A Novel of Important Issues, Lost in Overgeneralizations and Invalid Claims

by kendralgraham

Essays that make invalid claims and outrageous over generalizations are often highly criticized. A Small Place, by Jamaica Kincaid not only makes ranting unsupported claims that seem more like insults but also outrageous over generalizations about tourists, Americans and the British. These claims and over generalizations are what leave Kincaid’s short 80-page novel open to criticism.

A Small Place illustrates the conditions of the small island of Antigua in various stages of the country’s history and in an assortment of narrative point of views. The opening chapter of the novel is written in the second person, directed at “you, you, you,” the reader. This narrative style did not engage me or make me feel sympathetic, as I’m sure Kincaid was intending. Instead I was left feeling defensive and guilty even though I’d done nothing wrong. Although a short, easy read, A Small Place is a bit of a tirade and I believe would have been more effective as a short, fact based essay. As a non-confrontational person to be so bluntly attacked by a novel prevented the story from becoming an escape and simply left me feeling offended.

A Small Place has value because the issues of slavery, colonialism and corruption are important ones that people should be educated about instead of looking the other way. Unfortunately Kincaid doesn’t do them justice. The bombardment of the second person narrative and insults from Kincaid cause her issues to be lost. Kincaid portrays herself as a native of Antigua and presents the illusion of someone who resides there, describing eyewitness accounts. But one glance at her ‘About the Author’ reveals the fact that she actually resides in the United States. In this moment Kincaid loses her reliability and becomes a bit of a hypocrite. This also causes the issues she’s trying to present to be lost and overlooked.

The rest of the book is written in first and third person, which make the novel resemble a conversation. This style is also ineffective because it was not a conversation I wanted to remain participating in. There were indeed outrageous atrocities committed in Antigua but I, the reader, did not commit them. While written at times beautifully, with conviction and passion, Kincaid’s anger is misplaced and petty. You cannot place blame for the way the world was, entirely upon two countries or a race of people. I fail to see how Kincaid expects to be heard when readers are so offended that they don’t care enough upon reaching the end of A Small Place to attempt to understand or create change.

It is a good thing that, A Small Place is able to fall under many genres and be shelved in many places in bookstores, making it more likely to reach the hands of readers, because it certainly is not going to be recommended by me.

WORD COUNT: 482

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