The Library as a Symbol for a Better Antigua

The library in Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place serves as a symbol for a time when Antigua was a better and more enjoyable place to live.  The way the author first talks about the library seems to have a sentimentality attached to it.  “I stole many books from the library.  I didn’t mean to steal the books, really; it’s just that once I had read a book I couldn’t bear to part with it” (Kincaid, 45).  This quote illustrates a time for the author when paying a visit to the library was fun, and certainly a highlight of her day.  The author has a love for books, so much that she would take the risk of stealing them when she didn’t want to part with them once it came time to return them to the library.  When the circumstances in a persons’ life are maybe not as they wish it were, they recall memories of times that they enjoyed very much.  I think this is exactly what the author is doing here.

The tone of the essay changed a little in this section; recalling when times were less complicated and when the shape of the library was much better.  She talks about “the earthquake” and how the library was essentially destroyed from its former glory.  “Repairs are pending, not repaired and the library put back where it used to be?” (Kincaid, 42).  Obviously, Kincaid is very upset at the fact that she does not have a suitable library she can visit anymore in Antigua.  Again, I believe she is remembering a better time when Antigua was a better and happier place to live (or a time when she was so young that she did not realize that the government was so corrupt) as it is when she was writing the essay.




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2 responses to “The Library as a Symbol for a Better Antigua

  1. siegvald

    I think your interpretation is very accurate. In “A Small Place,” the library seems to be the only influence from Westerners that Ms. Kincaid actually approves of and looks back with fondness. Maybe that is one of the reasons why she’s upset that the library is in the condition it’s in: because the “best” influence to come from the West is actually something that is most neglected on the island (or at least it is one of the most neglected things). She doesn’t understand why hardly anyone else places the same value in the library that she does.

  2. vrosengrant20

    I do not believe that the library represented a better time in Antigua since the island’s problems started long before Kincaid was born; it was only her naivety of youth that made her blind. It was the use of the library that allowed her to learn and grow into a mature adult who understand the exact circumstances that plague the island. The library does exist in the time before the island had become stagnant, back when there was hope to get a new party in power that would change the island for the better. Once that hope was dashed, people resorted to ignoring the problems around them, like the destruction of the library, and continued on in the unchanging cycle of their lives.

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