Small Island

Small Island

by

Andrea Levy

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

Arthur Bligh Character Analysis

Bernard’s father, who is mute and mentally ill following his traumatic experience as a soldier in World War I. Bernard’s tenderness toward his father is one of his few good qualities; however, it’s Arthur and Queenie who have the closest relationship. While Bernard is away at war, Arthur grows vegetables for Queenie and plays board games with her in the evening. He’s even understanding when she has an affair. Arthur is killed by a white police officer during a riot that erupts after Gilbert refuses to sit in the back of a movie house; his death shows how harmful racism is not only to the people it targets, but to the fabric of society in general.

Arthur Bligh Quotes in Small Island

The Small Island quotes below are all either spoken by Arthur Bligh or refer to Arthur Bligh. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Manners and Civilization Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Picador edition of Small Island published in 2004.
Chapter 17: Gilbert Quotes

Arthur Bligh had become another casualty of war—but come, tell me, someone…which war?

Related Characters: Gilbert Joseph (speaker), Queenie Buxton, Arthur Bligh
Page Number: 160
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Small Island LitChart as a printable PDF.
Small Island PDF

Arthur Bligh Character Timeline in Small Island

The timeline below shows where the character Arthur Bligh appears in Small Island. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 15: Gilbert
Race and Prejudice Theme Icon
Displacement and Belonging Theme Icon
...reading a newspaper on a bench outside the church when he notices that an old man seems to be following him. Gilbert wonders if he’s an inept Nazi spy, or simply... (full context)
Redemption Theme Icon
Displacement and Belonging Theme Icon
The man doesn’t respond. Suddenly, a low-flying airplane passes overhead. While Gilbert is startled, the old man... (full context)
Manners and Civilization Theme Icon
Race and Prejudice Theme Icon
...enough to know that most white people are initially afraid of him. However, the attractive woman who answers the door isn’t concerned with him but simply asks, without preamble, where he... (full context)
Race and Prejudice Theme Icon
The woman starts to shut the door on Gilbert but he hangs around, “not ready to leave... (full context)
Chapter 16: Gilbert
Race and Prejudice Theme Icon
Walking through town a few days later, Gilbert encounters some drunk American soldiers who demand that he salute them, as they are his “superiors.” He curses them and walks away,... (full context)
Manners and Civilization Theme Icon
Race and Prejudice Theme Icon
...that she’s been staying with her parents in the country, but is planning on taking Arthur back to London, despite the danger of bombing; Arthur doesn’t get along with her gruff... (full context)
Race and Prejudice Theme Icon
Suddenly, Queenie sees Arthur on the street and rushes out of the store. Gilbert stands, certain that he won’t... (full context)
Chapter 17: Gilbert
Race and Prejudice Theme Icon
Displacement and Belonging Theme Icon
...Clark Gable. The usher escorts them into the theater, but while she gives Queenie and Arthur seats in the front, she tells Gilbert that he has to sit in the gallery.... (full context)
Race and Prejudice Theme Icon
...GIs begin fighting, trampling civilians in their haste to get at each other. Queenie grabs Arthur and Gilbert and hustles them towards the exit, but Gilbert soon loses her in the... (full context)
Race and Prejudice Theme Icon
...the entire crowd stills. Gilbert makes his way toward the sound; he hears Queenie screaming Arthur’s name. When he reaches the corner, he sees Arthur splayed out on the ground, dead,... (full context)
Chapter 18: Gilbert
Marriage and Women’s Roles Theme Icon
...a band plays. In his luggage, Gilbert carries newspaper clippings from the riot in which Arthur was killed. The day after the incident, Gilbert was transferred to another city; although he... (full context)
Chapter 25: Queenie
Marriage and Women’s Roles Theme Icon
Bernard and his mentally ill father, Arthur, own a tall house in Earls Court, a nice neighborhood, but they only use a... (full context)
Chapter 26: Queenie
Redemption Theme Icon
Marriage and Women’s Roles Theme Icon
All four are climbing in to the bomb shelter, which Arthur has constructed over the past weeks in the backyard, when the all-clear sounds. The air... (full context)
Displacement and Belonging Theme Icon
...the Blitz begins, Queenie forgets her excitement and realizes how frightening the bombs really are. Arthur refuses to enter the shelter, since it reminds him of his time in the trenches... (full context)
Manners and Civilization Theme Icon
Race and Prejudice Theme Icon
Redemption Theme Icon
...clothes, carrying the few possessions they’ve scavenged from the bombing. The government has forced Mrs. Newman to rent them a space in her house, but she consigns them to the attic... (full context)
Manners and Civilization Theme Icon
Race and Prejudice Theme Icon
Redemption Theme Icon
...and reassure him, he tackles her to keep her from endangering herself. The house and Arthur survive intact, and afterward Bernard tells her that he loves her. (full context)
Manners and Civilization Theme Icon
The Blighs leave their shelter to find that Mrs. Newman’s house has been completely destroyed, although all the inhabitants have survived. The Cockney mother curses... (full context)
Chapter 28: Queenie
Redemption Theme Icon
Marriage and Women’s Roles Theme Icon
Now that Bernard is posted overseas, Queenie is singlehandedly responsible for Arthur. Because of his insanity, Queenie has always compared him to an apostrophe, “a mark to... (full context)
Redemption Theme Icon
Marriage and Women’s Roles Theme Icon
...they’re on leave. Queenie knows Bernard would immediately reject the idea, but when she consults Arthur, he seems to agree. When the officers show up, shy and grateful for her hospitality,... (full context)
Marriage and Women’s Roles Theme Icon
...again, Michael produces a rare orange and some American chocolates to share with Queenie and Arthur. The two men play poker, and Queenie is impressed by Michael’s kind attitude to Arthur... (full context)
Redemption Theme Icon
Marriage and Women’s Roles Theme Icon
When Arthur goes to bed, Queenie asks Michael about his origins—like many English people, she initially thinks... (full context)
Chapter 29: Queenie
Manners and Civilization Theme Icon
Displacement and Belonging Theme Icon
A bit later, Arthur wakes Queenie up urgently. He’s found Michael’s wallet, which he must have left behind; inside... (full context)
Marriage and Women’s Roles Theme Icon
Arthur collects Queenie from the hospital and takes her home, fretting over her ceaselessly. When he... (full context)
Chapter 43: Bernard
Redemption Theme Icon
Bernard also thinks about his own father, Arthur, who enlisted to fight in the Great War when he was barely nineteen and Bernard... (full context)
Redemption Theme Icon
Marriage and Women’s Roles Theme Icon
When he got married, Bernard marveled at his father’s adoration of Queenie—Arthur got along with his wife far better than Bernard. Bernard and Queenie spent the days... (full context)
Chapter 46: Bernard
Redemption Theme Icon
Marriage and Women’s Roles Theme Icon
...weight, since when he left, she was wasting away on rationed food. He asks how Arthur is, and Queenie has to tell him about his death. When it happened, she wrote... (full context)
Redemption Theme Icon
Marriage and Women’s Roles Theme Icon
When he returns to his home, Bernard astounded to find Queenie walking with a black woman. Queenie is furious to find out that he’s spent two years hiding from her in... (full context)
Chapter 47: Queenie
Marriage and Women’s Roles Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 55: Queenie
Marriage and Women’s Roles Theme Icon
...she’s filled with “boring leaden yearning.” She can’t get a job because there are too many soldiers returning from war, and without Arthur, she has no one to talk to at... (full context)