Novelist Jamaica Kincaid Fight Against Imperialist Power

You are too young to even comprehend any of the information I am going to tell you. Hopefully when you are older you can look back at this and grasp what I will teach you. I want to teach you this first because that’s what big sisters are for. You might not be aware or have interest in what has occurred in our past history, but I feel like you should be informed because you are an American citizen and you should know about the history of the country in which you live in.

For a long time the United States has played the role of the imperialist. They have ruined many independent countries by the abuse of their jurisdiction and their disruption of peace in these foriegn lands. You may be asking yourself “Why? What is the purpose of doing it?” This is a fairly easy answer, it starts with the simplicity of wanting money and power. Power over foreign countries.

I don’t only want to hold the U.S responsible for this because they are not the only ones that have committed this crime. Crime? Yes, a crime. An immoral crime in which one side benefits and one side loses.

Novelist Jamaica Kincaid wrote a book called A Small Place in which she discusses the issues with tourists about colonization in her country Antigua. Although Jamaica Kincaid was able to successfully explain the initial struggle of the Antiguans in her book, she failed to address how the Antiguans could fight the imperialist power and overthrow them.

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Imperialism has disrupted their culture and changed their way of living. The imperialists stripped the people of their independence and totally removed all the authority away from the Antiguans of the land. The ideology of imperialism is to obtain a political and economic monopoly over the foreign country and satisfy the imperialist interest. Imperialism seems like a policy that can’t be prevented but that is only because the Antiguans undergo the sense that they have no more power to do so.

“… The Earthquake Antigua got its independence from Britain, making Antigua a state in its own right, and Antiguans are so proud of this that each year, to mark the day, they go to church and thank God, a British God, for this.”(Kincaid 9).

Kincaid’s sarcastic tone is used to hide the initial issue of what is happening in Antigua. Antigua was imperialized by the British which means that the British now have control over them. The Antiguans served the British because they were colonized and Antigua was no longer owned by the Antiguans. The word “independence” in this quote is quite ironic because Antigua has not received any form of independence. Britain has taken authority over Antigua, so they are under Britain’s rule, making Antigua not independent. Kincaid persumes to say that the Antiguans thanked a “British God ” for their independence, but why would they thank the enemy? Why are they thanking a God that doesn’t even reside with their culture? The Antiguans were brainwashed into serving the European culture because the British enforced it. They got used to following the way of the British, as Kincaid later mentions in the book the natives start celebrating holidays that they never celebrated before. Such as celebrating famous people from Britain to honor them. This explains why at the end of the quote the Antiguans celebrate a British God instead of their God because the colonization has shifted their culture.

Imperialists have taken over the Antiguans’ lives and led them to do all the work. They have the people under a spell that is unbreakable. The natives were promised help with their unstable government so they can be able to self-govern, but they did not receive any help. The imperialists came to “aid” and leave once they were stable but they never left. They took advantage of a vulnerable country and saw it as an opportunity to make it their own.

Does this sound familiar? When the United States imperialized Cuba in 1898, Cuba was already trying to get a hold of their independence from Spain then the U.S helped Cuba get free from Spain just to take control over them. Cuba was put through distress and devastation because the United States took control of everything Cuba had, such as utilities, ranches, the cuban mines, and their sugar industry. The United States took over Cuba’s economy, they were not trying to help Cuba anymore it was a selfish desire in which Cuba was doing all the work to help the enemy get money. “…identify tourists’ self-interest by noting that they are not constitutionally unable to perceive complex issues, nor are they unable to locate themselves within different socio-political systems”(Gauch,1). People only help others if they are going to benefit from it. Everything is done out of self-interest, the intention is never to help but to gain.

“… hardly any idea what to do with themselves now, that they no longer have one quarter of the earth’s human population bowing and scraping before them… so everywhere they went they turned it into England; and everybody they met they turned English”(Kincaid 23-24).

Kincaid demonstrates the results of imperialism, showing how the independence of Antigua was taken away and how the Antiguans now serve the higher leader, which are the British. The aftermath of imperialism is described as “turned into England” meaning that the country before Europeans invaded no longer exists, it might physically be there but the culture is gone. The British have so much power that they imperialized so many foreign countries to do everything for them and work under their domination, “scraping before them”. Additionally, the Europeans have corrupted and overtaken so many cultures that many different foreign countries follow the European guidance and look up and serve them. “Yet the narrator points out that Antiguans eventually felt obliged to refashion themselves in accordance with the self-representations of the English.

That image, though at odds with the behavior of the English on the island, henceforth became the model, the standard of measure, of humanity”.(Gauch,1). The Antiguans had to change their whole culture to fit the social norms of the English. Their culture slowly started to disappear while the Europeans secured more power. The Antiguans adrifted from their self-identity. The Europeans believe that they are causing no harm but in reality the Antiguans feel the complete opposite. The Antiguans lost their identity and shielded it with the English culture. Just like the people in Antigua, the same undertaking in Cuba was happening. The United States had imperialized many other countries such as Hawaii and the Philippines. The United States turned the people of these countries into their little minions. While the people suffered while crying out for help, the United States ignored their problem and turned them “English”.

Imperialism is not the only role that is taking place in the disruption of Antigua or any other country in general. Racism plays a crucial part because that is where every factor of imperialism is rooted from. Imperialism was able to be carried out successfully because of the history of slavery that started between white people and African Americans.White people have always had the power to take over anyone without consent. White people always feel entitled to do as they please because of their skin color. Society has made white people feel superior in every aspect of their life. Ever since the Manifest Destiny in the 19th century, white people have justified their actions by saying that God gave them the authority to be superior and above everyone else, they believed that it was their God given right to obtain control and power over other countries.

In Jamaica Kincaid’s book, she makes allusions back to slavery because it is a time she will never forget and a grudge she will forever hold against white people. In Kincaid’s words, “Do you ever try to understand why people like me cannot get over the past, cannot forgive and cannot forget?”(Kincaid 26). When Kincaid says, “the past” it represents slavery and all the hardships that people of color were put through. They were dehumanized and treated like lesser humans for many years, they were dominated by white people with no sign of escape. It was years of torture and trauma. Innocents were killed for no reason, all due to their skin color. It was a time in history that no one can forget, and there is only one race to blame. When she says “people like me” she is referring to people of color. There will forever be tension between white and blacks. Racism is the root to slavery. Society draws a line between races, it discriminates and belittles African Americans and gives white people the feeling to have the right to harm and discriminate African Americans.

On the other hand, Kincaid does not only hold the Europeans responsible for being able to attain so much domination over Antigua, Kincaid also blames the Antiguans for allowing it to happen. She knows that so much more could have been done to prevent Antigua from getting to the point where they lose their culture. She provides a way as to which the people of Antigua could fight the imperialist. Although the Europeans are the ones at fault, the Antiguans aren’t innocent either. According to Postcolonial Studies: “…Kincaid expresses her anger both at the colonists and at the Antiguans for failing to fully achieve their independence. She feels that Antiguans failed to adopt the positive aspects of colonialism, for instance a good educational system which might help the population to improve their lives.”(Dorsey,1).

Throughout the book Kincaid keeps an angry tone towards the colonists for taking over Antigua and their culture. She is also mad at her people because they did nothing to prevent this from occurring or they didn’t fight it. They didnt do anything to improve themselves. Kincaid’s love for books and literature shows how she cares and values education. When the library was never rebuilt by the government she starts to reminisce about her childhood and how she basically grew up surrounded by books, she starts to feel bad because she knows that the children in Antigua will never get to experience or obtain the education she did. The word “improve” suggests that there are ways that the Antiguans could have dealt with the colonization that was going on. Instead of allowing Antigua to turn to the worst due to imperialism, they could have used that opportunity to benefit and ameliorate from what is happening in Antigua.

Kincaid states a great deal of complaints about the government and their financial issues but she provides no solution other than achieving an education. The issue with the library implies and reveals many more issues within the country other than lack of education: “Kincaid describes the pervasiveness of corruption in post-colonial political and economic life and ascribes it as a habit well learnt from the colonial regimes…”(Higher Education,1). Due to colonization there are several other factors that corrupt the government that Kincaid does not provide a solution for, such the mass poverty that Antigua is facing. Poverty affects their housing, health, and banking. Antiguans have no access to the resources that they need and the government is not helping them either. The government is racist which is why I believe that they are not assisting, they are allowing the social and economic life of the Antiguans to degenerate: “The racism which was and is suffered by the people of Antigua is very vividly portrayed and she articulates her personal hun with emotion.

The distinctions which pervade social and economic life on the island and the sense of loss she feels as a person denied her history and language are communicated effectively.”(Higher Education). Kincaid feels like the Antiguans have long had the intimacy they had with Antigua after the Europeans colonized it. She feels like the history of Antigua has been shunned away and repainted with the European story. The story of Antigua is slowly fading away, they no longer have a piece of Antigua to hold on to. The word “loss” is significant because it explains how the Antiguans feel on their own land, they feel like strangers on a land in which they grew up. She no longer feels connected to her land or it’s history. She does not recognize the beauty she used to see in her country: “It is as if, then, the beauty–the beauty of the sea, the land, the air, the trees, the market, the people, the sounds they make–were a prison…” (Kincaid, 79). The Europeans have financially trapped the Antiguans in a place they thought was home. Kincaid compares Antigua to a prison which shifts her whole view on how she saw Antigua before they were colonized. Antigua is no longer how it used to be to the Antiguans. The use of juxtaposition between “beauty” and “prison” signifies that she no longer feels the love and intimacy for her country after the colonization because it was no longer the same.

Imperialism starts to become a long term prison when the people start to realize that there is nothing they can do to dominate the higher supremacy. The country begins to lose hope and does not even try to resist the orders of the imperialist. They begin to feel oppressed with no other choice but to obey, they are in no position to defend themselves anymore. The Europeans are tyrants, they took over without the consent of the Antiguans. They committed horrible crimes and they were not stopped for it. Europeans harmed these foreign territories and left them with nothing. The English Daily in Bangladesh shares the idea that slavery didn’t really end: “Eventually the coloniser master departed and the colonised slaves were freed. But, in fact, Kincaid believes that the old masters are appearing in a new way and new masters are emerging. She calls her country men to reclaim their freedom from western domination and subjugation.”(English Daily,1). Although the slaves were freed and slavery was put to an end, Kincaid still feels like slavery is still going on and it never ended because the people of Antigua still serve white people and still work for them. They follow the European’s orders and respect them although the Europeans do not do the same. It is a one-sided relationship where the Europeans always benefit and the African Americans gain nothing.

I understand that I just overwhelmed you with an abundance of information that may have seemed confusing at first. My beloved little sister, this information is crucial to obtain because to live in America, the history of imperialism might not be taught the same way I have taught you. Why? Because America will never make themselves look like the bad guy even if they truly are. Imperialism might be presented in a completely different way than what it actually is. No imperialist is going to tell you what they actually did to capture a country because then it would depict them as being cruel or too harsh.You will read many history books that will go back and forth on who is to blame, and your duty is to best interpret who is at the wrong in the situation and act upon it, so that one day you’ll be able to teach and guide your kids the same way I’m doing with you. You will start to realize that in history there are always two sides to every story but not every side is justified. History is a puzzle that you will put together and when you do you will finally get the full picture. People will want to change it which is why you must learn how to defend it, but you have the ability to write your own history and interpret the world as you see fits. It is important that you love people for who they are and not what they look like, a lesson that many have yet to learn.

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Novelist Jamaica Kincaid Fight Against Imperialist Power. (2022, Feb 07). Retrieved from

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