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A Role of Jamaica Kincaid in On Seeing England For The First Time

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Jamaica Kincaid

In the essay “On Seeing England for the First Time”, Jamaica Kincaid creates an increasingly spiteful tone describing the effect of English colonization on her home, the Caribbean island of Antigua. Kincaid displays this attitude using figurative language that reveals the prevalent and her personal opinions regarding England. Kincaid develops this escalating resentment by cataloging various items that reflects the presence of England in Antigua. The attitude finally shifts into largely resentful as a result of diction changes and parallelism.

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Kincaid begins by describing the physical representation of England on her school desk as a child. She describes the map directly as “…very beautiful jewel”. However, Kincaid backs out of this seemingly favorable view using the simile “like a leg of mutton”to describe England once again. This is the first statement to shatter the reader’s perception of Kincaid’s attitude possibly being satisfactory towards England. Kincaid then declares that England’s presence is omnipresent to the point of intrusion. Kincaid employs various figurative statements to create contrast on how she was told to regard England approvingly; however she disagrees that England is akin to “Jerusalem”. This allows readers to understand that her developing attitude towards England is leaning in favor of distaste of it’s presence, describing the situation as “meaningless” towards their “own lives” in favor of the English.

Afterwards, Kincaid describes her typical English breakfast before her school day, sarcastically stating that she is”very familiar with the greatness of it”, the precedent being England. She then extensively catalogues both her school attire and her father’s outfit, with large anaphora of the phrase “made in England”. The function of the catalogues throughout the segment emphasizes the impact England leaves on Antigua and it’s citizens. Kincaid’s obvious detestment is evident as she then reveals her dislike of breakfast but continues the habit of eating in the morning despite it, for the sake that it was, once again “made in England”. Kincaid’s spiteful tone continues to evolve as she expresses that England was “almost everything else that surrounded us, the exceptions being the sea, the sky, and the air we breathed.”

Finally, Kincaid’s bitter tone is finalized. She begins this portion with parallelism in respect to the phrase “seeing England for the first time”. Afterwards, Kincaid then discusses the negative impact England has on her homeland, naming her father as a “very vain man” due to his urgency to wear the English-style hat that has no function in Antigua. She also embarks on her failure to assimilate to the English culture by describing her dismissal of silverware on the dinner table despite her mother’s approval of when she does use such tools in her company. Kincaid follows this by once again repeating the statement “Draw a map of England”, and how it represents to her “something far worse than a declaration of war”. She reiterates her opinion using diction such as “conquered” to describe the entirety of England’s attempt to erase their culture. Kincaid openly shows her resentful attitude towards England by not only her diction choice but by her creating a straightforward distaste of England in the essay that has only been hinted at upon this point through small defiance and various remarks. In addition, her statement towards her parents show this unwillingness to become a part of the English culture also leads to an overall more apparent hatred of England that Kincaid owns. Kincaid concludes with “what a blessing it was that I was unable to draw a map of England correctly.”

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