Study Guide

A Small Place Language and Communication

Advertisement - Guide continues below

Language and Communication

There was a law against using abusive language. Can you imagine such a law among people for whom making a spectacle of yourself through speech is everything? (1.2)

First off, there's nothing worse than censorship. But there's an even deeper problem here—the British were completely unwilling to communicate with and understand the people they ruled.

When West Indians went to England, the police there had to get a glossary of bad West Indian words so they could understand whether they were hearing abusive language or not. (2.2)

What's the point of this? It's not like the cuss words would offend them if they couldn't understand what was being said. Something a little more insidious is going on here, if you ask us.

She told these girls over and over again to stop behaving as if they were monkeys just out of trees. No one ever dreamed that the word for any of this was racism. (2.3)

It's hard to define something when you don't have the right language for it. We already know that words can be used as a tool of oppression, but it turns out that a lack of words can be used for the same effect.

But what I see is the millions people, of whom I am just one, made orphans: no motherland, no fatherland, no gods, no mounds of earth for holy bring [...] and worst and most painful of all, no tongue. (2.3)

As a writer, Kincaid holds language above all else. So yeah, she might be a little biased. But language is an important part of any culture, as it holds all sorts of little echoes of the past within it.

For isn't it odd that the only language I have in which to speak of this crime in the language of the criminal who committed the crime? (2.3)

Think that colonialism isn't affecting Antigua today? Look no further than the fact that English is still the nation's official language if you want to disprove that thesis.

The language of the criminal can contain only the goodness of the criminal's deed. The language of the criminal can explain and express the deed only from the criminal's point of view. (2.3)

We don't want to get too heady, but the little intricacies of language have a way of shaping the way we think about things. The narrator wants to describe the many ways that her people have been wronged, but in the language of their oppressor, lacks the words to do so.

You loved knowledge and wherever you went you made sure to build a school, a library (yes, and in both of these places you distorted or erased my history and glorified your own. (2.6)

Sure, England loved reading, writing, and education, bringing that legacy wherever they went. But they used that intelligence to rewrite history, effectively changing the past through their mastery of language.

In Antigua today, most young people seem almost illiterate. On the airwaves, where they work as new personalities, they speak English as if it were their sixth language. (3.1)

If the narrator is nostalgic about anything related to the British, it's that they placed such an emphasis on language and communication. She sees the younger generation's poor communication skills as a harrowing sign for the future.

What surprised me most about them was not how familiar they were with the rubbish of North America […] but […] how unable they were to answer in a straight-forward way, and in their native tongue of English. (3.1)

To be honest, you could go to any high school in America and see similar things. There are many who argue that communication skills are some of the most important you can build—and they're getting rarer with each passing day.

In Antigua my mother is fairly notorious for her political options. She is almost painfully frank, quite unable to keep any thoughts she has about anything […] to herself. (3.1)

Like mom, like daughter, huh? In fact, it's not too much of a stretch to say that A Small Place is Kincaid's way of being as "painfully frank" as possible. Frankly, we wouldn't have it any other way.

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...