How is Native Language, Pathos and Neocolonialism discussed in A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid? With examples.

In A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid, we might find pathos in how she describes Antigua as a "small place" of people who "cannot give an exact account" of themselves or tell their own story. We then see neocolonialism with how much better the tourists are treated. Lastly, we come across Kincaid's conflicting view of her native language when she writes about the "beauty" of the British-built library and the "dung heap" of the new library.

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There are lots of examples of native language, neocolonialism, and pathos in Jamaica Kincaid's book-length essay A Small Place.

When we talk about pathos, we’re talking about a rhetorical technique that's meant to try and get the audience to feel pity or sadness.

The title itself has pathos in it. Kincaid is referring to her home country as "a small place." Think about small things and how they tend to evoke a kind of sadness or pity. What else do smallness make us think of? Perhaps helplessness or powerlessness.

In the essay, Kincaid writes,

The people in a small place cannot give an exact account, a complete account, of themselves.

Think about how much emphasis our society puts on empowering people to tell their own story, to give "a complete account" of who they are and what they've been through. How does that compare with how Kincaid describes the people of Antigua? These people can't tell their own story. The powerlessness to tell their own story might make us feel pathos. It might also make us think of neocolonialism.

With neocolonialism, we're talking about how dominant countries—what Kincaid calls "large places"—deploy economic, political, and cultural pressure to control other countries, countries that have typically been former colonies.

We might say Kincaid evokes colonialism proper when she tells us about the Antigua "obsession with emancipation and slavery."

As for neocolonialism, where do we spot that? We see examples of it in the first pages. Think about how the tourists might symbolize colonizers. As Kincaid tells us, if you're coming from North America or Europe, "you move through customs with ease." Yet if you're an Antiguan Black person "with cardboard boxes of much needed cheap clothes and food for relatives," you will not "move through customs swiftly."

Why is this neocolonialism? As with colonialism, we see how tourists from North American or European—the former colonizers—are treated better than the people who live there. As with colonialism, neocolonialism divides people. It grants the colonizers/tourists privilege and leaves the colonized/full-time residents with hardship and second-class status.

Kincaid did not like the English colonizers, did she? She calls them "ugly, priggish individuals." She says all Antiguans have learned from them is

how to imprison and murder each other, how to govern badly, and how to take the wealth of our country and place it in Swiss bank accounts.

Yet what is Kincaid's first language or “native language”? It's English. We might say that her native language produces a conflict within her. Her first language was imposed on her. She says,

It distorted and erased my history and glorified your own.

Yet this external language that became her own is also remembered nicely by Kincaid. Let's look at how Kincaid recalls the library that the English built. She talks about its "beauty." She tells us it was like a "fairy tale" to sit in the "big, old wooden building" with "rows and rows of shelves filled with books."

Let's compare that to the library that Kincaid sees post-colonization. What does she call it? It’s a "dung heap."

We think the library section is quite powerful. In this part, we see neocolonialism, pathos, and native language. We see neocolonialism: tourists don't go to Antigua to read books in a library, so there’s no need to invest money into one. We also have pathos since we feel sadness at the destruction of such a beautiful building. Lastly, we have native language. It was at this beautiful building that Kincaid read books in her first language, even though it was a language that was imposed upon her by the English colonizers.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on June 29, 2020
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