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Jamaica Kincaids A Small Place Analysis English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 2287 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The idea of writing about cultural loss pays acknowledgment and in someway homage to a Caribbean Cannon. The Caribbean originally represented by the white plantation owner has now progressed into books by descendants of slaves in the 20th-21st century. Female Caribbean writers have started to confront fully their abused history. Kincaid claims, she always written her own life, but writing for her has been first and foremost a way of saving her life, not an attempt to speak for or identify with any group(Forbes, 2008, p24). Therefore, Kincaid™s writing can be seen to be explosive to the meaning by transforming the meaning of Caribbean writers; taking their writing back to their traditional Caribbean roots. This may not be an attack on the tourist but it can be seen as a rebellion against the traditional American, and European expression forced upon them. Kincaid says, One of the themes Caribbean women write about has much to do with the tension between both the gradations of color and class (Cooper, 2007) Kincaid, stereotypically describes all of the tourists as white and usually as a higher class. By representing the tension of colour and class in this way the text goes as far as creating invert racism.

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Everything in A Small Place, even the historical text, is expressed through Kincaid™s subjective and personal point of view and therefore told in the first person. Kincaid™s tone is usually bitter and sarcastic and although the irony is subtly sustained it is difficult to tell if she is being sincere, especially when dealing with Antigua™s colonial past and tourist-demanding present. Kincaid always relates and address™ the reader directly, as you, What is more, by narrating the hypothetical experiences, she therefore also makes extensive use of the second-person point of view. The you makes the attack more personal and more powerful, Kincaid is not like most writers dictating other people™s views, she is telling ˜you™, what ˜you™ think, and what ˜you™ are. Kincaid™s ˜simple attack on the tourist™ is to express and highlight the real lives the ˜other™; the ˜natives™ who will always be unclear to an outsider, the tourist. Kincaid believes that the ˜natives™ are the scenery and are part of what makes the small place. Kincaid sees the tourist as selfish, you may be at home; you are ugly as long as you are a tourist, bringing demands to small place without thinking of the consequences. Kincaid brings the significance of the ˜small things™ in the ˜small place™, You are pleased, that your trip is unlikely to be ruined by rain, the tourist does not understand that these demands are a restraint on the ˜native™ due to the lack of water.

Ian Munt explores the values of the economic and environmental conditions of globalisation and the affect new tourism has on countries with a poor eco-structure. Munt claims that™s The Third World has steadily emerged from the exclusive images of cataclysmic crisis-of starvation, deprecation and war-to represent the opportunity for an exciting, ‘out-of-the-way’ holiday(Munt, 2004) meaning the tourist has turned the ˜native™ into something new and ˜exciting™ to experience. Munt™s goes on to claim that these environments have been promoted by the new middle classes as a means of . . .providing an ‘ethnically’ enhancing encounter (Munt, 2004)the images of the ˜cataclysmic crisis™ is what makes the holiday all the more fascinating to the tourist as it gives them the chance to experience a new culture, the chance to say they have had a new encounter of living and yet the tourist never sees the real world. It could be said that this is Kincaid™s reason for attack upon the tourist. In part one Kincaid says, 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(Kincaid, 1988, p10) directly addressing the reader with a sarcastic tone. Kincaid recognises that the tourist is of a class high enough and well enough educated to understand Antigua™s colonial history. However, Kincaid, criticises™ the fact that this tourist will also l suppress their knowledge as not to ruin their holiday. Kincaid plays on this funny feeling reaching into the conscious by using the words exploitation, oppression, and domination.

As a reader it is easy to see how the text transforms the text from a simple attack on the tourist by the ‘native’ into a disturbing series of cultural observations. At the beginning of the second chapter Kincaid™s voice begins to change from a heavy second person to a slightly more traditional first person. Kincaid begins THE ANTIGUA I knew, the Antigua in which I grew up, is not the Antigua you, a tourist would see now. That Antigua no longer exists(Kincaid, 1988,p23) straight away it is apparent that it is not as simple as begrudging the ˜ugly™ tourist, it is the beginning of a disturbing series of cultural observations that have resulted in change, it is anger towards the loss of a cultural identity and conformity. What is certain is that the transformation from the simple attack on the tourist to the revelation of disturbing series of cultural observations goes back to the post colonial.

One of the first, Cultural observations that Kincaid makes is that of the Barclay™s brothers. A result of the British Colonial system was a capitalistic system; this went as far as the human trade, the slave trade. The reader soon finds out that the Barclay™s brothers, who started Barclay™s bank, were slave traders, that is how they made their money Kincaid rightfully condemns this capitalist system, and carries on her sarcastic tone expressing how shallow this system was, It™s possible that when they saw how rich banking made them, they gave themselves a good beating for opposing an end to slave trading(26) this demonstrates how the historical acts of exploitation are never really over, the only thing that stops it, is not morality but the idea that something better may happen. The fact that Barclays bank is still in the middle of high street(26) makes a mockery of the locals who are still funding the brothers business, the descendents of the very people that Barclays Brother™s would have sold in the trade. Kincaid goes on to question the reader, the tourist, Do you ever try to understand why people like me cannot get over the past, cannot forgive and cannot forget . . . The human beings they traded, the human beings who to them were only commodities, are dead.(26) What happened in the slave trade can never be put right.

It would appear at this stage that it is not so much the tourist in which Kincaid is against but the past, and the people who created the past. Kincaid goes into what can only be described, as a childish attack on the tourist because there is no one else alive in which she can take her anger out on. Kincaid tells the tourist

You look silly; you try eating the way you always eat, you look silly); they do not like the way you speak (you have an accent); they collapse helpless from laughter, mimicking the way they imagine you must look as you carry out some everyday bodily function. (17)

According to Ashcroft, Grifriths, and Tiffin this kind of attack towards the tourist is known as post-colonial abrogation . . . its illusory standard of normative or ‘correct’ usage, and its assumption of a traditional and fixed meaning ‘inscribed’ in the words (Byerman, 1995) The ˜natives™ subject the tourists to ridicule due of stereotypes or assumptions just as North America (or, worse, Europe)(Kincaid, 1988,p4) colonised the Antiguans and turned them into objects of ridicule. The ˜natives™ assume that the tourist is just one type of person. As the tourist watch the ˜natives™ and their culture as something knew, something entertaining. However, the colonial structure and power is still held by the tourist in their society. The ˜natives™ can only rebel behind their closed doors [as] they laugh at your [the tourist™s] strangeness (7) The Antiguans must still appear deferential despite their anger growing; they must be submissive to the ˜tourist™ and assertive secretly. This shows how the ˜tourist™ world is the new colony; the Antiguans must respect them to their face in order to get their trade. Kincaid breaks away from the traditional submission by writing and speaking out. She is able to disown the passive female role that is expected of her. In someway it can be argued that the way Kincaid attack on the ˜tourist is not an act of racism but simply exposing the inherent in the colonial culture.

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What is more, Kincaid discusses how Antiguans experience the passage of time, and history. Antigua is a small place. Antigua is a very small place. In Antigua, not only is the event turned into everyday, but the everyday is turned into an event.(56) Antiguans have a distorted perspective of their lives: the ˜small things™ all add up to something larger, and yet the major events of there past are seen as the ˜norm™. According to Kincaid, Antiguans are always thinking their slave history and the emancipation. Yet, the ˜small things™ are exaggerated into something that appears to be more important, for example,  two people stand at opposite ends of a street and shout insults at each other at the top of their lungs(56) an inconsequential accident into a years-long feud This event soon becomes everyday(56). Kincaid constant use of the words ˜a small place™, only stresses the constraints and corruption on Antigua™s culture. As a ˜small place™ Antigua has to resort to highlighting the ˜small things™ to define themselves against the ˜large places™ such as North America and Europe. The constant need for recognition of the ˜small things™ shows how identity is an important factor within Kincaid™s writing. One of the reasons Kincaid targets the tourist, is that they are a representation of the English colony. English history has been imposed onto the Antigua; they have no identity of their own.

Kincaid pities the English and their ruined empire. A tourist does not recognise the unpleasantness of their actions concerning slavery. The streets in which Kincaid she grew up on are named after the English maritime criminals most of whom powered the slave trade, the tourist see these figures as historical heroes. ˜The irony of A Small Place is subtly sustained™ the use of this irony is emphasised by the use of binary opposition, past and the present vs love and hate. The English culture of their colonial past and its impoverished, corrupt present has lead to a loss of identity and confusion, the Antiguans live in an English Culture and yet cannot say they are English. Kincaid says,  no place could ever really be England, and nobody who did not look exactly like them would ever be English so that you can imagine the destruction of people and land that came from that(24), the Antiguans cannot forget their past because they can only express themselves in the language of those who enslaved and oppressed them. Not only are they English Speaking but it is said that the English ways have corrupted the Antiguans, once they are no longer slaves, once they are free, they are no longer noble and exalted; they are just human beings(81). Kincaid comes to the conclusion that Antigua will forever be in a catch twenty-two situation and it will no longer be a question of the simple attack on the tourist but something much larger. The many corrupt prime misters that have governed Antigua, the fact that they know about the hardships and the corruption has become humiliating and degrading for the people of Antigua to the point that it is fuelling the tourism. The lifestyle and culture of the island is purely alluring for the tourists only corrupting the government’s desire to change or improve upon it. The use of the binary oppositions only support Kincaid in her confused state of mind in a mass discourse of generalisation stating that the English love England and yet they hate each other, Kincaid does not understand why the tourists come to an island of corruption and trouble, if England is so great.

Edward Baugh believes that writers such as Jamaica Kincaid began to be recognised in the mid-twentieth century under the genre ˜Anglophone Caribbean literature. Baugh claims that one aspect to this type of Literature is that The topos of the journey connects conveniently with other major considerations of theme and form in the development¦ with such issues as history, identity, gender, and language.(Baugh, 2007,p48) Although it could be argued that this is a common factor in all literature, Kincaid does this particularly well, taking the reader on an emotional blame trip exploring a disturbing series of cultural observations directed at a range of targets from plantation owners, business men and globalisation and of course the tourist. Baugh says The significance of the journey as idea, theme, metaphor, motif, and symbol in Caribbean literature arises naturally out of the historical experience of Caribbean people.(48) As a reader, we see Kincaid weave in and out of experience, a voice that uses raw realism. Due to writers such as Kincaid the class structure was able to change the idea of anglio-caribbean by emigrating to North, American or Canada, despite discrimination and disturbing series of cultural observations still being apparent within the Caribbean, writers have finally been given voice to tell their story creating a new concept The Caribbean writer.


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