“And it was the middle of the night when there was no wind and there had been no rain for a long time…” (Kincaid 4.61) Mr. Potter’s life begins in stark contrast to the opening of the book. When demonstrating Mr. Potter’s routine life, Jamaica Kincaid portrays “the sun…in its usual place, up above and in the middle of the sky…” (Kincaid 1.3) but she chose a very different setting for Mr. Potter’s birth. Instead of being born into a sun so bright it made “even the shadows pale” (Kincaid 1.3), Mr. Potter was born into darkness. This darkness, in fact, marked the beginning of his life and continued until his mother walked into the sea. “The water was thick and blank (it was a form of darkness)” (Kincaid 4.71). Although the book incorporates many repetitions of the line about the sun being in its usual place, up above and in the middle of the sky, this chapter emerges in darkness.
After illustrating the setting of Mr. Potter’s birth, Jamaica Kincaid characterizes the relationship between mother and child. “…his head next to her gently beating heart, her breathing so regular, so calm, so perfect, as if she had been made that way by God himself” (Kincaid 4.68). This perfection of Roderick Potter and Elfrida Robinson sleeping next to each other lasted a only a few days before “Elfrida…grew tired of him, lying next to her, feeding from her, and then sleeping next to her, and how she longed to be rid of him” (Kincaid 4.69). Once Elfrida saw Roderick as a burden, she abandoned him to the Shepherds and “walked into the sea.”
The third part of Chapter Four is when Elfrida “…walked into the sea without even so much as despair, she did not have even so much as a sense of hopeless and then going beyond that, she was made up only of what lay beyond that” (Kincaid 4.71). The way Jamaica Kincaid draws the image of Elfrida walking into the sea is not one of depression, or any kind of emotion. Elfrida simply migrates to somewhere other than the world of the living. The next few paragraphs, however, display the kind of despair and hopelessness that Kincaid had said Elfrida did not possess. When Kincaid examines the trend of motherlessness and fatherlessness, she describes “a world so empty of human feeling” (Kincaid 4.72). She poses a question of whether a human being can exist in this world and determines “The answer is yes and yes again and the answer is no, not really, not so at all” (Kincaid 4.72). This contradictory sentence conveys the idea that although humans can survive in a world without love, they are not fully living or thriving.
This lack of love in the world helps to explain why Elfrida did not love Mr. Potter and instead left him to walk into the sea. “…he needed love but that was out of the order of things, neither of them knew that he needed love, for what could that be, love, between two people such as they were…” (Kincaid 4.69). Mr. Potter’s world is consistently described as loveless or indifferent, and it begins—for Mr. Potter—with the moment...