An English Book That Actually Didn’t Suck!

by walden91

Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place is split up into four loosely structured, untitled sections. The first section begins with Kincaid’s narration of the reader’s experiences as a casual tourist in Antigua and ends with her view of the moral ugliness of being a tourist. The second section discuses the connection Kincaid sees between the colonial past of the island and its ruined, corrupt present. The third section deals with present Antigua and Kincaid discusses the island, seeing its condition today, that things weren’t in fact better even when she was a child. Kincaid speaks about the abuse of power and how it has remained in the same hands for such a long period of time. The fourth, and final, section ends with the description of the physical beauty of the island.

What was most interesting to me in A Small Place was Kincaid’s use of symbolism: specifically looking at Japanese cars. From a tourist’s point of view, Antiguan’s simply prefer Japanese cars, even though it seems out of place considering the financial stability of the island. But what a tourist doesn’t realize is that the car dealerships are partly owned by the government, which makes the popularity of the Japanese cars due to a money making scheme only noticeable from a local Antiguan’s point of view. For Kincaid, the Japanese cars symbolize corruption and how oblivious tourists are to the real significance of the situation.

What really frustrated me in A Small Place was one particular theme: the ugliness of tourism. Kincaid attacks the reader as a typical tourist who makes use of other, much poorer, people for their pleasure. That in reality is not the case, Kincaid stereotypes every tourist as someone who travels to Antigua and uses locals for their own benefit. Kincaid explains that tourists travel to escape their daily life, and want to go somewhere else with an interesting setting. Though the interesting setting of the places that tourists visit are often a source of difficulty for those who live there. The clear sky of Antigua for example represents a lack of rainfall, making fresh water difficult to obtain, but for tourists the beauty is all that matters and the drought is someone else’s problem.

I believe Jamaica Kincaid’s purpose in writing A Small Place is to show people the horrible state that Antigua is in and though it might be a great vacation hot spot, poverty and corruption is a significant issue. This book is for those who enjoy short readings (only 81 pages!), and likes reading books that have an angry tone.

Word Count: 428


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