Small Island

Small Island

by

Andrea Levy

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Small Island: Chapter 47: Queenie Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Stonily, Queenie tells Bernard she’ll make up a bed for him, in a separate room from her own. Bernard offers to help, but she tells him to go finish his tea. Bernard spends hours looking at newspaper clips detailing Arthur’s death; but even when Queenie tells him it was the worst thing that ever happened to her, he has nothing to say and doesn’t ask her any questions.
While Bernard is determined to resume his own life as if nothing has happened, Queenie is unwilling to allow this to happen. Her stony exterior reflects her reluctance to give up the independence that has been so beneficial to her, and return to a marriage that has always been deeply stifling.
Themes
Marriage and Women’s Roles Theme Icon
Neither Bernard nor Queenie have the courage to kiss goodnight. Feeling unsettled, Queenie locks her bedroom door after he retires to his own room. The next morning, she finds him gossiping on the front porch with Mr. Todd. Over breakfast, he asks her about the lodgers; Queenie feels odd to hear him return so quickly to talking about their life as a couple, using the pronoun “we.”
Bernard is much more at ease with Mr. Todd than Queenie, which suggests that he’s going to align himself with Mr. Todd’s hostility towards the influx of immigrants into the neighborhood, rather than his wife’s willingness to accept and promote change.
Themes
Manners and Civilization Theme Icon
Race and Prejudice Theme Icon
Bernard is unhappy that most of the lodgers are black; moreover, Mr. Todd has already told him that the one white renter, Jean, is a woman of questionable repute. Queenie contests that, with her husband missing, she had to provide for herself somehow. Bernard declares abruptly that the lodgers will have to leave; he’s disgusted that “the street has gone to the dogs” with so many people of color moving in.
Bernard’s assertion that people of color degrade the neighborhood’s character is obviously insulting. Moreover, he’s also insulting his wife by refusing to appreciate the difficult circumstances he put her in by abandoning her, and refusing to honor the arrangements she’s made in his absence.
Themes
Race and Prejudice Theme Icon
Marriage and Women’s Roles Theme Icon
Because the city has changed so much, Bernard suggests they move to the suburbs, just as Mr. Todd is planning to do. He tells Queenie he wants to start a rabbit farm, and that she can be his partner and handle the rabbits while he takes care of the business. Queenie thinks this is a crazy idea. Her husband has only been back for a day and she already feels “smothered.”
While the rabbit-farming scheme represented the culmination of Bernard’s one meaningful friendship, now it represents his attempt to subjugate his wife, and the absurdity of expecting to expecting to slip right into a life he’s abandoned for years.
Themes
Displacement and Belonging Theme Icon
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