Annie John

by: Jamaica Kincaid

Chapter Five: Columbus in Chains

Summary Chapter Five: Columbus in Chains

The principal chooses to punish Annie by trying to reinforce the rules of English cultural dominion over her. The school has long tried to control the culture of the students, for example, by not allowing them to dance calypso at lunchtime, preferring that they read poems or hold polite discussions. In order to strongly re-inscribe English values upon Annie, the principal orders her to copy Milton's Paradise Lost. Kincaid's choice of Paradise Lost carries an appropriate subtext that relates both to the colonization of Antigua and to Annie's personal life. On the level of colonization, Antigua was a paradise before the British arrived and made it a lost paradise by transforming it into a slave colony. The title of the book that the principal uses for punishment, then, carries a certain irony that even she does not likely understand. In terms of Annie's personal life, the plot of Paradise Lost mirrors the plot of her own. Paradise Lost tells the story of Lucifer who challenged the dominant authority (God) and who, for his crimes, was cast out of the paradise of heaven into darkness and eternal exile. Annie herself is currently in a state of challenging the dominant authority (her mother) and fears being cast out into exile. The use of Milton's book thus provides a subtle commentary on several levels.

The close of the chapter reinforces Annie's sadness and sense of exile from paradise. Although she longs for comforting from her parents, they are too involved with each other to pay her any mind. Aside from just simply excluding her, Annie feels fully betrayed when she observes that her mother plotted a sneaky scheme to get her to eat breadfruit. Now her mother is not just failing to nourish their relationship but she is actively plotting against Annie. Annie feels depressed and in exile as the chapter comes to an end.