Small Island

Small Island

by

Andrea Levy

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Small Island can help.

Small Island: Chapter 21: Gilbert Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Hurrying down the stairs, Gilbert encounters Queenie. He’s learned to avoid her much of the time. Since her husband is away, she often relies on Gilbert for help with household chores, but he doesn’t have time right now. She also makes him convey rules and directions to the other Jamaican lodgers, and he doesn’t like being her go-between.
While Gilbert appreciates Queenie, it seems like he feels stuck between her and the other lodgers—not quite a Jamaican like them, but also not part of Queenie’s world. His furtive behavior shows how uncomfortable such a position can be, even if it lends him certain privileges, like Queenie’s trust.
Themes
Race and Prejudice Theme Icon
Displacement and Belonging Theme Icon
Queenie asks if it was Winston or Kenneth who helped Gilbert with the trunk yesterday. Gilbert lies that it was Winston, since Queenie hates Kenneth and has kicked him out of the house in the past. Before she can investigate further, he leaves for work.
The constant confusion between Winston and Kenneth provides comic relief amid many frustrating events. However, it’s also a reminder of the British tendency to view all immigrants as a part of an indistinguishable monolith, rather than as individuals.
Themes
Manners and Civilization Theme Icon
Race and Prejudice Theme Icon