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Jamaica Kincaid's Seeing England for The First Time: Summary

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Jamaica Kincaid's Seeing England for The First Time: Summary Essay

First of all, I want to start by introducing the author. Jamaica Kincaid was born in Antigua in 1949. In my opinion, she is, with others, an incredibly talented novelist, essayist and gardener. She currently lives in the United States, in Vermont. She has written about thirty books to date and has received several awards since 1984.

In the satirical essay, “On Seeing England for the First Time” (1991), Jamaica Kincaid describes her spiteful attitude towards Britain by displaying the effects of colonialism on her island and family. She illuminates the effects colonialism by using sarcastic language to distinguish between the brainwashing of her people and her thoughts on the matter, caricatures to display her loved ones’ actions from the British, and also symbolism and metaphors to exemplify her attacking Britain. She exaggerates in order to show how England treats the people versus how they should be treated. This message is to inspire the Antiguan residents who have been “Made in England” that they need to embrace their own culture.

Kincaid depicts her people she grew up with through caricatures to inspire them to rebel against British assimilation and return to their roots. She desires Antiguans to realize how ridiculous they are by conforming to the British. She presents her father as one of the men who have sacrificed their ability to think for themselves. Pointing out the weather, which is a “hot climate,” but her father insists to wear a hat that is ‘’not [made of] proper material’’ to provide shade from the sun. Ultimately, her father wants to be an Englishman wearing a fancy hat that is the “the last thing” that he will take off. Failing to realize the logical use of such a hat. Kincaid’s portrayal of her father reveals the destructive nature of British culture and her hunger to rebel. She likewise reinforces her desire to resist the British by recounting how her Mother enforced British manners at mealtimes. Kincaid discloses how she enjoyed her food more with her bare hands, but that her mother took pride in the times she ate the British way. Kincaid’s ridicule of her mother’s religious adherence to British manners develops her feelings of disgust and desire to incite rebellion.

Kincaid utilizes metaphors and allusions to attack Britain’s vile effects of colonialism on not only her people, but anyone who has been under colonialism. Growing up on Antigua, Kincaid further claims that only natural born British area “special jewel”, but whereas colonists are not. Such a jewel was worn by the English as badge of honor, “in jungles, in deserts, on plains, on top of the highest mountains.” However, not so for the poor brainwashed people who were colonized. Her teacher then acts as if Britain is Jerusalem as it is a, “place you will go to when you die but only if you have been good”. By alluding to the crusades, Kincaid reinforces how that all the “true” English already get the “privilege” to die there. However, the colonists must earn the right to be English. Kincaid further alludes that the people don’t need the right to become British, they want to be their own people.

Kincaid has so much disgust in Britain that she even changes her British sounding name,”Elaine Cynthia Potter Richardson,” to Jamaica Kincaid as another means of attacking Britain in her own personal life. She does this not only to attack the British, but to inspire the colonists who have been reared in such a condition where they can’t even embrace their culture. If a woman that grew in poverty grew up to become such a writer and influence not only in Antigua, but in the USA, anyone can rise up against the terrors of colonialism.

Kincaid’s usage of sarcastic language, metaphors and allusions, and caricature in her essay to convey her disdain at Britain’s horrible actions towards her country, Antigua, and all of the other countries, including America, that have faced the iron grip of the “Special Jewel.” In the end, the world must move past colonialism and work with everyone equally while embracing everyone’s culture and practices.

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Jamaica Kincaid’s Seeing England for The First Time: Summary. (2022, February 16). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 5, 2023, from
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