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In A Small Place, Knowledge And Power Are Codependent

1792 words - 7 pages

Knowledge and power are considered two of the most important assets of a society. In the context of Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place knowledge could be defined as a set of proficiencies or expertise attained through experience and education and power as a control of one’s own circumstances. While knowledge and power are individually definable, they do not exist in isolation. Knowledge and power are mutually constitutive to one another. In her aggressive and expository essay, Kincaid successfully demonstrates through the use of several examples, that knowledge, which is a necessary precursor to power, is severely lacking in Antigua, which in turn limits the power Antiguans hold over their own society.
Kincaid begins by pointing out to “you,” a tourist what is missing from Antigua in order to first make clear the reality that knowledge is not existent, valued, or accessible in Antigua. She illustrates “your” arrival, when she notes, “You are a tourist and you have not yet seen a school in Antigua, you have not yet seen the hospital in Antigua, you have not yet seen a public monument in Antigua.” But she abruptly interrupts this thought and continues in sarcastic and marked nonchalance, “what a beautiful island Antigua is—more beautiful than any of the other islands you have seen.” (3) Here, Kincaid demonstrates that knowledge is severely lacking or nonexistent in the land of Antigua by providing examples of physical manifestations of a well educated society that are not present. Knowledge is attained by learning information, data, and facts made available to children through education in schools. Knowledgeable people—educated children who grow up to be educated adults who have completed to several ambitious years of extra schooling, work in hospitals, where expertise in the fields of science and medicine is employed to heal bodies and save lives. And it must not be forgotten, that knowledge also includes an understanding of one’s own culture, nation, and personal history which might be represented by a public monument. Yet Antigua lacks all of these marks that may indicate to a vacationer, that there, knowledge dwells. Then Kincaid abruptly and sarcastically shifts the subject to the beauty of an island. What does a lack of education, medical and technological advance, and culture matter in an island so beautiful? Why would “you,” a tourist, care about the absence of knowledge in “your” vacation destination? Kincaid successfully points out in a mordant tone that, absurdly, a lack of knowledge in Antigua is considered unimportant in wake of the tourist-attracting splendor of the island.
Kincaid continues using the perspective of the tourist to mark the absence of knowledge by discussing the cars driven by Antiguans. She writes that “you,” the tourist, “notice that all the cars you see are brand-new…but they have an awful sound.” (6) She continues to explain this predicament when Kincaid’s tourist thinks, “It’s because they use...

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