A Small Place

by robinkate

A Small Place, written by Jamaica Kincaid, is a thought provoking story examining the effects of colonialism and the subsequent tourism on her home island of Antigua.  By manipulating a typical travel memoir, Kincaid takes a different angle on the tourist genre and uses this aspect to push her own opinion of the true effects of globalization and the post-colonial era in Antigua.

Divided into four sections, A Small Place is approached by several angles including multiple points of view.  In the first section, Kincaid takes the reader on a journey of the typical tourist to pass through.  She uses a jolt-offensive technique to shock the reader and make them question their own role as a tourist, visiting another place.  Kincaid lays blame for our ignorance and selfishness and teaches us the impact of our eagerness to discover a ‘new’ place without concern for those we are ‘discovering’.

Section two takes us back in time to her childhood in the height of colonialism in Antigua.  Kincaid shows to us the vast differences between the locals and the foreigners and the manner in which her people were treated.  The foreigners moved into her world and implemented their ideology without concern for those who were there before them.  Kincaid looks upon this in retrospect and through dated images, which further separates the reader from getting introspect.

In the third section, contrasts are made between the past and the present.  In the centre of town, the library which once stood in grandeur has gone from splendour to rubble, with no legitimate government to fund its reconstruction.  The country has been stripped of whatever culture it could have had through the corruption of the government and those with power and influence.   “The government is for sale,” says an Antiguan to Kincaid.  The Minister of Culture is also the Minister of Education and the Minister of Sport.  None of which, Kincaid states, still exist in Antigua.  She sees great irony in  “the gutter into which a self-governing –black– Antigua had placed itself in.”

The final section become somewhat of a consilatory section.  Kincaid hates her surroundings but accepts it for the way that it is, then writes this book.  There is a switch to a non-argumentative positive description of Antigua and seems to drastically change her mind from ‘bad tourists’ or ‘bad Britain’ to ‘Antigua is beautiful’, please come visit.  Kincaid recognizes the importance of tourism, she merely wants us to be aware of our actions and more sympathetic to her experience.

The implications of A Small Place is that the reader is challenged and enlightened.  Kincaid has a paradoxical relationship with Antigua in that she lives in a self-imposed exile since the age of 17, and later returns to discover all of the changes that have come about.  It is a small book but covering big issues and I believe it is important for anyone going to another place to read A Small Place and to open their minds to an important view point of those people whose place you are going to.

-Robin Morris


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