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Myal by Edna Brodber

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  • Pages: 4
  • Word count: 975
  • Category: Fiction

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Myal is a story where primal human beings are routed to the consciousness of animals.  This collective consciousness inspires a small Jamaican village to move beyond the norm.  They make changes that are designed to awaken people who have been placed almost in a coma when regarded with the spirit world.  It’s referred to as zombification that leads to their surrender to the colonies’ ideology.  Brodber taps into the notion that the characters are losing their individual spirit and drive.  In essence, this is a story where spirit is brought to mesh with matter.

            When we look into the thematic structure of such a massive and empowering book as Myal, the theories behind this analysis must consider a variety of elements. Myal is motivated by an aesthetic and deeply spiritual front.  Erna Brodber uses spiritual slants to overwhelm the critical eye of many readers.  It’s done with such beauty, compassion, and grace that the Brodber’s spiritual intent rings true.

In order to fully understand Myal, readers, first and foremost, must be open to the notion of the spiritual realm.  For, the spirit resides in us all and, according to Brodber, this realm can dramatically impact an individual and culture. So, readers need to accept the karmic nature of this animal-human consciousness.  Without acceptance, the reader will be lost in his or her own questions as to the validity surrounding Brodber’s work.  In fact, many of Ms. Brodber’s published stories are centered around the spirit within and how we can connect on metaphysical levels.

In Myal, we are led to believe—if we’ve got that openness to believing in the spiritual realm—that there is a plane of timelessness filled with an all-knowing presence.  We might liken it to a communal conscious connection.  This timeless plane works on individuals, coaxing them into assurance.  This assurance, through communication by way of animal consciousness, is a way for the spirits to free humans from the coma-like state they are in.  When I speak of coma, I am referring to humanities’ gridlock ideology that is centered on material gain which is a driving force in Brodber’s theme.

            Myal also assumes that in order for this medium to function, human participation takes place in a pre-set spiritual order.  This spiritual order works, both, inside and outside of time—something very difficult to grasp, for there aren’t any tangibles to reference.  It all works within the human and animal consciousness. This link is where the spirit world comes to us, trying to lead us out of this coma.

Again, it’s vital to probe into history and visualize the spirit-world at work. In Myal a lightening storm that was created by humans destroys the countryside of Grove Town, Jamaica in 1919.  We see a falling away of a Jamaican culture.  Beyond this decimation, we discover two men who continue a conversation that lasts a thousand years.  Brodber is hoping to impress upon readers that the powers and possibilities of the spirit are endless.  The spirit is here to cleanse and free us. But in order for this to occur we must be willing to listen, visualize the powers of the spirit, and join in this collective consciousness.

   The human characters are placed in the story to be participants in the communal spirit.  The spirit realm has no beginning, nor end; yet, Brodber hopes to show us that our ancient past is all part of this evolution.  This evolution is not Darwinian, but fully of spirit and the One Essence that creates and binds us.

As this story gains weight, many of the towns’ folk become participants in spirit-stealing.  This thieving of the spirit, however, is not premeditated, but, instead conjured up by the operations of the colonial church led by Rev. Brassington.  This is just one more example of how society is being pulled away from spiritual growth.

Who the characters are and what they know slowly fades as the novel progresses.  The individual moves beyond the tangibles of this world, separating oneself from the political vices that constrict society.  Myal does not center itself on Western culture, but, instead, around the existence of spirit and a cosmic consciousness.

One character, Ella O’Grady, undergoes a drawn-out form of psychic detachment by Selwyn Langley, her American husband.  Selwyn displays racial insanity to the point of referring to O’Grady’s race as a “coon show.”  This show can, according to Langley, be crafted into a money-making scheme.  Then, an herbalist and midwife named Mass Cyprus, exorcizes a large growth from Ella’s stomach.  This growth in Ella was seeded through her relationship with Langley.  Her vanity in building a sexual relationship with Langley is what builds disease within her.

All of the spiritual events are crafted into the story out of the very real lifestyle of the people of Grove Town.  Brodber does this with such precision that she is able to captivate the reader’s senses and reach them.  As Brodber brings this story home, it is one of her goals to show society that the deep powers and voodoo stigma that has been created by society is but another roadblock in developing an understanding of who we are and what we are here for.  The spirit is our essence.  The spirit is where we came from. The spirit is where we must go, and we must do so collectively.


  1. How does the relationship between Selwyn Langley and Ella O’Grady parallel racial tension between interracial couples?

  1. How is the alter ego of Dan connected to Reverend Simpson



Brodber, Erna. Myal: a Novel. New Beacon Books Ltd. 1989.


Towards a Critical Theory of Spirit


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