In unwilling to rock the boat. Kincaid is

In Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place the reader observes the natural beauty of Antigua while being sheltered from its grim realities. Kincaid’s direct address to the reader is exemplified when she states: “you needn’t let that slightly funny feeling you have from time to time about exploitation, oppression, domination develop into full-fledged unease, discomfort; you could ruin your holiday” (10). Her style is a sardonic one that intentionally makes the reader uncomfortable; her goal is to make complacency impossible for both the tourist and the native Antiguan. Much of the second section focuses on the distortions that colonialism has fostered in the minds of Antiguans; the locals do not notice the racism occurring in their lives and the “bad behavior” of the English does not impact the general reverence the people feel towards English culture. She notes that “I now see that good behavior is the proper posture of the weak, of children” (30). Despite their obvious oppression, Antiguans don’t notice the problems occurring around them and they are unwilling to rock the boat. Kincaid is fed up with this “good behavior” and is urging the locals to change their ways, to challenge the system of colonialism. Kincaid begins to describe the litany of abuses that occur on the island, from government officials stealing public funds to running brothels. Everyone knows about these corrupt acts but no one does anything about it; Kincaid is aggravated by the absence of public outrage and attributes the Antiguans’ lack of anger and passivity to colonization and the lasting legacy of oppression from colonialism. She does note that “eventually, the masters left, in a kind of way; eventually the slaves were freed, in a kind of way” (80). While slavery has been illegal for many years, the master-slave dynamic is still present on the island. Racism is perpetuated in the relationship between black Antiguans serving wealthy western tourists and the tourists’ romanticization of poverty.  For Kincaid, these issues are worsened by the fact that Antiguans can only express themselves in the language of those who oppressed them; “the language of the criminal can contain only the goodness of the criminal’s deed” (32). Language shapes the way people think, and while Kincaid’s wishes to describe the abuses done to her people, the language of the oppressor lacks the correct words. She laments “isn’t it odd that the only language I have in which to speak of this crime is in the language of the criminal who committed the crime?” (31). By learning English and being educated in the British system, all of Antigua’s models of greatness come from the culture of their persecutor. Antiguans have learned to admire the very people who enslaved them. Everything Antiguans read is tainted, they are learning the dominant culture from a dominated position. Kincaid sees “millions of people, of whom I am just one, made orphans: no motherland, no fatherland, no gods, no mounds of earth for holy bring… and worst and most painful of all, no tongue” (31). THESIS   

Written by