Derek Walcott: Collected Poems

Philoctete's Wound as the Wounds of Slavery College

Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms defines a simile as, “An explicit comparison between two different things, actions, or feelings, using the words ‘as’ or ‘like’…” (Baldick 334). In his critically-acclaimed epic poem, Omeros, Derek Walcott uses similes to connect Philoctete’s shin wound to the sea as a life giver and a life taker, thereby linking it to the displacement of slaves, symbolizing Philoctete’s wound as the wounds of slavery. His lesion is healed when Ma Kilman picks a flower from their homeland for his medicine, signifying the return of their ancestors to their homeland.

Throughout Omeros, Walcott compares the wound on Philoctete’s shin to sea-creatures, which connects it to the ocean. In this poem, the ocean is a life giver and a life taker. It provides food and profit for St. Lucia in that the fisherman catch food to eat and sell, and it designates the Caribbean as a vacation location for tourists visiting via cruise ships. The people of St. Lucia are also able to trade via liners. It steals the life of Hector when he drives his van over the cliff on page 226, and it steals the lives of slaves who were brought to America via slave ships. Walcott writes, “Negro shacks / moved like a running wound, like the rusty...

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