Annie John | Study Guide

Jamaica Kincaid

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Course Hero. "Annie John Study Guide." Course Hero. 2 Oct. 2017. Web. 9 Dec. 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Annie-John/>.

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Course Hero. (2017, October 2). Annie John Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved December 9, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Annie-John/

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Course Hero. "Annie John Study Guide." October 2, 2017. Accessed December 9, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Annie-John/.

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Course Hero, "Annie John Study Guide," October 2, 2017, accessed December 9, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Annie-John/.

Annie John | Chapter 5 : Columbus in Chains | Summary

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Summary

Annie has been doing so well in school she has been made prefect, a job she finds entertaining, given that she has some of the worst behavior in her class. The second chair is a girl named Hilarene, whom Annie loathes as "a disgusting model of good behavior." Annie revels in her position as first chair, particularly because she doesn't have to study very hard to outperform the rest of her class. During lectures one afternoon Annie begins daydreaming about a white student's opinion of race relations in Antigua versus her own and completely misses that the teacher has addressed her. At this point Annie has flipped ahead in the history book and been examining a picture of Christopher Columbus under which she has written, "The Great Man Can No Longer Just Get Up And Go," when Miss Edwards shouts Annie's name. When Miss Edwards realizes that Annie has not only defaced her history book but defaced an image of Christopher Columbus, "one of the great men in history," she snaps. She sends Annie to the head mistress and revokes her prefect position. Distraught, Annie returns home in search of comfort from her parents, but they don't notice she's upset. Annie's mother serves rice, and after the meal Annie discovers it was actually breadfruit, which she hates. Outraged by the deception, Annie thinks, "It was as if my mother had suddenly turned into a crocodile."

Analysis

This chapter directly presents the effects of colonization in Antigua. According to British history books, Christopher Columbus discovered Antigua, which eventually allowed for British colonization. On the surface colonization modernized "primitive" Antiguan culture, as witnessed in Antiguan children's wearing starched British uniforms, pledging allegiance to the British flag, and learning a British curriculum in school. Underneath, however, colonization benefitted Britain and created a social system that destroyed indigenous culture and pushed most native (black) Antiguans into poverty. The British school system praises Columbus as a god, but Annie revels in a picture of Columbus's being sent back to Spain in much the same way Africans were brought to Antigua as slaves—in chains. Pleased that Columbus has been punished for his role in slavery, Annie writes "The Great Man Can No Longer Just Get Up and Go" under his picture. Miss Edwards, who represents British colonialism and therefore considers Columbus to be a god, calls Annie's sarcastic commentary "blasphemy." As punishment she forces Annie to transcribe Paradise Lost, John Milton's epic poem about Lucifer's fall from heaven. This punishment involves situational irony on two levels: first, Antiguans lost their own paradise when the British arrived. Second, Annie has lost her personal paradise—her close relationship with her mother—as she has aged. At the end of the chapter Annie hopes to reclaim a bit of that paradise by telling her mother about her embarrassment at school; not only does her mother ignore Annie, she deceives her into eating a food she hates. Annie knows her paradise has been lost.

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