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On Seeing England for the First Time Essay

In this essay titled, On Seeing England for the First Time Jamaica Kincaid subtly argues that England’s vain dominating presence, produced from the common admiration for England, played a negative role in her life. Kincaid develops this claim of England by battling the reality of England versus her childhood idea of England. Since this is the beginning of her work not only is the purpose to entice the reader but to also inform them of the “reality” of England which conquered her lifestyle and inhibited her natural growing culture. Kincaid writes in a serious, somber tone for people who also feel dominated by England or another culture. Questions for Discussion: 1. What is ironic about the author’s words, “Seeing England for the First Time” is that in reality neither is she really looking at England nor is this her first encounter with England. The author is only looking at a map of England, not the people or lively culture. Also, the author describes throughout the paragraphs the huge role of England in her life. Including the presence at her family breakfast table and most importantly the relationship between her father and his English hat.

2. In paragraph four Kincaid’s words, “I had long ago been conquered” refers to the huge and dominating role of England in her life. Where as the people in her life constantly regard England Jensen 2 as the highest of the high and the source of all final judgment in her life. The large presence and highly regarded culture of another country in her own land hinders Kincaid in a dominating way, making her feel unimportant and small. 3. The authors talks largely about the British influence in her life, especially in regard to marketable items. In paragraph two Kincaid talks about her family breakfast and the many foods which come from England. The most basic parts of her, her shoes, her clothes, and her father’s clothes all contain the words, “Made in England.”

Questions on Rhetoric and Style: 1. The use of parallelism in Kincaid’s excerpt is prominent and helps argue her point of the beautiful versus ugly, or more specifically, the reality versus ideal part of Europe. For example, “England was a special jewel all right, and only special people got to wear it.” This lets the reader see England as a special place, but then author takes it back as a conceited statement. 2. The mutton simile produces an ungraceful image of England. However, when she retracts that same simile by saying, “It could not really look like anything so familiar…” this makes the reader question as to why she would compare England to something as brute and ungraceful as an animal leg and then retract it saying that mutton is too familiar. This produces a confusing image of a country that looks better than it really is. 3. The use of listing can be seen in paragraph two when talking about her breakfast and clothes. In this listing she talks without passion or a personal opinion which makes the reader stop and grabs their attention. The use of listing, since there is no passion, also gives it a somber tone and sort of power of knowledge.


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