The Darkness Between and Idea and the Reality of the Idea in On Seeing England for the First Time

Categories: Jamaica Kincaid

Kincaid grows up in a place where England colonization had taken place, it’s called Antigua, a small island in the Caribbean. Since this island has been colonized, Kincaid and all the other children are taught all about England, a place they have never seen or been to. At an early age Kincaid started to realize that the English had taken over her culture. After many years the hatred for England accumulated, she had to see the place that had flipped her culture and ideas.

In On Seeing England for the First Time, Kincaid argues how the dominating presence of England in her childhood has caused hatred to become deeply rooted inside of her. Kincaid builds this claim by battling between her childhood idea of England versus the reality of England.

She utilizes metaphors in order to encapture her reader and to make them see what she saw. In the first paragraph she uses this metaphor, “England was a special jewel all right and only special people got to wear it” (p.

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209). It is right here that she sets the tone of the essay for her reader. Since her home was colonized, Kincaid feels as if she can never really fit in. She puts out the idea that some people, mainly herself aren’t special enough to put on this gem of England. The colonizers make Antigues people feel like they were not as good as the English. She allows the reader to place themselves in her shoes and see that when a place is colonized those who were there before get swept away into the assimilation of the new culture.

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She shows the reader through her eyes what it’s like to be the one that is isolated from being accepted into society. In doing this she makes a social appeal to anyone that has experienced colonization. Kincaid grew up under the rule of the colonizers from the British Empire. The British tried to instill the idea that England was a great and all-powerful nation into the minds of young Antiguans. By using parallelism and more formal diction, the author examines these ideas to explain to the reader what England inculcated in the colonies. An example of the applications of Kincaid's parallelism would be when she mentions the goods used in the colonies that were all made in England, and how it left the overwhelming knowledge that all that surrounded them was made in England, even to the values instilled in their lives; all but the ocean, the wind, and the air they breathed. It offers readers a sense of what is driving Kincaid to harbor such resentments and contempt towards Britain once it has come to understand that it is true nature.

When Kincaid is discussing her experiences in the classroom the theme of her discontent shines through. At the end of her paragraph Kincaid states “Because no test we would ever take would be complete without this statement: “Draw a map of England.” Seeing this statement at the end of every test is a reminder to Kincaid of the oppression her people have faced as well all things she hates about England. The colonizers forcing the assimilated students into doing this makes them think that they don’t belong in England. She poses the idea that she has been forced to not only memorize the geography and lifestyle of England, but to adore it so much, has imposed on her own ideals, resulting in an identity shaped solely around English expectations. Although Kincaid sees England in the classroom for the first time, English society is all around her, even in her house. Every morning before she leaves for school, Kincaid describes eating 'a half-grapefruit breakfast, a bowl of porridge oat, bread and butter, a slice of cheese, and a cup of cocoa.' Even with the food she eats, Kincaid shows how the English lifestyle closely links back to her life. The long summary of her typical morning meal mocks the lavish lifestyle of English and shows that their culture strongly influences her life.

In the second part of the story Kincaid's language changes, she is speaking with a more intellectual dialect which tells us we are in a different time of her life. We find that Kincaid is older and has had many more experiences which allows for her to look back and reflect on her time in school and compare it to where she is now. While explaining to the reader the difference between idea and reality she writes “when at last I saw it I wanted to take it in my hands and tear it into little pieces and then crumble it up' (p.217). It is at this point Kincaid starts to explain the meaning of seeing in the first part and the second part of her story. When she was younger she saw only her own idea of England from her colonized classroom which caused built up hatred for England and its culture. Not until she was an adult could Kincaid, filled with a history of resentment and hatred, visit England for the first time, 'could only indulge in not-favorable opinions.' Kincaid explains England's reality based on her own experience there by using personal anecdotes from the time she spent there. She describes the people as being so pale that it ‘made them look so fragile, so weak, so ugly’, and her wish to be able to banish them from their own land and put them in the role of their ancestors and other colonial communities. Kincaid often portrays Britain's people as arrogant, with their only real common ground being their hatred for immigrants like her; giving the audience a sense of hostility to Kincaid because of where she came from and the connection between her home and England. Kincaid growing up with the idea of hating England has pushed the gap between idea and reality together. Due to the hatred of England that was built from her childhood, Kincaid's hatred for the idea of England turned into her ultimate feelings of England when she arrives.

Kincaid suggests that England's powerful influence has played a detrimental role in her life throughout her youth. Kincaid Metaphors are strategically intertwined in order to grab her reader and make them understand what she saw as well as the battle to create this perception of England, how the reality and ideas interact to create this inner hatred. Kincaid's vision was affected from early on in her childhood, she takes readers on a trip to remind them of England's 'reality' which dominated her lifestyle and inhibited her natural growing culture. When she finally sees how the England influence has affected her she begins to hate anything remotely related to England. She had spent so long as a child filling up the unknown with hatred that when she finally has the opportunity to explore England it hinders her entire experience.

Updated: Feb 22, 2024
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The Darkness Between and Idea and the Reality of the Idea in On Seeing England for the First Time. (2024, Feb 16). Retrieved from

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