renowned and he develops numerous followers as well as adversaries. One of these adversaries is Bra’ Ambo an obeah man who is threatened by the increase in Brother Man’s fame as it diminishes person’s belief in his own abilities as a healer. Another of Brother Man’s adversaries is Cordelia, first a believer and supporter of Brother Man, she turns against him after he fails to cure her infant son from a mysterious illness.
Turning from Bra’ Man Cordelia throws herself into the clutches of Bra’ Ambo and his obeah, however, the obeah also fails to cure her son and Cordelia’s mental state begin to gradually deteriorate. Cordelia holds Brother Man responsible for her child not being cured from his mysterious illness, thus, before being driven completely out of her mind she affiliates herself with another of Brother Man’s enemies, Papacita. Papacita is a womanizing counterfeiter who, despite the fact that he has a wife, covets Minette, a nineteen year old runaway who lives with and is in love with Brother Man.
Thus, in an attempt to ruin Brother Man’s reputation, and in Papacita’s case to remove suspicion from himself, Papacita and Cordelia frames him by planting counterfeit coins in his house and informing the police. Brother Man is arrested and subsequently released on bail which is posted ironically by Papacita in an attempt to win Minette. Though Brother Man is released and is neither trialed nor convicted for the crime many of his followers have lost faith in him.
Brother Man’s arrest coupled with recent heinous crimes committed by Rastafarians leads them to believe that all ‘bearded’ men are “just scum off the street”. Eventually the villagers’ contempt for Rastafarians comes to a head when they beat Brother Man mercilessly and leave him lying unconscious in the street. The novel ends with Brother Man being transported home by three of his faithful friends, he is nursed back to health by Minette, whose love though reluctant to at first he has requited.
Papacita is in no way devastated by Minette’s choice of Brother Man over himself as he has been stabbed to death by his jealous wife. Cordelia too is unfazed by the events in the end of the novel as she has hung herself after suffocating her infant son. In Part One, Chapter Eight (pg. 38) Girlie and Papacita begin to argue, during the argument Girlie grabs a knife and yells “I’ll chop you up fine”, this may be considered a foreshadow of Papacita’s murder as he dies by Girlie’s slender hands tightly gripping a clasp-knife. Another instance of foreshadow is displayed in Part Two, Chapter 14 (pg.102), while ‘Flying Saucers’ pursue a Rastafarian who had committed several crimes one marvels, “next time he holds up somebody it might be murder, you never can tell”, while another replies, “sure, his kind you never can tell”, this foreshadows the events of Part Four, Chapter Twenty (pg. 164-5) where a Rastafarian, possibly the same one, stabs a young man in his face; killing him, before stabbing and raping a young woman. How does Religion play a huge part in the novel? Religion is an important aspect in the novel Brother Man, throughout the novel Bra’ Man is almost symbolic of Jesus Christ.
Firstly, he begins performing small miracles such as healing the sick; he prays with his neighbours and gradually causes them to accept the power of God. Then, he gains many followers; however, when Cordelia, somewhat of a Judas to him, betrays him by planting counterfeit money in his home and he is arrested his followers turn away from him and persecute him; he is beaten in the streets and left for dead, nevertheless, he is taken home and “on the evening of the third day” he awakes “out of a deep sleep”. Other ‘religions’ such as Rastafarianism and obeah are also explored in the novel.
Members of the Rastafarianism Movement are looked down upon; they are scorned and hated, while those characters that practice obeah, namely Cordelia, perish before the end of the novel. The novel is set in an actual place, Orange Lane, Kingston, Jamaica which is described by the narrator as a ghetto. In the first ‘Chorus of People in the Lane’ the narrator uses words such as, ‘dingy chasm of a narrow lane’, ‘seamy sidewalk’, ‘green-slimed concrete cistern’, and ‘lean-to-pit-latrine in the yard’ to emphasize to the reader immediately the squalor in which the characters of the story live.