The Library as a Reflection of Antigua Before and After English Rule

In Kincaid’s A Small Place, she places a heavy emphasis on the library of Antigua and its history for the people, before and after English rule. Though Kincaid makes her distaste for the English obvious when she refers to them as “the bad-minded English” (41), they must have been doing something correctly if the library was in better condition during English rule than it was during the time this essay was written. Because of this, Kincaid suggests that the library is a reflection of the Antiguan people in their current state of self-rule: uncertain of how to recover from an earth-shaking wave of destruction. The library was at the mercy of The Earthquake of 1974 in the same way the Antiguan people were at the mercy of the English.

When the English were in control of Antigua, the library’s books were “on their nice shelves, resting comfortably” (43). When the English dominated the island, the Antiguan people were forced to maintain a similar image of orderliness and polished appearance. After English rule was diminished and The Earthquake brought destruction, the books in the library resided in “cardboard  boxes in a room, gathering mildew, or dust, or ruin” (43). In the same way, the Antiguan people’s stagnation made them more bitter and confused (about how to conduct their self-rule) with each day that passes.

The sign on the library that reads “This Building was damaged in the earthquake of 1974. Repairs are pending.” (42) suggests the same idea for Antigua: since the end of English rule, Antiguans were left in ruin on their violated island they recognize as home. Now left to maintain self-rule in Antigua, the positive changes the Antiguan people want to see in their island are pending until the day they take the necessary steps to implement them.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “The Library as a Reflection of Antigua Before and After English Rule

  1. looloo14

    I would agree in your comparison between the earthquake which destroyed the library and the English colonizers. Both were unwanted additions to Antiguan society. The earthquake brought on physical destruction to a beloved Antiguan tradition when it tore down the library. On the other hand, the English’s colonization of Antigua metaphorically tore down Antigua’s traditions and identity. From the moment the English took a sort of ownership over Antigua, the people of Antigua and generations after will never be able to see the nation as it once was. Antiguan customs and history were seen as less important as England’s customs and history.

  2. I do agree that the library metaphorically presents how crippled and misguided self-governing Antigua is now that they are less capable of acquiring knowledge, whether it be the European customs or books. However, I do not believe there is much of a distinction between Antigua before and after colonial rule. The black people of Antigua are still poor, and they still primarily cater to the rich foreigner, which are the tourists. I think the destruction of the library primarily acts to symbolically present how Antigua’s independence was once this polished endeavor for the general progress of the nation, but has since been demolished and overlooked.

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