2. Do you ever try to understand why people like me cannot get over
the past, cannot forgive and cannot forget? There is the Barclay’s Bank. The
Barclay brothers are dead. The human beings they traded, the human beings
who to them were only commodities, are dead. . . . So do you see the queer
thing about people like me? Sometimes we hold your retribution.
In the second section of A Small Place, Kincaid
indicts the British colonial system and, by extension, the entire enterprise
of European colonialism. She condemns the early capitalist system that
traded in humans, turning them into a commodity no different from sugar or
rum. The Barclay Brothers illustrate how historical acts of exploitation are
never really over, despite our desire to pretend otherwise. After making
their fortunes in the slave trade, the Barclays went into banking, and the
financial institution they set up continues to operate worldwide.
Ironically, Barclay’s Bank is the major banking company on Antigua, issuing
loans and managing the meager funds of the descendents of the very slaves
who were the source of the Barclay fortune. The Barclays are, in a sense,
still profiting from those they exploited long after their deaths, which
suggests the unending ramifications of actions that seem safely ensconced in
history. Kincaid “cannot forgive and cannot forget,” because there is no way
to undo the injustice of slavery, and, in a way, the injustice continues.
The Barclays are beyond punishment, and their victims are beyond help.
Kincaid can only keep the thought of them alive as a sort of “retribution.”