A Reality Check

by aliwhitee

Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place examines the history of Antigua through the eyes of someone who has lived through and experienced the oppression and frustrations felt by many Antiguans. Her raw and harsh portrayal of the contrast between the tourists and the locals places a feeling of guilt within the reader, who has more than likely been a tourist themselves. Kincaid opens the book with an emotion-evoking chapter on the view of the native Antiguan to the tourist, who she narrows down to mostly white Europeans or Americans. Her direct and potent insults illustrate her hatred towards tourists, referring to them as, “An ugly thing, that is what you are when you become a tourist, and ugly, empty thing, a stupid thing, a piece of rubbish pausing here and there to gaze at this and taste that…” (17). Kincaid then goes on to show her detestation for Britain who was responsible for the colonization of Antigua, and her bitterness with the legacies of slavery that took place on this small island. She directly blames the British for the complete devastation of her country and asserts that, “no natural disaster imaginable could equal the harm that they did.” (23-24)

Kincaid’s writing portrays her disappointment with the new, “free” Antigua, especially the loss of social values and the corruption that plagued the government and those higher up in society. She also references the library several times in the book, which was damaged in the 1974 earthquake, to demonstrate Antigua’s problems, repairs to which are also “pending.” (42) Although the library was a British colonial building, Kincaid refers to it with a sentimental view, plaintive about the loss of books and location of the building. Overall, Kincaid’s opinionated writing outlines Antigua’s destroyed culture and society; the few rich Antiguans on the island will not fund reparations of the old library, and therefore will not aid in the repair of the nation as whole. A Small Place is a very simple-written book, but has a lasting impact on the reader that is somewhat of a reality check. With such a beautiful setting, tourists are often led to believe a place like Antigua is paradise. This book articulates the crisis plaguing many developing nations that although independent, still have not yet shaken off the negative legacies of colonialism. Although Antigua is a small pace, as referred to several times, huge events with life-changing impacts on its citizens have occurred. Moreover, this is a highly recommendable read to all who want their eyes opened to the realities of the world’s suffering nations.





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