Study Guide

A Small Place Foreignness and 'The Other'

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Foreignness and 'The Other'

Since you are a tourist, the thought of what it might be like for someone who had to live […] in a place that suffers constantly from drought […] must never cross your mind. (1.1)

When it comes to Antigua, the things that tourists love are the same things that make it difficult to live there. This disregard for the harsh realities of Antiguan life "others," or dismisses, the Antiguan people.

You are feeling wonderful, so you say, "Oh, what a marvelous change these bad roads are from the splendid highways I am used to in North America." (1.2)

These impoverished conditions are seen as quaint and charming by tourists… But why? Don't they realize that Antiguans would much prefer to have a state-of-the-art highway system, like the U.S.?

The thing you have always suspected about yourself the minute you become a tourist is true: A tourist is an ugly human being. (1.5)

The tourist is not bad until s/he becomes a tourist—that is, it's only the actions of the tourist that are immoral. Later, Kincaid makes it clearer when she explains that the only good British people are the ones that stayed home.

Their ancestors were not as clever in the way yours were and not ruthless in the way yours were, for then would it not be you who would be in harmony with nature and backwards in that charming way? (1.5)

This attitude is surprisingly common in wealthy countries like the U.S. This belief—though patently false—is a way for people to make themselves feel less guilty that they have so much, while others have so little.

A ugly thing, that us what you are when you become a tourist, an ugly, empty thing [...] and it will never occur to you that the people who inhabit the place in which you have paused cannot stand you. (1.5)

Nobody likes a tourist—it doesn't matter if they're visiting Florida, New York City, or a small island like Antigua. Why would you like someone who takes over your hometown with little regard for you as a person?

That the native does not like the tourist is not hard to explain. For every native of every place is a potential tourist, and every tourist is a native of somewhere. (1.6)

Let's put it like this: Would it be right for a rich person to come into the house of a poor person and watch them all day just because? That would be pretty rude, if you ask us, and we're thinking Kincaid agrees.

Every native everywhere lived a life of overwhelming and crushing banality and boredom and desperation and depression, and every deed, good or bad, is an attempt to forget this. (1.6)

Kincaid teases the tourist for living a boring life, but most people in general live boring lives. The only difference between "tourists" and "natives" is a bank account big enough to fund vacations.

They should have never left their home, their precious England, a place they loved so much […] And so everywhere they went they turned it into England; and everybody they met they turned English. (2.1)

The roots of this conflict can be traced back to the years of colonial rule. The Brits were the original tourists—the only difference being that they weren't interested in going back home once their vacation was done.

There must have been some good people among you, but they stayed home. And that is the point. That is why they are good. They stayed home. (2.6)

Although Kincaid gets a lot of flak for her uncompromising tone, she makes it clear that she doesn't hate people from the West—just those who would invade someone else's home and try to make it their own.

The Syrians and Lebanese are called "those foreigners" even though most of them have acquired Antiguan citizenship. (3.6)

The growing presence of Middle Easterners in Antigua illustrates the often contradictory notion of the "other." Although Europeans have caused more harm to Antigua than any other group, their familiarity makes them seem more trustworthy than these new immigrants.

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