In Jamaica Kincaid’s “A Small Place”, she expresses her life in a world that is made to be an escape for pleasure for tourists who visit Antigua. In this memoir, the author illustrates a conflicted sense of life and identity on the island of Antigua. To tourists, it is a place of paradise, a sense of unreality, like the island is a stage that is set theatrically. It is a symbolically charged environment that creates a fictional world. It seems too good to be true. Consequently, Kincaid’s experience of Antigua is that it is both a “paradise” and a “prison. She illustrates how the divided landscape of where she grew up, is a product of production and maintenance, in which we then see the relationship of these two dual visions of paradise and prison in Antigua. With her story, we can see a version of a self that provides us with a point of observation from which we can see life in Antigua, a story that shows a place where she grew up that is simultaneously existing as a paradise and a prison. The paradise she describes is that of how tourists see Antigua.
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She says, when we go to a place like paradise, we directly have a fantasy in our heads that we carry a narrative of paradise that is already in place. The tourist makes it their reality, for example, when the ticket is purchased, choose the right clothes to bring, we already know what the fantasy is. Kincaid says at a point in her memoir, “You see yourself taking a walk on that beach,…You see yourself meeting new people…You see yourself… You see yourself. ” (13) Fantasizing in the moment and know the experience. Paradise is a symbol of production. The idea of a vacation is that of an absence.
It is an index of a certain kind of emptiness in which then we become something different in that moment, have that sense of self-fulfillment. On page seventeen, it states “An ugly thing, that is what you are when you become a tourist, an ugly, empty thing, a stupid thing…” The problem of vacancy is that it drives you to a place where the natives can’t stand you, but at the same time, they need you to be there. The natives envy the tourists because they are able to escape their boredom and have a sense of pleasure from the “prison” that they live in everyday.
On the other side of paradise, there is a sense of “prison”, which is the world of the natives of Antigua. From Kincaid’s perspective, the place she sees is full of corruption, dilapidated schools and hospitals and the “shameful legacy of Antigua’s colonial past that has made this small place the way it is, what the tourist does not see. Colonialism was something that robbed the people of Antigua their sense of memory. Prison is trapped in an image of paradise. Kincaid allows us to see beyond the beauty of the paradise and see the reality and truth about that beauty.