Jamaica Kincaid's A Small Place: Discussion Questions

Jamaica Kincaid's A Small Place is a book that helps us understand the frustration and dilemma of being a member of a society that has been colonized even after colonization has officially ended.  As we will see this semester, her frustration is not the only way to respond to such a state of affairs, but it does raise for us issues such as the following:

  • What has been lost due to colonization in the way of past culture, its ways, identity, and language?
  • Does the current cultural expression of formerly colonized people represent a victimized, oppressed, even inauthentic state?
Jamaica Kincaid
  • What happens when a small place with small events cannot give an account of itself?
  • Can tourism really be understood to be a beneficial, or even benign, market for the Caribbean?
  • What are the origins and impact of present government corruption and poverty on the Caribbean?
  • What makes the personality and consciousness of Caribbean peoples different from Western individualism?

Discussion Questions

  1. How does Kincaid describe the typical tourist?  Is she being fair?
  2. Why does the native person hate the tourist?
  3. How does she describe the current (c.1988) economic state of Antigua?
  4. Why is she so angry at the British? Why can't she forgive and forget?
  5. Whom is she addressing ("you") on pages 34-37?
  6. Why is the loss of the library important to her?  What does it represent?
  7. According to Kincaid, why can't a small place with small events give an account of itself?
  8. What is the relationship between slavery, past British colonialism, and present government corruption?
  9. Why is the beauty of Antigua "too beautiful"? (77)
  10. Does Kincaid's tone shift in A Small Place in important ways? Why or why not?
  11. Why does she conclude her essay the way she does?  What does she finally conclude about human beings?
  12. What does Kincaid want her (western) reader to ultimately understand?