This is Your Vacation

by janewong2

Being a tourist and traveling to different places is always a nice, carefree experience.  But when the readers play the role of the tourist in Jamaica Kincaid’s book, A Small Place, the carefree vacation ends there.  In Kincaid’s A Small Place, the author describes the different problems and issues Antigua faces.  Kincaid achieves this by putting the readers in the role of the ‘tourists’ while strongly and explicitly attacking them for their narrow perspective of the island.  Kincaid attacks the tourist for only being able to enjoy the finest of Antigua and failing to notice the financial and social hardships the natives face on a day to day basis.

After reading this book, which was originally written as an essay, I admire the approach Jamaica Kincaid took in expressing her views on Antigua.  Being put into the role of the ‘tourist’ and constantly being under attacked by the author, as a reader, I found this method of writing really powerful and effective.  At first, I thought nothing of the role of the tourist.  I thought Kincaid was relating the readers to the tourist, enabling us to interpret her writing in a closer context.  But as the book progresses, I felt progressively unwelcomed and I felt almost guilty for being a ‘tourist’ who enjoys the “deliciously hot and dry” climate and failing to notice the fact that Antigua was actually a place “that suffers constantly from drought” (4).  I am aware of the fact that Jamaica Kincaid is trying to get her point across by proposing such attacks on the tourists.  At the same time, I think it is unreasonable for her to expect the tourist to understand all the issues that surfaces in a foreign places when a person is on vacation.

Another notable style Jamaica Kincaid uses in her writing is how she transcribes small ideas and fragments to illustrate a bigger picture.  Kincaid depicts the small, unimportant issues and links them to bigger problems. For example, Kincaid starts her argument with Antigua’s hot climate (causing droughts), to passing through customs at the airport (where “white” tourists move through with ease), to the taxi driver with the high-end Japanese cars (which were fueled by leaded gasoline), and finally linking all those problems to the corrupted government, which lend out loans for cars only because they own and are affiliated with the car dealing company.  This style is also noted later in the book.  At the beginning of the book, the readers get a clear sense of the setting because in every other sentence, the author would remind the readers with the word ‘Antigua’.  But as the book progresses, the readers are no longer able to get a clear sense of the setting because Kincaid no longer make references to Antigua specifically. Kincaid diffuses the Antiguan setting to suggest that there are other places in a similar situation as Antigua, and again, being the ‘tourist’ I fail to take note of those places.

The last style that I particularly like was the use of parentheses in Kincaid’s writing.  The parentheses in her writing serve as the author’s own voice.  It felt as if Kincaid is sitting by the reader’s side adding her own commentary.  Kincaid is literally taking the tourists through a journey.  I think these bracketed passages add a hint of the author’s personality into the piece, which makes Kincaid’s writing much more enjoyable.

A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid is definitely not a typical book I would read.  Kincaid cleverly addresses serious and important issues with a new approach with makes A Small Place a very engaging piece.


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