A Flag on the Island

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A Flag on the Island
First edition cover
Author V. S. Naipaul
Cover artist Omnific
Country England
Language English
Genre Collection of Short Stories
Published 1967 (André Deutsch)
Pages 214

A Flag on the Island is a collection of short stories written by V.S. Naipaul, and first published by André Deutsch in 1967. It includes the title novella, "A Flag on the Island," outtakes from previous novels such as "The Enemy", from Miguel Street, and pieces published in periodicals in England or the United States. The book is dedicated to Diana Athill.

List of stories included[edit]

  • "My Aunt Gold Teeth"

*"The Raffle"

  • "A Christmas Story"
  • "The Mourners"
  • "The Night Watchman's Occurrence Book"
  • "The Enemy"
  • "Greenie and Yellow"
  • "The Perfect Tenants"
  • "The Heart"
  • "The Baker's Story"
  • "A Flag on the Island"

Title story: "A Flag on the Island"[edit]

In late 1964, Naipaul was asked to write an original script for an American movie.[1] He spent the next few months in Trinida writing the story, a novella named, "A Flag on the Island." The finished version was not to the director's liking and the movie was never made.[1] The story is set in the present time—1964—in a Caribbean island, which is not named.[2] The main character is an American named "Frankie" who affects the mannerisms of Frank Sinatra.[1] Frankie has links to the island from having served there during World War II.[3] He revisits reluctantly when his ship anchors there during a hurricane.[3] Naipaul wilfully makes the pace of the book feverish, the narrative haphazard, the characters loud, the protagonist fickle or deceptive, and the dialogue confusing.[3][1] Balancing the present time is Frankie's less disordered, though comfortless, memory of 20 years before.[4] Then he had become a part of a community on the island.[4] He had tried to help his poor friends by giving away the ample US Army supplies he had.[4] Not everyone was happy about receiving help and not everyone benefited.[4] Frankie was left chastened about finding tidy solutions to the island's social problems.[4] This theme, indirectly developed in the story, is one to which Naipaul would return again.

"My Aunt Gold Teeth"[edit]

In this story, Naipaul uses the character of Vahishka Jameela, an elderly woman in the narrator's neighborhood often called "Aunt Gold Teeth" due to her gold teeth, to showcase the idea that British colonials have helped many natives of Trinidad. In the story, Aunt Gold Teeth loses her job as a receptionist after refusing to clean up her boss' son's vomit when the latter got drunk and threw up all over the office floor. She subsequently is forced to become a maid for a rich and influential British family (the Whites) in the neighborhood. Mr. White is the political adviser to the British governor, and when he discovers the reason Vahishka was fired from her last job, he immediately demands that she be hired back or compensated. The story ends with Vahishka receiving her compensation from her former boss and being invited to live at the house of the Whites.


  1. ^ a b c d French 2008, p. 247.
  2. ^ King 2003, p. 69.
  3. ^ a b c Dooley 2006, p. 57.
  4. ^ a b c d e Dooley 2006, p. 58.