The Chosen Place, the Timeless People
Paule Marshall’s novel, The Chosen Place, the Timeless People, is divided into four books. The first book, “Heirs and Descendants”, introduces the main characters who have arrived by plane to Bourne Island, a mythical island located in the Caribbean. The passengers aboard this plane have traveled to this small island in order to do research for a development project during the post-colonial era. The novel examines the cultural values of the native people of the island as well as those of the Americans who are studying the area.
Saul Amron arrives to the island along with his wife Harriet, Allen Fuso-an assistant researcher, and their Merle-their landlady. Also aboard the plane is a local boy named Vere who is returning from a labor job in Florida. It seems as though Marshall introduces Vere merely to begin to describe and reveal the distance and differences that the Americans have between the natives of Bourne Island, specifically the Bournehills inhabitants. As the title suggests, the island is the “chosen place” and the “timeless people” are the residents of Bournehills. This is evident when Merle describes the natives, including her, as odd, half-mad people that don’t forget anything and yesterday comes like today to them. It can also be seen in the second book, “Bournehills”, as Marshall describes the way the natives treated the events of the past as though they had only just occurred. The people of Bournehills frequently recall the story of the local hero Cuffee Ned who began and led a revolt against Percy Bryam, a slaveowner. Bryam was tortured and killed and a fire was set that took five years to burn out completely. The hill still shows the remnants of the fire with it remaining blackened. This is a solid example of how the locals hold onto stories from the past.
Although Western culture and ideals have crept into the island, the Bournehillsians hold onto memories of a troubled past that still exhibits...