The bleak moral vision in Vincent Brown's The Reaper's Garden offers to us a version of early America that is profoundly at odds with established, or at least popular, narratives of American historical development. It is also at odds with customary narratives of Caribbean history. These narratives deal as much about creativity as about destruction. They also see the merging of white and black in the crucible of slavery as producing not just death but also a viable Caribbean culture. Consequently, Brown's work is both a challenge to Caribbean orthodoxy and also a reiteration of long-standing jeremiads about how the settlement and exploitation of the Americas exemplified the darkness that is present in men's souls. Brown's vision of a Jamaica that looked like heaven but which was instead a hell on earth is compelling. I do wonder, however, whether in this hell there may have been some patches of sunlight that allow us to create a usable Jamaican past in which even planters might have some place.

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