Antigua and Barbuda: Rejected Before Birth in Repetition

Life moves at a slow pace on the island of Antigua, where Mr. Potter lives. He’s an illiterate taxi driver, father of many kids he is indifferent to, and a son of a father who left him before he was born. A non-existing father-daughter relationship, and a sad story all in all, is what can be said about Jamaica Kincaid’s Mr. Potter. The narrator is Elaine Potter Richardson, whose father, Roderick Potter, never had or wanted to have anything to do with her. A childhood of rejections, for both father and daughter. This story is about Mr. Potter. Mr. Potter was his name.

I can honestly say that I really don’t much care for repetition. This book is all about repetition. It really annoys me when the same thing is repeated over and over again. I mean, how many times do you really need to repeat sentences like  “Mr. Potter was my father, my father’s name was Mr. Potter”, and “… May (for that was her name, May”? To some it might give the story a lyrical cling, or a more poetic prose, but to me it is simply irritating. The other thing that bothers me are the overly long sentences, which can be up to a half page long.

Hauntingly sad and emotionally distant. Works for both the story and the father-daughter relationship. It is actually more her story, than the story about her father. This is not a conventional novel, or novella, but the subjects of rejection, growing up without a father, and not getting answers to questions you don’t always even know you are asking, are common. Who wouldn’t ask questions about being rejected by one’s father, if there is no obvious answer?

The narrator repeats the importance of being able to read and write, for her father was illiterate. This is worth repeating, and I fully support it. Indeed, it is probably the one thing I value above most other things; the ability to read and write, and actually understanding what I read, and that I  have the skill of being a critical reader. In Western countries we don’t really see this as anything special, but we definitely should. Although I do think that ignorance can sometimes be a bliss. In Mr. Potter’s case it probably was.

I also believe that there are people out there who are not capable of strong emotions, or emotions in general. Maybe Mr. Potter belongs to this group. Somehow I feel like I want to understand him. He does not seem too unhappy about his life. A daughter looking for answers, might not be the one who can figure him out, or maybe she can, I don’t know. Only Jamaica Kincaid knows the answer.

Jamaica Kincaid was born Elaine Potter Richardson, and her parents names were Roderick Potter and Annie Richardson. In this case I don’t think we even need to utter the words “Coincidence? I think not!”

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