A Small Place | Study Guide

Jamaica Kincaid

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A Small Place | Key Figure Analysis


Vere Cornwall Bird

Vere Cornwall Bird came to power as the leader of the Antigua Labour Party, which emerged in the 1940s to advocate for better wages and working conditions in Antigua. He presided over Antigua's transition from a sugar industry hub to a center for tourism. Bird's forceful personality and political platform led him to reelection in six five-year terms. Kincaid strongly implies that Bird keeps his power by covering up fraud and eliminating anyone who poses a threat. Antiguans compare him to George Washington, the first U.S. president, and to Jackie Presser, an American union leader imprisoned for fraud. Antiguans both admire Bird as a visionary leader and recognize him as a thief. He's "old and weak" at the time of Kincaid's writing, and likely to leave the government to one of his sons.

George Walter

George Walter belongs to the Progressive Labour Movement, a party opposing Bird's dominant Antigua Labour Party. Walter pushed for full Antiguan independence—a popular goal, but he struggled to keep the economy afloat. Kincaid mentions Antiguan hopes that Walter would bring "honesty, brilliance, and prosperity" to the nation, but instead Walter went to prison for fraud and Antigua was worse off than before.

Vere Cornwall Bird Jr.

Vere Cornwall Bird Jr. is the brother with less power, the one who loves "opulence and fun." Despite his education and business skills, he was nearly forced out of the cabinet by his more aggressive brother Lester. Bird Jr. was later fired after a weapons-related scandal.

Lester Bird

Lester Bird is the more powerful of the two brothers, described by Kincaid as "the ruthless son, the one who is not afraid of anything." Lester began to lead the Antigua Labour Party in 1976. He succeeded his father as Antigua's prime minister in 1994.

Francois Duvalier

Like V.C. Bird, Francois Duvalier ran on a populist platform and later developed a ruthless authoritarian leadership style, staying in power for 14 years. Kincaid compares Antiguan official Lester Bird's aggressive tendencies to Duvalier's in Haiti.

Jean-Claude Duvalier

Jean-Claude Duvalier succeeded his father as Haiti's prime minister in 1971. Though he was a more cooperative and lenient leader in some ways, Jean-Claude largely maintained his father's strict and corrupt leadership methods, and economic conditions in Haiti didn't improve. Kincaid compares one of Bird's sons to Jean-Claude, who led a "fun-filled life ... in his poverty-stricken country."

Maurice Bishop

Maurice Bishop overthrew the former leader of Grenada in a coup, promising radical change and democratic elections. American forces later captured and murdered Bishop. The United States then invaded Grenada. In Section 3 Kincaid examines the possibility a man like Bishop will rise to power in Antigua and die "at the hands of the Americans."

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