The library as a symbol of opportunity

The library in A Small Place was for Jamaica Kincaid, before it was demolished by the earthquake, a symbol of opportunity. A library contains many books with endless answers and ideas to endless questions. Some books may also contain an escape- a story other than your own which you can imagine is your own for a short while in order to escape your own misery. So in this way, the library represented opportunity for Jamaica Kincaid with its many ideas to answer her many questions and many stories to fill her curiosity. Perhaps, in this library, the people of Antigua received some kind of hope that Antigua would one day be a better place as the books filled their heads with ideas of liberty and stories that always had happy endings where anything was possible.

The destruction of the old library, its ever-pending repairs, and the new dilapidated library above the dry goods store, all represent the destruction of this hope and of the opportunities that were once present for Antigua. No longer do the people have access to all of the libraries books: “… is too small to hold all of the books from the old building, and so most of the books, instead of being on their nice shelves, resting comfortably, waiting to acquaint me with you and all your greatness, are in cardboards boxes in a room, gathering mildew or dust or ruin. In this place, the young librarians cannot find what they want” (Kincaid 43). Perhaps the librarians now not being able to find what they want is an extended metaphor for the people of Antigua. Furthermore, after the destruction of the old library it seems that the youth of Antigua have become “almost illiterate” (Kincaid 43) because “…unlike my generation, how stupid they seemed, how unable they were to answer in a straightforward way, and in their native tongue of English, simple questions about themselves. In my generation they would not have been allowed on the school stage much less before an audience in a stadium” (Kincaid 44). Hence, with the increasing stupidity of the young generation of Antigua, Antigua finally loses all hope of coming out of its current corruption. With the fall of the old library comes the reduction of opportunities for Antigua.



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One response to “The library as a symbol of opportunity

  1. Samantha Cooke

    Though the library and the education of the citizens appears to indeed have declined with Antigua’s becoming self-governing, I would not say that either was particularly good to begin with. Though the library did have books that allowed for an escape from life’s realities, the library itself was not an escape: as Kincaid said, there were books about the English colonization – from the Englishman’s point of view, and thus biased with the same views that the English held towards the “native” Antiguans and of themselves (“how beautiful you were, are, and always will be”). Actually, the books and the education were also all in English, a constant reminder of the colonization. Kincaid laments that she does not have any language to express her feelings but the language of the oppressor. They are denied their own identities.

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