How does Jamaica Kincaid interrogate her own views, and ultimately change her perspective in A Small Place?

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osurpless | Middle School Teacher | In Training Educator

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The author Jamaica Kincaid changes her own views based on life experience. Born on Antigua in 1949 during the years of British colonial rule, which would last until 1981, her early life (in which she was still called Elaine Richardson) was colored by her relationship with her mother and subsequently soured with the arrival of her first brother at age 9. The alienation (perceived or otherwise) as a result was a defining part of her themes in writing. This was reinforced by the male favoritism experienced by her brothers as she moved into adolescence and beyond. While this was necessary due to the greater opportunities for males in this world, it was no doubt a harsh blow.

Children are inherently shaped by such experiences, especially when bolstered by the realities of the imperial presence on Antigua, which can color their views if they feel that they are powerless, be it from an authoritarian power or a parent too preoccupied dealing with the harsh realities of such a life to give their child the life they deserve. Whether or not this is the case on this surface, it can manifest in unexpected ways, as in Kincaid's writing that were galvanized by living such experiences.

One must also consider the end result. When Kincaid was able to parley this parental neglect (implicit or explicit, as her writing examines in Annie John) into a writing career and a position at the prestigious New Yorker, this can be understood as the vital change of scenery that fostered perspective change as well. This led to her talent bringing social change in 1988's A Small Place, due to the poignant examination of dictatorial leadership and corruption on Antigua, made worse by the explosion of tourism on the island. Her sadness is revealed in the writing, turns into outrage, and moves into a call for change via action. In the end, the essay showing is powerful and all the stronger as a result of these experiences.

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