Provide evidence from the text to show that “B. Wordsworth” by V. S. Naipaul is a coming of age story of a little boy.
A coming-of-age story is a genre of literature and film that focuses on the growth, especially psychological and moral development of a protagonist from youth to adulthood. Coming-of-age stories tend to emphasize dialogue or internal monologue over action, and are often set in the past. The subjects of these stories are typically teenagers.
In V. S. Naipaul’s short story “B. Wordsworth”, the narrator tells us one of his experiences from his childhood days when he lived with his mother in Miguel Street in Port of Spain, Trinidad. The story actually is autobiographical and draws on the author’s own childhood memories. The narrator was a school boy when the events of the story occurred. This is apparent in the following conversation:
I said, ‘Why you does cry?’
‘Why, boy? Why? You will know when you grow up.
But the boy did not write his story immediately when or after the incident occurred. Rather he is a grown up author now writing his reminiscence. The story is set in the past and dialogues and monologues are preferred over descriptions and actions, as it should be for a coming-of-age story.
The narrator also shows us how immature a boy he was at the time of the story by emphasizing his imaginative and unsuspecting nature. When B. Wordsworth claimed that he was writing the greatest poem of the world, he believed it without a second thought. He even didn’t find a cause to suspect whether B. Wordsworth was actually a poet or not though he never heard beyond the first line of his poem. When B. Wordsworth told the narrator that he (narrator) was a poet too, he didn’t find a reason to laugh but was inclined to believe it.
You’re a poet too you know …
I couldn’t laugh.
I said, ‘You really think I is a poet?’
‘You’re as good as me,’ he said.
Moreover, the English the narrator uses for his dialogues is full of grammatical mistakes:
I said, ‘I ain’t have the time.’
I said, ‘What you does do, mister?’
‘You really think I is a poet?’
You want to buy a poetry …?
The grammar mistakes, the unsuspecting innocent nature, the boyish activities like getting his shirt stained with mango juice and running away from home after being rebuked by his mother — all these are deliberate attempts from the narrator to present a realistic picture of his boyhood days.
Now, as the boy has grown up to a man, he has gathered experiences, become more mature and even forgotten some details that are of no use. Clearly he is writing the story after many years of the original events:
I can spot Orion even today, but I have forgotten the rest.
Though the narrator presents a mere recount of his childhood days and a character from that time, the motif has actually been to show the identity crisis of a man in a witty yet innocent way. Though the story does not directly concentrate on the psychological developments of the boy as he grows up, it has some of the qualities of a coming-of-age story and can be categorised as one, no doubt.