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Outliers: The Story of Success

by Malcolm Gladwell

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How does the epilogue "A Jamaican Story" encapsulate the lessons of Outliers on personal success?

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In the epilogue, Gladwell presents an example of personal success from his own lineage. He explains how his mother, Joyce Gladwell, got to have a good education that finally propelled her to a good life. Joyce Gladwell was born one of two twins to Daisy and Donald Nation, in Harewood, Jamaica. However, in those days, Jamaica had no public high schools or universities and those who were interested in pursuing these levels of education had to attend highly expensive private schools and finally universities abroad. Fortunately for the twins, just one year to their graduation from primary school, the government introduced sweeping reforms within the education sector that included private high school scholarships for academically gifted students.

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In the epilogue of the book “Outliers: The Story of Success”, Gladwell presents an example of personal success from his own lineage. He explains how his mother, Joyce Gladwell, got to have a good education that finally propelled her to a good life. Joyce Gladwell was born one of two twins to Daisy and Donald Nation, in Harewood, Jamaica. Her parents were both school teachers. However, in those days, Jamaica had no public high schools or universities and those who were interested in pursuing these levels of education had to attend highly expensive private schools and finally, universities abroad. Fortunately for the twins, just one year to their graduation from primary school, the government introduced sweeping reforms within the education sector that included private high school scholarships for academically gifted students. These reforms were part of changes proposed by the historian William Macmillan. The twins both won scholarships for studies in a private high school, though Joyce’s scholarship came on a little bit later.

For their university education, Faith, Joyce's twin won a Centenary scholarship, while Joyce’s education was paid for by a loan that her mother, Daisy, got from a Chinese shopkeeper. Daisy Nation is presented as an ambitious woman who was determined to make success stories out of her children. Her own success in life is attributed to her lineage that offered her privileges unknown to many black people.

Thus, Gladwell presents the idea that Joyce Gladwell owes her success in life to William Macmillan, for agitating for a better system of education in Jamaica, to her mother Daisy Nation, for procuring funds that saw her through university, and to her lineage for offering her various privileges. This aligns with the idea, presented through various stories in the book, that personal success is the result of “hidden advantages, extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies” presented to people. As Gladwell puts it, “it is not enough to ask what successful people are like, in other words. It is only by asking where they are from that we can unravel the logic behind who succeeds and who doesn’t.”

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Gladwell includes the story of Jamaica to demonstrate how the principles of his book have impacted his own life.  Throughout the book he deftly shares stories of remarkable people who were different than others and took advantage of opportunities that they saw that others didn’t.  The story of Daisy Nation personally affects him, because her success became his success.

Gladwell insists that we have all too easily bought into the myth that successful people are self-made; instead, he says they “are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot.” (enotes, http://www.enotes.com/outliers-the-story-of-success)

Gladwell wants to make the point that extraordinary people are those who take advantage of the extraordinary opportunities they are given. Gladwell speaks candidly about why he included this story.

It is not easy to be so honest about where we’re from. It would be simpler for my mother to portray her success as a straightforward triumph over victimhood. (google books)

Gladwell’s point is that the story of his mother’s success involved not just intelligence and guts, but also luck.  For example, his aunt and mother both earned scholarships but his mother did not go until another girl earned two and gave her one. Gladwell points out that light-skinned people also had an advantage in Jamaica dating back to its days as a slave plantation.

Slave owners often had children with their black slaves; those children were given preferential treatment and allowed to be house slaves instead of working in the fields. This afforded them education, societal mannerisms, and further advantages from that point on. (http://www.enotes.com/outliers-the-story-of-success/epilogue-summary )

Since Gladwell had light-skinned ancestors, those ancestors had a history of advantages. This proves Gladwell’s point that it’s about luck, change, and history.

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