Study Guide

A Small Place Power

By Jamaica Kincaid

Power

You may be the sort of tourist who would wonder why a Prime Minister would want an airport named after him—why not a school, why not a hospital, why not some great public monument? (1.1)

In case you're still wondering, allow us to clear this one up: The Prime Minister of Antigua doesn't care about schools and hospitals because tourists won't see that kind of stuff. Immediately we can tell that the Antiguan government doesn't have its citizens' best interests at heart.

If you were to ask why you would be told that the banks are encouraged by the government to make loans available for cars, but loans for houses not so easily available. (1.2)

Again, we see how the government uses its power not to help Antiguans, but to gain the respect (and money) of foreigners. And that's not even mentioning the fact that the government gets its cut on each one of these loans. Shady stuff.

Of course, I know see that good behavior is the proper posture of the weak, of children. (2.3)

Despite their obvious oppression, the Antiguan people seem unwilling to rock the boat. Kincaid is fed up with that kind of "good behavior"—after all, she's writing this book.

You took things that were not yours […] You murdered people. You imprisoned people. You robbed people. You opened your own banks and you put our money in them. (2.6)

With this in mind, is it really so surprising that the Antiguan government is corrupt? Antigua is a country founded on the abuse of power, and that's one tradition that'll take some time to fade away.

You will forget your part in the whole setup, that bureaucracy is one of your inventions, that Gross National Product is one of your inventions, and all the laws that you know mysteriously favour you. (2.6)

Kincaid sees the globalized economy as a way for the powerful to abuse the powerless. It's hard to disagree, especially when she has examples like the slave traders-turned-bankers Barclay brothers.

What sort of place has Antigua become that the people from the Mill Reef Club are allowed a say in anything? (3.1)

In Antigua, money can buy power. It doesn't matter if you don't live in Antigua, and it doesn't matter if you don't like the Antiguan people. The only thing that matters are dollar signs.

The government then declares that only that company can be licensed to import the commodity that the business sells; great effort goes into concealing who the owners of these businesses are. (3.6)

While there's plenty of systematic discrimination within Antigua, there's also plenty of run-of-the-mill racketeering and corruption. Instead of helping hard-working Antiguans rise up the social ladder, government officials choose to line their own pockets.

The ministers, the people who govern the island of Antigua, who are also citizens of Antigua, are legal residents of the United States, a place they visit frequently. (3.7)

Do you think America would be cool with a president who lived in Canada? Would Brazil be cool if a congressperson was also a citizen of, say, China? Then why is it okay here?

In Antigua, people say that the man who has headed the government for twenty-five years perhaps by now thinks that the government of Antigua is his own business. (3.8)

Listen: There's no way you can turn a government into a family affair and not have things go awry. Things might be okay for a generation or two, but it's only a matter of time until you end up picking a bad apple.

All masters of every stripe are rubbish and all slaves of every stripe are noble and exalted; there can be no question about this. (4.2)

Isn't that the truth? But there's a harsh undercurrent beneath this sentiment—that those same people who were forced into slavery still remain oppressed even a hundred some-odd years later.