The Struggles of a Common Goal
by kdust1 on November 19, 2013 - 12:15am
The French Island of Martinique, was once made up of a society that thrived on discrimination and competition when moving up in social and economic status, during the 1930’s. In the film Sugar Cane Alley (Euzhan Palcy, 1983,) a young but intelligent young lad known as Jose, goes on an extreme mission to land an education to escape the horrors of the sugar cane fields. His main goal was to better himself which is a common goal that most people around the world try to achieve. Many people in todays society take advantage of what they have and their opportunities and don't consider the struggles others must face when achieveing such a goal, like Jose and his many hardships.He was forced to face the struggles of his race being discriminated and his class being of lower status, but refused to stop at nothing to go on with his education and become successful in Fort-de-France.
The film portrays a life style no person could possibly wish to live. A typical day in Martinique for those who just escaped the idea of slavery and who are living in extreme poverty, must get up early every morning to do hard labor in the sugar cane fields for unjust wages that can barely pay off expenses of survival. The film shows many signs of poverty when displaying the use of credit to afford food, the high price of rum, the poor quality of living spaces, and the outrageous prices for an education. After a long day’s work, little is rewarded and what is earned usually has deductions due to bathroom and drink breaks. I feel that the extreme poverty that is portrayed in this film shows that the community as whole is treated with little respect and is given unfair chances of improving their status. For those who were of lower-class and black, discrimination of race and class were very evident. They were not to be associated with those who were of higher class. An example of this idea was when Jose’s school mate Leopold, was scolded by his father for playing with Jose and other black children. I feel that this way of living is simply not fair. In modern times people are looked at as being more equalized and are practically spoon fed opportunities, where as in Martinique in the 1930’s, it seems like a never ending fight just to take a risk of gaining a stable way of living. The idea of moving up in social or economic status seemed near impossible.
What appears to be the only escape from the insufficient way of living was to somehow, someway, gain an education. Jose’s grandmother was the main provider for him in the film, and she was dedicated to the idea of her grandson becoming a success by working hard in his studies and not ever setting foot as a worker in the sugar cane fields. An education was possible to obtain but the process was very competitive. The work was tedious and an assessment determined who would go on and who was destined to be a laborer in the fields. Jose searched for information from his elderly friend who use to reside in Africa, and used his findings to excel in his schooling. The stakes were high as Jose was found to be only one of two to be given the chance to travel to Fort-de-France to further his education. In the society of Martinique during this time, it was common for opportunities like this to be rejected due to traditional family plans and being forced to stay obedient to ones parents. I found myself disgusted when discovering the young girl who was offered the same opportunity as Jose, declined her offer due to her fathers will. I feel that if anyone was to be given an opportunity to further their education and have such a competitive chance at moving up in class, they should go for it no matter the family’s opinions.
Most Americans in today’s society have the same goal as those portrayed in this film. Most people strive to better themselves in some way, many times wanting to move up or stay at a higher or comfortable social and economic status. This film showed the unjust sufferings of discrimination and competitiveness of people who are humans just like you and me, trying to achieve the common goal of bettering oneself. I feel this way of living was unfair and that this film did a wonderful job of showing that dedication and diligence can be rewarding and that we shouldn’t take for granted what is offered to us in today’s society.
Palcy, E. (Director). (1983). Sugar Cane Alley: Rue Cases-Nègres. Martinique, France. Productions, Orca Productions. & NEF Diffusion.