Postcolonialism

Jessica Keaton

Jamaica Kincaid, A Small Place, 23-37

Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place is, in short, a postcolonial rant about the woes of the colonized people against the colonizer. In this case, Kincaid is from Antigua and is ranting about English control over her native people. Throughout the text, Kincaid brings up many textbook postcolonial complaints the colonized would expect to give the colonizer.

First off, Kincaid describes the moral dilemma of the English’s behavior. On one hand, the Antiguans are criticized for being a morally impure race, forbidden to use “abusive language”. (25) However, on the other hand, the English are permitted to use abusive language that is even worse than what the Antiguans would ever consider using.

This double standard continues toward the end of the section with Kincaid’s direct criticism of the English. In this section, Kincaid’s gloves come off, attacking the very moral fibers of the English. She cites the fault of the English for the oppression of her people, questioning, “Have you ever wondered why it is that all we seem to have learned from you is how to corrupt our societies and how to be tyrants? You will have to accept that this is mostly your fault.” (34-35)

Continuing on with her venting session directed toward the oppressors, she states numerous faults of the English, identifying they took over the Antiguan lands without permission from the people. She acknowledges the fact that their asking of permission would have been simply a gesture, admitting the power of the oppressor. On account of the English assuming power over the Antiguans, many people were harmed in the process. She notes, “You murdered people. You imprisoned people. You robbed people. You opened your own banks and you put our money in them.” (35) Not only have the English overpowered the Antiguans in a political sense, they have oppressed them in a physical and financial sense as well.

Moreover, she brings up the dilemma of the English’s moral defamation of the Antiguans. She states, “Even if I came from people who were living like monkeys in trees, it was better to be that than what happened to me, what I became after I met you.” (37) Not only citing the oxymoron of the English’s declaration of their society being morally superior to the Antiguans, this idea continues on with a common theme we have seen throughout the semester: the idea that native knowledge always triumphs over progressive thought.

This section of the text directly aligns with the idea of postcolonialism. In short, the oppressed become the oppressors due to their desire for revenge. In this case, Kincaid’s revenge is through the pen rather than the sword. In the end, she redeems herself and her people through her published venting session directed toward the English. She not only fully discloses, but relentlessly critiques the politics and procedures taken by the English during the colonization of Antigua. This, unfortunately, completes the vicious cycle of the oppressed becoming the oppressors, continuing the long line of conflict between at least one of the English and its prospective colonies.

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3 Responses to Postcolonialism

  1. Jessica,
    I, too, was assigned this section, and I agree with your postcolonial reading. My blog pointed out that Jamaica Kincaid dehumanizes the English as revenge and a coping method for the dehumanization of the Antiguans by the English. I think that you and I have pointed out many of the same quotations to support our blogs. I agree that Kincaid “attack[s] the very moral fibers of the English,” as you have stated in your blog. It is obvious that Kincaid feels very passionately about this subject, perhaps to obviously to even need stating again, but her rant really emphasizes the destruction of the Antiguans by the English.

  2. eri444444 says:

    Jessica, you are definitely right that this is a postcolonial novel. It seems from your tone that you think Kincaid is excessively emotional? That she repeats “textbook” arguments and “rants” with a desire for vengeance? I’m not quite sure what your attitude is, but after reading your response I understand that the author’s aggressive language is a serious risk. Some people will accept that she needs to be provocative in order to revise history and hold colonizers accountable. Others will dismiss her for sentimentally stating an extreme position. Some people will even get defensive.

  3. klcowart says:

    I am very glad that you chose to write your blog about postcolonialism! Although we have mentioned this genre in class before, I still was not exactly clear on what it was (besides the suggestion that the name gives) since I have not take many of the classes that the other students have taken. Now I know, and I can surely see the different aspects that do qualify this novel as such. Kincaid does a great job of expressing the natives’ attitude towards the tourists, and like we said in class, Native Americans can definitely identify with Kincaid, as well as mostly any reader. Her lashing out against the English is something the majority can at least relate to in some way as she writes about how native knowledge is superior to progressive thought. With her postcolonial piece, I think she not only evokes feelings of hate toward wealthy tourist, but also a sense of nationality for one’s own home, nation, or community.

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