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Inkle and Yarico

Written by Phyliss Briggs-Emanuel for The Caribbean Writer on no date provided

Inkle and Yarico is a novel based on a legend that was popular during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries concerning a young Englishman, Thomas Inkle. Inkle, who has just become engaged to a young woman named Alice, is shipwrecked on his way to Barbados to manage the family plantation. He comes ashore on an unknown island which is inhabited by Caribs. He is found by Yarico, the daughter of the Carib chief who is himself a shipwrecked African.

In Inkle, Gilroy portrays not just a protagonist, but a metaphor for colonization and enslavement. His self-centered concern and his callousness in dealing with his Carib wife and their children mirror the attitude of the colonizer whose first obligation is to himself. Gilroy heightens the drama by telling the story in the first person male persona and accurately captures the English arrogance, superiority, and selfishness. Yarico is a likable young woman whose love for Inkle is as innocent as she is. She, however, like the rest of the Caribs, just does not understand the nature of the Englishman and how he operates. As far as Inkle is concerned, being non-European is tantamount to being non-human; and although Yarico and her people save his life and allow him to become part of theirs, he is contemptuous of them, and has no problem abandoning Yarico and forgetting the people who for many years were the only family he had.

Inkle’s eventual rescue takes him to Barbados where his 'natural' prejudices become evident in his treatment of the slaves he acquires and the abolitionists who are seeking freedom for the enslaved. He also mistreats his former fiancée Alice, who is now married to the doctor, who, ironically, saved Inkle’s life when he contracted a severe case of syphilis. Inkle is fortunate to earn the love of several women of different social class, race, and economic circumstances, and to live a life relatively untouched by his past actions.

Although Gilroy reworks an old legend. she brings to it her own inimitable style. Her characters live and breathe as the reader is transported back to an earlier time which she meticulously describes. It is evident that Gilroy has done painstaking and accurate research to allow her to recreate Carib society and life in early Barbados. This is a thoughtful, insightful novel written with a delicacy of feeling that clearly puts the reader 'in the picture.'

This is a review of Inkle and Yarico

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