Small Island

Small Island

by

Andrea Levy

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Small Island can help.
Philip and Martha’s son, and Hortense’s first love. As a young boy, Michael annoys Hortense, but when he returns home from college as an educated sophisticate, she immediately falls for him. However, he doesn’t reciprocate her feelings and instead conducts a forbidden affair Mrs. Ryder, Hortense’s white employer, which Hortense takes as a personal betrayal. In the aftermath of the scandal caused by this affair, Michael joins the RAF and goes missing in action when his plane is shot down. Later, it becomes clear that during his time in the RAF, Michael had an affair with Queenie—he’s the father of the illegitimate baby Michael whom Hortense eventually adopts.
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Michael Roberts Character Timeline in Small Island

The timeline below shows where the character Michael Roberts appears in Small Island. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3: Hortense
Manners and Civilization Theme Icon
Redemption Theme Icon
...grey eyes. Hortense is told to call her Miss Ma. The couple have one son, Michael, to whom they are devoted. (full context)
Redemption Theme Icon
Displacement and Belonging Theme Icon
...a young girl, Hortense sits quietly in the henhouse and watches the hens lay eggs. Michael comes to find her, and Hortense is frustrated, since Michael always disrupts the hens in... (full context)
Redemption Theme Icon
Displacement and Belonging Theme Icon
Eventually, Michael leaves home to attend boarding school. While Mr. Philip chides Michael about remembering his religious... (full context)
Manners and Civilization Theme Icon
Redemption Theme Icon
Displacement and Belonging Theme Icon
After Michael leaves, Hortense spends more time with Miss Jewel, helping her with the chores. Miss Jewel... (full context)
Manners and Civilization Theme Icon
While Hortense is working at the Ryders’ school, Michael returns home. Mrs. Ryder gives Hortense an old dress for the occasion, and she stays... (full context)
Manners and Civilization Theme Icon
In the following days, Hortense analyzes Michael’s every action for evidence that he reciprocates her feelings. Eager to show off, Michael tells... (full context)
Marriage and Women’s Roles Theme Icon
When Hortense returns to work a few days after Michael’s arrival, Michael escorts her to the schoolhouse. As it turns out, he’s already acquainted with... (full context)
Manners and Civilization Theme Icon
Race and Prejudice Theme Icon
Marriage and Women’s Roles Theme Icon
...storm. Mrs. Ryder is excited, while Hortense is praying that the roof doesn’t collapse. Suddenly, Michael arrives at the school, soaked through from the rain. Hortense is touched that he’s come... (full context)
Redemption Theme Icon
...road. Mr. Ryder is inside, dead. Distraught and confused, Hortense informs the gathering crowd that Michael and Mrs. Ryder are alone in the schoolhouse. (full context)
Redemption Theme Icon
Displacement and Belonging Theme Icon
...is gossiping about the incipient scandal. Miss Ma is in tears at the thought that Michael has been “committing a mortal sin” with a married woman; in her distress, she hits... (full context)
Race and Prejudice Theme Icon
Displacement and Belonging Theme Icon
...island, while Hortense closes up the school. A local newspaper publishes an article suggesting that Michael may have murdered Mr. Ryder. When Hortense returns home three days later, Michael is gone.... (full context)
Chapter 4: Hortense
Manners and Civilization Theme Icon
Redemption Theme Icon
Displacement and Belonging Theme Icon
That night, Hortense dreams that Michael is holding out his hand to her with a scorpion on his palm. Hortense wants... (full context)
Manners and Civilization Theme Icon
Redemption Theme Icon
...However, Miss Morgan gives her a letter from Miss Ma and gently informs her that Michael’s plane has been lost in England. At first, Hortense doesn’t understand that this means he’s... (full context)
Chapter 5: Hortense
Manners and Civilization Theme Icon
Race and Prejudice Theme Icon
...war has ended, Hortense is walking home from the market when she thinks she sees Michael cycling down the street. She runs after him, but when she turns the corner, she... (full context)
Displacement and Belonging Theme Icon
Hortense has been waiting for Michael to come home since the war ended, unwilling to believe he could really be dead.... (full context)
Chapter 6: Hortense
Redemption Theme Icon
Marriage and Women’s Roles Theme Icon
...unhappy that they’ve already met, while Hortense is upset by the man’s slight resemblance to Michael. Celia finally introduces him as Gilbert Joseph. (full context)
Chapter 28: Queenie
Redemption Theme Icon
Marriage and Women’s Roles Theme Icon
...hospitality, she’s startled to find that one of them is Jamaican, a handsome man named Michael Roberts. Watching them joke with each other and jump down the stairs for a night... (full context)
Marriage and Women’s Roles Theme Icon
In the morning, only Michael gets up early. Queenie offers him some tea while she cleans the kitchen; she’s flustered... (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 Jamaica is in Africa. He tells... (full context)
Chapter 29: Queenie
Marriage and Women’s Roles Theme Icon
Queenie and Michael have sex. It’s nothing like her previous experiences with Bernard, during which she usually “worked... (full context)
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 are photos of an older couple and... (full context)
Chapter 55: Queenie
Marriage and Women’s Roles Theme Icon
...the middle of the night, Queenie hears a knock on the door. Answering, she finds Michael Roberts on her doorstep. Instantly, she feels like a beautiful and desirable woman again, rather... (full context)
Redemption Theme Icon
Marriage and Women’s Roles Theme Icon
Michael tells her that his plane was shot down in France. The two soldiers who previously... (full context)
Race and Prejudice Theme Icon
Marriage and Women’s Roles Theme Icon
His mood changing, Michael asks Queenie if she’s ever felt the force of a hurricane, and takes her upstairs... (full context)
Chapter 58: Queenie
Marriage and Women’s Roles Theme Icon
...Bernard make tea, but for a minute she watches Hortense, who’s speaking softly to baby Michael while Gilbert gives him his finger to chew. When she brings the tray of tea... (full context)
Redemption Theme Icon
Hortense and Gilbert are in shock, but Queenie pleads earnestly for them to bring baby Michael up as their own son. Suddenly, Bernard interjects; to Queenie’s surprise, he insists that the... (full context)
Race and Prejudice Theme Icon
Redemption Theme Icon
Displacement and Belonging Theme Icon
Bernard suggests that they move to the suburbs and tell everyone baby Michael is adopted. Crying, Queenie points out that such a solution won’t work when the baby... (full context)
Redemption Theme Icon
Displacement and Belonging Theme Icon
Turning back to Gilbert and Hortense, Queenie says that she trusts them to raise baby Michael, and that she prefers giving him to them rather than to an orphanage. This way,... (full context)
Chapter 59: Hortense
Redemption Theme Icon
Displacement and Belonging Theme Icon
Marriage and Women’s Roles Theme Icon
...her skin. As a result, she hardly remembers anything of her mother. Gilbert asks if Michael Roberts was really her brother, and she says that he was actually her cousin. Gilbert... (full context)
Redemption Theme Icon
Marriage and Women’s Roles Theme Icon
Hortense watches Queenie as she sadly packs up baby Michael’s clothes, kissing them as she folds him. Just as Hortense only retains scattered impressions of... (full context)
Manners and Civilization Theme Icon
Race and Prejudice Theme Icon
Redemption Theme Icon
Marriage and Women’s Roles Theme Icon
With difficulty, Winston and Gilbert carry Hortense’s trunk down the stairs while Hortense comforts baby Michael. She feels something hard sewn into his nappy and discovers it’s a knitted pouch. Opening... (full context)
Manners and Civilization Theme Icon
Displacement and Belonging Theme Icon
Marriage and Women’s Roles Theme Icon
...knocks; she’s sure the other woman is inside, but no one answers. Gilbert takes baby Michael from her and tells her to hurry up; their van is ready. Before leaving, Hortense... (full context)