Study Guide

Annie John Chapter 5

By Jamaica Kincaid

Chapter 5

Columbus in Chains

  • Annie places first in a history lesson and is appointed "prefect" of the class by her teacher, Miss Edward.
  • The second place student is the sexton's daughter Hilarene, who Annie strongly dislikes.
  • Ruth, the minister's daughter from England, rarely answers Miss Edward's questions correctly and often has to wear the dunce cap.
  • We learn that Gwen is one of ten children, but Annie vows to "love only her, since her mother already had so many other people to love" (5.3). Gwen's father forbids her from joining the junior choir because he doesn't want her to walk home late at night.
  • Ruth doesn't know the answer to the question about when Columbus discovered Dominica. Annie thinks that Ruth doesn't know the answers because she is from England and doesn't want to be in the West Indies. "Perhaps she wanted to be in England, where no one would remind her constantly of the terrible things her ancestors had done; perhaps she had felt even worse when her father was a missionary in Africa" (5.5).
  • Annie notes that though they are the descendants of slaves, they still celebrate Queen Victoria's birthday, "even though she had been dead a long time" (5.5).
  • Since Annie is working ahead of her classmates, she stumbles upon a color picture of Columbus' third voyage called "Columbus in Chains" which depicts Columbus chained at the bottom of the ship. After hearing her mother describe her ailing grandfather, Pa Chess, saying, "'The Great Man Can No Longer Just Get Up and Go,'" she writes this phrase on the bottom of the Columbus picture in Old English lettering.
  • Story-within-a-story alert! Annie briefly relates the time Miss Edward scolded her for dancing during recess with the other girls instead of engaging in "ladylike recreation" (5.7). Also, Miss Edward discovered the girls in their secret alcove in the back of the churchyard near the tombstones where they were singing forbidden songs and exploring their bodies. Miss Edward walked Annie home and told her mother about the activities and she was punished.
  • Miss Edward gets pretty miffed in response to Annie's unauthorized inscription under the Columbus picture. Annie is sent to the office of Miss Moore, the headmistress where she is "ordered to copy Books I and II of Paradise Lost, by John Milton" (5.9).
  • Annie hopes that her mother will intuitively know what a lousy day she's had. Alas, her mother does not read her mind. In fact, she is engrossed in conversation with her father and even tricks her into eating her least favorite food, breadfruit. When her mother laughs at this, Annie describes her as a "crocodile" (5.11).

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