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A Small Place By Jamaica Kincaid

1430 words - 6 pages

A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid presents the hypothetical story of a tourist visiting Antigua, the author’s hometown. Kincaid places the reader in the shoes of the tourist, and tells the tourist what he/she would see through his/her travels on the island. She paints a picturesque scene of the tourist’s view of Antigua, but stains the image with details of issues that most tourists overlook: the bad roads, the origin of the so-called native food, the inefficiency of the plumbing systems in resorts, and the glitches in the health care system. Kincaid was an established writer for The New Yorker when she wrote this book, and it can be safely assumed that majority of her readers had, at some point in their lives, been tourists. I have been a tourist so many times before and yet, I had never stopped to consider what happens behind the surface of the countries I visit until I read this essay. Kincaid aims to provoke her readers; her style of writing supports her goal and sets both her and her essay apart. To the reader, it sounds like Kincaid is attacking the beautiful island, pin-pointing the very things that we, as tourists, wish to ignore. No tourist wants to think about faeces from the several tourists in the hotel swimming alongside them in the oceans, nor do they want to think about having accidents and having to deal with the hospital. It seems so natural that a tourist would not consider these, and that is exactly what Kincaid has a problem with.
One of the most important themes running through Kincaid’s essay is the political and economic scene of Antigua. The fact that the airport is named after the President, instead of a school or hospital, shows exactly how vital the role of the airport is in the life of the Antiguans. Without a good airport, there would be fewer tourists, and the country would be in an even worse economic situation. Kincaid clearly attacks the tourists for not understanding the value of Antigua and its heritage; they are “ugly human being(s)” (115) because of their ignorance. The vacant gazers are ugly because when they have reached the zenith of banality in their own lives, they use the poverty of the natives of a tourist destination like Antigua to feel better about themselves; the natives’ lack of wealth, opportunities and education all make that pasty-skinned tourist feel superior. The ugliness stems from the tourist’s use of the native’s backwardness to propel themselves forward.
Kincaid describes the reactions of the native people as tourists walk by; being a native Antiguan herself, her description of their behaviour is probably accurate. The justification she provides for their behaviour is sound. Most areas like Antigua depend on the funds that tourism brings in. While whatever luxury can be provided is given to the tourists, it is the native people who see the daily trials and sufferings. Understandably, even though their income comes from the tourists they so despise, the native population is trapped in...

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