Small Island

Small Island

by

Andrea Levy

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Small Island: Chapter 57: Bernard Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Queenie’s baby sleeps in a makeshift crib made out of a drawer. Bernard watches Queenie produce a pile of baby clothes, which she’d knitted during the long years of hoping to become pregnant. Unsure what to do and feeling useless, Bernard idles around the house, trying only to move around the house when Queenie is resting so he won’t be confronted with her expectant look. 
When Queenie first moves in with Bernard, his house represents her stifling new life as a housewife. However, by the end of the novel, the house has become Queenie’s domain—it’s allowed her to become economically independent, and it’s sheltered her during her forbidden affair and pregnancy. Bernard’s feeling of uselessness shows the extent to which the house has slipped from his control.
Themes
Marriage and Women’s Roles Theme Icon
Bernard hears the baby whimper, which he knows will soon turn into howls. Opening Queenie’s door slightly, he sees his wife asleep. The doctor has ordered her to rest, and Bernard is afraid the baby will wake her up. He puts his hand to the baby’s stomach, and he quiets down. As he surveys the baby’s delicate features and smooth skin, Bernard gives him a finger to hold in his tiny hand. The baby puts Bernard’s finger in his mouth, and Bernard thinks that he’s a “dear little thing.” Soon, he’s fallen asleep, and Bernard turns to leave.
Bernard is captivated by the baby—in his fascination, he momentarily relinquishes both his general prejudices and his resentment of Queenie’s infidelity. The tender moment for a baby whose birth emblematizes the flaws in his marriage is a moment of unusual selflessness for Bernard—a spark of hope that he can change his behavior and redeem himself.
Themes
Redemption Theme Icon
Bernard finds Queenie awake, looking at him in shock. He tells her that he spent time in prison during the war, and she demands to know the story. Still cuddling the baby, he tells her the story, including even his syphilis scare and his stay in Brighton. He picks up the baby and hands him to Queenie, telling her he’s sorry he hasn’t been a better husband. As he leaves, Queenie thanks him.
Bernard’s moment of selflessness is immediately rewarded. He feels comfortable enough to confide in Queenie, which provides him with some much-needed catharsis. For Bernard, atoning for his past sins could improve him morally and help repair his marriage.
Themes
Redemption Theme Icon
Marriage and Women’s Roles Theme Icon