Study Guide

A Small Place Chapter 3

By Jamaica Kincaid

Chapter 3

  • The narrator is standing outside the new library, which is actually just a small, disorganized space above a dry goods store. As mentioned earlier, the old Antigua Library has been waiting for repairs for over a decade.
  • The old library is currently occupied by a traveling carnival called "'Angels From the Realm'" (3.1).
  • The narrator visits a woman from the Mill Reef Club to ask for donations to rebuild the library. The woman, in mega-condescending fashion, tells her that it's not going to happen because the area is being turned into a tourist district. Hmmm…
  • The narrator's mother was a political activist herself, once standing up to a government official involved in a shady stamp scam. The official was issuing stamps to a small, uninhabited island and taking the money for himself.
  • According to the narrator, people who live "in a small place" like Antigua "cannot see themselves in the larger picture" (3.2). She uses this idea to explain Antiguans' still-powerful emotions regarding slavery and emancipation.
  • This concept leads to some cruel ironies—Antiguans rail against slavery yet celebrate "a school that teaches Antiguans how to be good servants" (3.4) without seeing the connection between the two.
  • This also leads them to also turn a blind eye toward government corruption. For example, the aforementioned Japanese cars are sold by the aforementioned Middle-Eastern immigrant family—oh yeah, and partially financed by the government.
  • In fact, there's a great deal of tension between Antiguans and the wealthy Middle Eastern immigrants who now own a good portion of the country's real estate.
  • Oddly, they're looked at with more distrust than Europeans or Americans, despite the fact that both of those two groups have been doing harm to Antigua for generations. This tension even leads, in some cases, to violence.
  • Government officials—when not being assassinated by each other—don't seem to care about anything. After all, they're all "legal residents of the United States" (3.7) and can just take a flight out if things get too crazy.
  • The government has been run by the same party (the Antigua Trades and Labour Union), and the same man, for all but five years of its independence. That's never a good sign.
  • Antiguans have mixed feelings about the man: Sometimes he seems like a liberator, sometimes he seems like a gangster, and sometimes he seems like a tyrant. Sounds like a winner.

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