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A Small Place

Jamaica Kincaid

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title ·  A Small Place

author · Jamaica Kincaid

type of work · Memoir, essay

genre · Travel writing, personal history

language · English

time and place written · 1980s, United States

date of first publication · 1988

publisher · Farrar, Straus, & Giroux

narrator · Jamaica Kincaid, the author, who gives a highly personal history of her home, the Caribbean island of Antigua

point of view · Everything in A Small Place, even the historical text, is filtered through Kincaid’s highly subjective, personal point of view and is thus mostly told in the first person. One of Kincaid’s most distinctive devices is to address the reader directly, as “you,” even narrating the hypothetical experiences the reader has on visiting Antigua; she therefore also makes extensive use of the second-person point of view.

tone · Kincaid’s tone is usually bitter and sarcastic, especially when dealing with Antigua’s colonial past and tourist-driven present. There are more tender moments of melancholy throughout; however, anger is the prevailing mood.

tense · Kincaid focuses mostly on the present state of Antigua, shifting into the past tense for her historical discussions.

setting (time) · Contemporary, particularly the latter decades of the twentieth century.

setting (place) · Antigua, a small island in the Caribbean

themes · The ugliness of tourism; admiration vs. resentment of the colonizer; the prevalence of corruption

motifs · Direct address to the reader; “unreal” beauty

symbols · The library’s sign; Japanese cars

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