"The Dragon Can't Dance" is the third novel of Earl Lovelace, a Trinidadian author. Written in 1979, the novel is set in Port-of-Spain, the capital of the island nation Trinidad and Tobago, during the late 1900s. It tells the story of a young man named Aldrick Prospect who, along with other characters, struggles with racial tension and the legacy of colonialism during the festival of Carnival.
Prologue Through Chapter 3
The story opens with a description of Calvary Hill, the slum where the main characters live. Aldrick Prospect, the protagonist, wakens and searches for food. Carnival, the Catholic celebration before Lent, is approaching. Ms. Olive and Ms. Caroline, two women in the slum, talk about Ms. Cleothilda, a mean mulatto (light-skinned) women who is Queen of the Band for Carnival. She is sought after by Philo, a Calypsonian man. Sylvia is another attractive woman, the daughter of Ms. Olive. Her boyfriend, Mr. Guy, buys her a costume for Carnival in order to manipulate her. She runs out one night and meets Aldrick. The two feel mutual attraction. Aldrick works on his annual dragon costume for Carnival. His young assistant Basil helps him. Aldrick learns that Basil is being abused by his stepfather Fisheye.
Chapter 4 Through Chapter 7
Chapter 4 gives the violent history of Fisheye, who was a steel-drum band leader. He organized the band to fight white oppressors but eventually failed. Aldrick walks home with Basil and avoids a confrontation. Aldrick then meets Pariag, an Indian outcast. Chapter 5 explains Pariag's history, working several jobs and getting nowhere. His wife is Dolly. Pariag buys a bike for Carnival. In chapter 6, the town gets very nervous about Pariag's bike and fears he will try something crazy. Chapter 7 describes the beginning of Carnival. Everyone is excited. Aldrick makes love to a girl named Inez.
Chapter 8 Through Chapter 11
Chapter 8 describes Aldrick in his dragon costume as leader of the festivities. He tries to make advances toward Sylvia, but she rejects him and says she has chosen Mr. Guy. Aldrick is heartbroken. Chapter 9 takes place on Ash Wednesday. Aldrick is still sad. Ms. Cleothilda is feeling challenged by Philo, Sylvia and Guy. Pariag's bike is destroyed. In Chapter 10, Pariag is upset and goes with Dolly to see his family. Chapter 11 is set in August, months after Carnival. Ms. Cleothilda and Philo are together. Sylvia is now her protege. Aldrick has become a recluse.
Chapter 12 through Chapter 14
In Chapter 12, Aldrick begins consorting with Fisheye. They are angry at the new bands that have arrived. Fisheye starts a fight with the newly successful Calypso singer Philo. In Chapter 13, Fisheye decides to start a war with the local police. He confronts, wrestles and handcuffs an officer. Aldrick helps him and the two start a revolt among the lower-class people. Chapter 14 reveals that all of the lead protesters have been arrested and are in prison. Aldrick serves six years. While in prison, the men drift apart.
Chapters 15 through 17
Chapter 15 takes place after the men have been released. In six years, Sylvia has matured, Guy is a politician and Ms. Cleothilda still powerful. Adrick still wants Sylvia. Pariag is now a store owner. In chapter 16, Pariag's new life is presented. He still feels inadequate and unaccepted. He is mad that Aldrick did not come to see him. The last chapter, chapter 17, shows Philo feeling separated from his hometown. Sylvia has replaced Ms. Cleothilda as queen. Aldrick has given up on getting her.
- "The Dragon Can't Dance"; Earl Lovelace; 1979
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