Small Island

Small Island

by

Andrea Levy

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Small Island: Chapter 45: Bernard Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The sea journey home is long and boring, much different from the tense and organized trip to India during the war. Bernard wonders if he can ever readjust to life as a bank clerk after his experiences in India, which were both more horrifying and more exciting than anything he’d ever known.
While Bernard has lived in England all his life, he’s so changed that it feels like he’s encountering his native land for this first time. In this way, his sea journey parallels Gilbert and Hortense’s voyages, headed toward a society in which they’re not sure they’ll belong.
Themes
Manners and Civilization Theme Icon
Displacement and Belonging Theme Icon
Some days into the journey, Bernard notices a lump on his genitals. At first he thinks it’s a mosquito bite, but it swells up and becomes so painful that he vomits when he bandages it. He’s sure that it’s syphilis, the deadly venereal disease against which all the soldiers were warned when they first deployed. The one experience he desperately wants to forget is going to destroy his life.
The inescapability of punishment which Bernard feels at this moment parallels the unresolved and irremediable nature of his transgression. This punishment is particularly disturbing to Bernard because it exposes him to public shame, one of the things he most fears.
Themes
Manners and Civilization Theme Icon
Redemption Theme Icon
Displacement and Belonging Theme Icon
Bernard worries that by the time he arrives in England, he’ll be insane or incapacitated by the disease. He imagines medics dropping him off at home just as they returned his father. Most importantly, he imagines Queenie’s shame and anger when they tell her that her husband has contracted syphilis.
Rather than identifying with his father’s kind character, Bernard worries about repeating his misfortunes, showing his tendency to focus on the worst both in others and himself.
Themes
Redemption Theme Icon
Displacement and Belonging Theme Icon