A Small Place – “You”

Kincaid address the reader, “you,” throughout A Small
Place, especially in the opening section, in which she describes the
vacation experience that a “typical” tourist would have in Antigua as well as
what this person doesn’t understand about this place. Kincaid’s “typical”
tourist is a white, middle-class person from Europe, the United States, or
Canada, with the attitudes and assumptions Kincaid thinks are common to those
with this background. The details of Antigua that Kincaid chooses to describe or
emphasize are those that, to her, would be most striking to a comfortable,
bourgeois, Western tourist. Kincaid characterizes “you” as basically
well-meaning but ignorant and somewhat callous. “You” have an ordinary life at
home, with people who love you. Your travels are motivated by boredom, and you
want to observe the lives of others in a beautiful place.
For “you,” everything about the lives of the Antiguans, from their clothes
to their personal habits, seems interesting and picturesque. What Kincaid wants
to emphasize is that the lives of these others will always be opaque to an
outsider, for whom they are part of the scenery of the “small place” they have
chosen to visit. “You” are bound to miss the significance of such things as the
noisy Japanese cars and the giant mansions. “You” are pleased that “your” trip
is unlikely to be ruined by rain—but don’t understand the difficulties caused
for the residents by a lack of fresh water. For Kincaid, however nice “you” may
be at home, “you” are ugly as long as “you” are a tourist—someone for whom the
poverty and labor of others are merely distractions from the boredom and
emptiness of “your” own existence.