Library Symbolizes Education and Colonization’s Influence on Antiguans

In Jamaica Kincaid’s essay, A Small Place, she relates to the reader the personal connection she feels with the library of Antigua. There seems to be a deeper meaning to her description of the library; it is more than anger she has towards the government for failing to repair the beautiful library of her childhood after it was struck by an earthquake. She seems to be making a statement about the disrepair of the education of the people of Antigua. The library is a symbol of knowledge and the betterment of the human mind. Kincaid is appalled that Antiguans are not making a strong effort to repair the library. This signals to the author that Antiguans have no desire to further their learning; leaving the future of Antigua looking grim. It is a sign that Antigua’s problems will not be solved in the future because of the downfall of Antiguan’s level of knowledge.

What is more, the library of Antigua was a wonderful representation of Antigua. It was one of the few parts of the island that was able to keep a non-British identity. Kincaid describes the building as being, “painted a shade of yellow that is beautiful to people like me […] its big always open windows, […] the heat of the sun, […] the beauty of us sitting there like communicants at an altar” (42). This building was so beautiful that it had a spiritual meaning to Kincaid. It was a building which represented the true culture of Antigua, not the British version of it. It seems as though Kincaid is frustrated that Antiguans are not fighting to repair such a representative part of their life-style. Here is a representation of the British colonization of the island and how it has forever changed the people of the Island.




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2 responses to “Library Symbolizes Education and Colonization’s Influence on Antiguans

  1. siegvald

    This is very logical post. Ms. Kincaid even mentions right before she begins her recollection about pastimes at the library, the fact that Antiguan youth seem “almost illiterate [and] . . . stupid.” (43) She also mentions how the Antiguan youth seem “unable to answer in a straightforward way, and in their native tongue of English, simple questions about themselves.” (44) The relevancy here is how Ms. Kincaid parallels the condition of the Antiguan youth to the condition of the library: neglect of the library could be interpreted as simultaneous to neglect of the people and their willingness to be self educated.

  2. I agree that the library is what would provide the Antiguan people with knowledge, and that Kincaid is stressing the importance of learning. Kincaid also presents a need for progression, which is evident from her examples of how the natives are still living by serving to White people, even though they have this supposed freedom now, and her frustration with this matter. Without having some means of education, there is no possibility for progression, which relates the cultural stagnation of Antigua with the destroyed library. Because there is no library, they natives have no real access to the knowledge for them to adequately make the decisions to advance their culture.

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