Study Guide

A Small Place Angels From the Realm Circus

By Jamaica Kincaid

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Angels From the Realm Circus

Step right up ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages, cats, dogs, and pet pigs, too. For one night only, enjoy a performance from Antigua's famed circus—Angels From the Realm.

Ironically, the kooky carnival has set up their base of operations at the old Antigua Public Library. Elsewhere in this section, we discuss the symbolism of the old library and how it represents the many broken promises made to the Antiguan people and ongoing racism and oppression. So what does it mean that this place has been turned into a circus?

The narrator gives us a hint when she suggests that the show be called "Angels From the Realm of Innocence" (3.1). She expands upon this idea later, saying that Antiguans are either "eternal innocents, or artists […] or lunatics […] or an exquisite combination of all three" (3.5). In other words, though evidence of their oppression is right in front of them (there's no better example than the state of the old Antiguan Library), they are either unable or unwilling to see it. That this place of learning had been turned into a place of entertainment only illustrates this fact further.

Consider it this way: Circuses provide distraction, a break from the daily grind that inspires feelings of delight. Libraries, however, foster learning—critical thinking and engagement with the past, present, and future. Since oppression rages on in Antigua, it's understandable that the Antiguan people are drawn toward the circus, but at the same time, it's clear that what they really need is a library brimming with books.

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