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A Small Place

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained
5. It is as if, then, the beauty—the beauty of the sea, the land, the air, the trees, the market, the people, the sounds they make—were a prison, and as if everything and everybody inside it were locked in and everything and everybody that is not inside it were locked out. And what might it do to ordinary people to live in this way every day? What might it do to them to live in such heightened, intense surroundings every day?

In this passage from the final section, Kincaid addresses the mixed blessing of Antigua’s beauty. Once again, she does so by considering the difference between the Antiguan point of view and that of anyone not from the island. The landscape cannot make Antigua wealthy in a material sense—there is no oil, timber, or great fertile prairie to be developed. Instead, the landscape’s beauty is Antigua’s great natural resource, which means it is also one of the great determining factors of Antiguans’ lives. Tourists are drawn to the island because of this beauty, and, for them, the inhabitants are part of the scenery. In this sense, outsiders are “locked out” of understanding what the lives of the insiders are truly like. The insiders are “locked in” in a similar way—they belong to the landscape more than it can ever belong to them. The surroundings are so “heightened” and “intense” that they seem to negate some of the intensity of people’s actual existences. As Kincaid says, the beauty of the island is so perfect and unchanging that change itself seems impossible. When everything is extraordinary, making judgments about what needs to change is difficult, and the fate of becoming simply a passive observer of a beautiful cage seems unavoidable.