Study Guide

A Small Place Setting

By Jamaica Kincaid

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A Very Small Place

A Small Place is as dependent on its setting as Mario is on Luigi. Everyone knows that the fella in green is the real brains behind the operation. But it's hard to define the "real" Antigua. It seems like everyone who comes in contact with this small Caribbean nation has a different concept of what it represents. In fact, the best way to sort this out is to look at the ways that different groups view Antigua. Check it:

  • Tourists look at Antigua as a getaway from their boring lives back home. Sure, they love its beauty, but what they really love is the fact that it is "backwards in that charming way" (1.5). It's all so quaint to them… but this is kind of like going on the King Kong ride at Universal Studios (R.I.P.) and then claiming you went to New York. Not the same thing by a long shot.
  • The people who live in the Mill Reef Club see Antigua as a connection to the past. The only problem with this is that Antigua's past is filled with slavery, colonialism, and blatant racism—things that Antiguan natives have no interest in going back to. It's no coincidence that they always "seemed not to like Antiguans (black people) at all" (2.3). But they have money, and that gives them a say in the things that happen in Antigua.
  • Despite being the only people on this list who actually really live in Antigua, the Antiguan people have the least-formed view of what the country represents. Unlike the other groups mentioned here, they have no "big historical moment to compare the way they are now to the way they used to be" (4.1). They've lived on this island for a long time and don't plan on leaving anytime soon, so it's a bit of a bubble for them.

The book actually ends with a long description of the physical beauty of Antigua—its "unreal-looking grass" and "one-room houses painted in unreal shades of pink and yellow" (4.1)—but this feels like little more than an after-thought. The natural beauty of Antigua is the country's one constant: no matter how much bloodshed or corruption happens, it'll remain just as beautiful as ever. The Antiguan people know this, but only time will tell if the tourists and Mill Reef Clubbers figure it out, too.

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