November 11, 2014
“The Ugly Tourist” by Jamaica Kincaid Academic Summary
In the essay “The Ugly Tourist”, Jamaica Kincaid argues through rant that when in the state of being a tourist, one is shallow and only appreciates the beautiful skin of a culture and does not really know the depth, therefor cannot truly say that it is beautiful. Right off the bat in the first sentence Jamaica describes tourists as “ugly human beings”. These words give out a very strong idea of what Jamaica is going to argue throughout this piece. She continues to explain how a tourist is “not an ugly person ordinarily” through the use of parallelism with the phrase of “day to day” creating a sarcastic tone as if she is mocking the day to day city dweller. This mocking and sarcastic tone continues as she exaggerates “how awful it is to go unnoticed, how awful it is to go unloved” as the individual lives in a city full of persons. In a way she is telling the individual that it is their fault when they are very capable of not being lonely. She continues to describe the lonely city soul and when he/she spots a tourist in the crowd and sees the “absolute pleasure” on their face, the normal city person decides to “make a leap from that nice job just sitting like a boob in a amniotic sac” to the “heaps of death and ruin” to feel “alive” when really what they are looking at is poverty not beauty. When explained how tourists work, irony is created through the thought of leaving flourishes to be awe inspired by poverty and down beaten peoples and culture continues the derisive/sarcastic tone. She further argues her point that a tourist only scratches the surface of what the culture really is as she explains that one would not “marvel at the harmony and union these people have with nature” if they knew that it was not their choice to live this way and if they knew that “squat[ing] over a hole” that was just dug was not a preferable way to live then they would not find this a “joyful thought”. The word use of “marvel” and “harmony” as well as “union” continues the mockery of the tourists with the sarcastic tone, as these words are very peaceful unlike the argument. The way that she contrasts both lifestyles also contributes to the empty and unappreciative view of the tourists. This displays the way that they take for granted what they have, and by doing this in this way she is continuing her sardonic tone. As she goes on to the end of the piece, Jamaica defends the unfortunate people by explaining how “their ancestors were not as clever… and not ruthless” as those of the tourists were. She tries to justify the fact that they are like this, but at the same time puts a negative description to the ones that are fortunate. In other words she is raising up the people of this undeveloped place higher than those of a city by illuminating the fact the fathers and founders of the successful peoples were “ruthless”. She also creates pathos for the unfortunate people that tourists ponder at by saying such things about how it is not their fault they live like this. She ends it with the repeating the fact that tourists are “ugly” and “empty” followed by the statement of a realization that tourists need to come to that the “people who inhabit the place in which you have just paused cannot stand you”. The way that Kinkaid refers to the tourist as the reader itself causes the reader to be put in the shoes of both sides and really think about what she is talking about, as this could actually be “you”. The long syntax throughout gives the effect of a rant, as one ranting does not pay attention to the details of this type, they just want to get their point across, and Jamaica Kincaid did.