The short story of “Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid is about a mother and her relationship with her daughter. It is a harsh one-sided conversation between the narrator and her mother, with the mother doing all the talking. The story gives a rich description of what her mother expects from her in all aspects of her life, from chores, to how she plays, to what she sings in church.
From each line, you see the viewpoint of how her mother sees the world, what is proper in her eyes, and her expectations for her daughter.
Throughout the story, the symbolism gives deeper meaner to every verse and shows deeper insight into their relationship.
One of the first symbols is in the first line is the color white. The use of the color white is foreshadowing the tone for the whole short story. White represents pure, virgin, and clean. The mother is reprimanding her child for the way she walks “on Sundays try to walk like a lady and not like the slut you so bent on becoming” (380).
The narrator’s mother already has concerns about her daughter becoming sexually promiscuous and tarnishing her reputation. The mother’s tone is harsh throughout the whole short story. She is demanding her daughter does these things as she dictates. This is not a sweet moment between a mother and her daughter. The conversation is laced with insults and fears. The mother also warns her daughter about eating on the street “don’t eat fruit on the street-flies will follow you” (380). Flies are seen as bottom feeders, dirty and irritating and when flies are surrounding an animal it is seen as filthy. She is telling her daughter that she will be seen as dirty if her fruits are out for everyone to see.
This has to do with being covered and not letting everyone stare at you. This supports her idea that her daughter will become promiscuous and not respectable. Another symbol example is the importance of clothing. The mother cautions “when buying cotton to make yourself a nice blouse, be sure that it doesn’t have gum on it, because that way it won’t hold up after a wash” (380).
The mother’s emphasis on clothing highlights her view of how you dress is a reflection of you as a person. It gives insight into your character and personality that you take pride in how you look. Clothing is used to cover your body, when you are covered you are seen as respectable in her community. In the conversation “this is how to hem a dress when you see the hem coming and so to prevent yourself from looking like the slut I know you are so bent on becoming” (380)
This is the second time that her mother accuses her of turning in a slut. The hemming of the dress is no longer a lesson in how to sew, but the act itself has tuned into being seen as respectable and that reinforces her mother’s view. In addition, “Benna” is also a symbol in the text. The word benna is one of the cultural symbols she uses.
It gives insight into where the story is taking place. It also gives the reader the first response to her mother who has been talking the whole time. “I don’t sing benna on Sundays at all and never in Sunday School” (Kincaid 380). Why did the narrator feel compelled to finally speak up for herself at this moment? What did her mother mean by accusing her of this that the narrator feels she had to defend herself?
From this short sentence, the reader can assume that something has changed culturally. If the daughter is implying that singing Calypso music is frowned upon and considered taboo that means singing it in Sunday school would be a grave disrespect. The other aspect of the sentence is the use of Sunday school, the introduction of Christianity has added to the mother’s fears of her daughter being respectable.
The mother is also going through changes culturally and that has influenced her concerns for her daughter. Another example of cultural symbolism is “this how you set a table for tea” (381). This line in the story shows a reference to Britain through tea. The reader can accept that what has been going on culturally is in reference to Britain. There are foreigners in her country who could be judging the country as they interact with the natives.
Her constant fear of her daughter becoming a slut is stemming from what the mother now views as proper behavior. They are many symbols that come from food. The use of food in this short story has a small number of layers. There is a superficial layer that acts as a cultural symbol in her use of her native dishes in the text. It also adds depth to the short story and shows the reader where the narrator and her mother are living “this is how to make bread pudding, this is how to make doukona, this is how to make pepper pot” (381).
The reader has only seen the mother in the fierce, menacing tone. Upon further analysis of the symbolism, it shows that her mother doesn’t want her to forget her cultural heritage among all the changes going on currently in her life with Sunday school and the British being in her country. She wants her daughter to learn how to cook these native dishes as a way of passing down her legacy. Another layer is the mother finds cooking to being part of being a respectable woman.
Cooking is something the mother puts value on. She believes that a woman who can cook is valuable to their society. Over the course of the text, she comes back to instructing on how to cook. The reader is also able to see it in the beginning, middle, and end of the short story. It is not just being able to make these dishes, but the whole act itself “cook pumpkin fritters in very hot sweet oil” (380).
The mother believes that cooking strengths the bond her daughter will have with her family and with the community. The last symbol in food is when the mother tells her how to she is to squeeze the bread “always squeeze bread to make sure it’s fresh; but what if the baker won’t let me feel the bread?; you mean to say that after all, you are really going to be the kind of woman who the baker won’t let near the bread” (381) This goes back to the overall theme of the entire story.
Her mother wants her to be the kind of lady that the baker lets squeeze the bread. The word squeeze is suggestive in a way that the mother doesn’t want her daughter to allow anyone to “squeeze” her. It also reinforces that her daughter should not become a slut or she will not be a functioning member of society. Sluts and wharf-rat boys are not part of their society; her mother warns “you mustn’t speak to wharf-rat boys” (380).
They are outcast, if she becomes a slut the baker will not allow her to touch the bread and she will be an outcast like the wharf-rat boys. The final symbol is housework; the importance of it is seen throughout the short story. The narrator’s mother makes many references toward housework, “Wash the white clothes on Monday and put them on the stone heap; wash the color clothes on Tuesday and put them on the clothesline to dry” (380). She sees housework as a way of keeping busy so her daughter doesn’t become promiscuous. It also establishes her role as a woman taking care of her house. In their culture, this seen a respectable and earns them respect from their community.
This short story looks like a simple stern lecture from a mother to daughter. When you look at each sentence in-depth, you see mother has fears that are based not in anger but in reality due to all the changes going on in their culture. These fears are expressed sometimes harshly by calling daughter a slut, and her tone throughout the story. In the end, it is just a mother being concerned with her daughter and wanting the best life possible.
The symbolism gives more insight than what the reader can readjust on the surface. It shows a whole different character for the mother and sheds light as to why the mother has these expectations and fears. What people fear shapes them and their relationships.
Example #2 – Jamaica Kincaid: the Picasso of Literature
“Far out, to the horizon, the color of the water is navy-blue; nearer, the water is the color of the North American sky . . . the water is pale, silvery, clear, so clear . . .” Kincaid, A Small Place
This tropical heaven of the Caribbean island Antigua serves as a physical and symbolic backdrop for the “paradise turned hell.” Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid. is not a book that will appeal to younger readers. They will not be able to sort through the layers and see through the simplicity of the text. An advanced reader will appreciate this rich and deep novel, accented by the element of subtlety imposed by Kincaid.
The novel unfolds as Annie comes to the realization that she and her mother are growing apart. The crumbling relationship unfolds in eight distinctive episodes, leading to Annie’s departure from Antigua. In its distinct setting and accurate portrayal of the tribulations of adolescence, Annie John is a novel all women will enjoy.
Kincaid grew up on the Island of Antigua and left as Annie did when she was sixteen. A novel claimed by critics to be autobiographical is partially denied by Kincaid: ” The feelings in it are autobiographical” says Kincaid in an interview with Cudjoe. The novel comes across an honest portrayal of a girl breaking free from her mother and the culture she doesn’t fit into. The sincere empathy Kincaid has for Annie is apparent throughout the book.
Overlapping elements, such as details used to explain a bigger meaning, are a prominent and effective device used by Kincaid. The entire book is set up in mini-episodes, and a single experience may be thoroughly described for several pages. For example, every physical aspect is used to explain the rebellious and intense nature of a character coined “The Red Girl.” Kincaid describes her hair, her “big red moon” face, her shabby clothes, and bad hygiene. These meticulous points are what display the girl’s nature and her appeal to Annie.
Many literary elements in the book achieve the same effect. When Annie is very sick, the tone is used as a symbol for how gray and sick she feels. The marbles Annie hides to defy her mother are an important symbol, and the description of the marbles contains effective imagery that adds to the symbolism. This melting of elements is part of the depth Kincaid achieves.
The simplicity of the scenes in Annie John completes the depth. Kincaid does not hide the meaning, she leaves it unsaid. This allows the reader to feel personally involved while contemplating the significance. Annie John will take you back to your adolescent years, and if you’re experiencing it right now, it will make you examine your coming-of-age more closely.
This book is recommended for all mothers and daughters. If anything else, it will help both appreciate their relationship. The connection between Annie and her mom takes on two opposite spectrums. Though most mothers and daughters won’t identify with either the absolute adoration or the blind hatred between the two, it is novel mothers and daughters can relate to. It will also reveal aspects that both mother and daughter did not recognize in their own relationships. For this reason, this book is more appropriate for women for men. Men will have a hard time identifying with Annie because the two genders have different and contrasting feelings and experience’s during their adolescence.
The picture of Antigua adds character to Kincaid’s novel. Her descriptions and back flashes to experiences on the island create color in the book. The honesty and bluntness Kincaid uses to explain the beautiful and strange aspects of the culture carry over into the character of Annie ( again the layering of concepts). Kincaid is straightforward when presenting Annie. Whether speaking of her obsession with death, the betrayal of Annie to her best friend Gwen, or her hatred towards her mother, Kincaid is always blunt and honest in her portrayal. She captivates her audience by her accurate and candid portrait of adolescence.
In summary, Kincaid’s novel is a masterpiece. It has the depth, texture, and color of a Picasso, and is then melded into art through the simplicity of the text, and the depth behind it. Readers will be personally drawn into the novel because of the authentic depiction of adolescence. This novel will speak loudly to anyone who has felt unaccepted in some aspect of their life.
In the short story “Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid, the author gives a perspective of the relationship between a strict mother and her young daughter. Jamaica Kincaid wrote a series of sentences that set the tone of the story to be uptight, oppressive, and informative. The author described her daughter into becoming a ‘slut’ which tells the readers that the mother is worried and is disapproving of her daughter’s actions. Others might think that the story is only about the daughter repeating what her mother tells her to do but it really it’s the perspective of the mother trying to prevent her daughter from becoming a ‘slut’ and changing her to become a lady.
Although others may think otherwise that the character who plays girl, is in fact making a mockery of her mother’s commands. In theory, people may say that the mother repeated herself so often about her daughter’s behavior and teaching her how to do her responsibilities correctly that the daughter has memorized her mother’s lectures and began to repeat them to herself to show rebellion against these tasks.
With the attention to the dialogue, shows the mother lecturing her daughter.
In the beginning, the author wrote “but I don’t sing benna on Sundays” (line 7) in an italicized format giving the idea that someone, in this case, the daughter, is responding to her mother’s lecturing trying to defend herself. This goes to show that the poem is in fact a conversation held by a mother and a young girl with disapproving behaviors causing her mother to scold those unacceptable behaviors.
Throughout the poem lists a few teachings into having good behavior and proper manners. There are specific ways the mother instructed her daughter to do her chores. For example, “this is how you smile to someone you don’t like” (line),” this is how to set a table for dinner”, and “this is how to bully a man”.
The lists go on and I can relate to these rules. My mother taught me the importance of discipline throughout my whole life teaching me right from wrong and telling me to do chores and teaching me how to do things on my own since I was now becoming a young adult.
Mothers have many different parenting ways to teach their own daughter how to become a lady and most will teach their daughters by the mistakes they’ve made in the past or by the experience of their mothers giving the same lecture to them when they were coming up into the teenage years.
Jamaica Kincaid based this short story on her life growing up as a child. Kincaid and her mother were very close until her three brothers were born. After that Kincaid and her mother grew apart and her mother became more intense and more demanding towards her daughter to become a lady. In conclusion, the poem “Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid is the self-reflection of Kincaid’s early life. She described her life as being very controlled by her mother and being judged for becoming a ‘slut’.
Elaine Polter Richardson was a young girl who lived with her parents in a Caribbean Island. She was living in a poverty household but that did not change the relationship she had with her mother. Elaine and her mother were very close to the age of nine. After, Elaine had brothers her relationship with her mother changed and made a huge impact in her life specifically because she was a young lady who could take care of herself in the eyes of her mother. Later then Eliane felt as if her mother did not pay enough attention to her anymore. In addition, her father was never in the picture which could help signify why Elaine felt a drastic change in her life.
Elaine was sent to work with a wealthy family so she could send the money she worked hard for to her family who was living in poverty, but after working for so long she decided to leave, and go to school for literature. After she became recognized by the New York Times she changed her name to Jamaica Kincaid because she wanted to remain anonymous. Therefore, in the story named “Girl”, it helps illustrate a relationship between a mother and a daughter giving her advice on how to become a successful woman by stating the importance of respect, value, society, and how a lady should carry herself in different situations.
In 2013 Jamaica was interviewed by The New York Times and states that she is a person who enjoys staying in bed reading books in pajamas while she is left alone. This depicts that she spends most of her free time reading books while she knows that she has everyday chores like laundry, sweeping, cooking, and growing special plants to grow medicine. For example, in the story “Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid it states, “wash the white clothes on Monday and put them on the stone heap; wash the colored clothes on Tuesday and put them on the clothesline”.
This helps the reader understand that Jamaica’s mother told her what her daily routine should be in order to become a woman with domesticity. She needed to have chores finished, food cooked, and laundry folded with no crease lines in order to become a successful woman. However, one can say that her mother was trying to give her daughter advice on how to become ladylike in order to be ready for the real world by suggesting what she should do.
On the other hand, Jamaica states that she was surprised on how she left her job and went to school instead of listening to her mother when she told her the importance of being a stay at home mom. Equality made a huge impact in Jamaica’s life because not only is she a woman but she had a close relationship with her mother until she had brothers which could result in the importance of neglect of her mother. For example, she was told to act, walk, and eat like a lady in public and home.
However, men are never told how to act in public surroundings, yet they disrespect and look down upon women. For instance, it is stated, “always eat your food in such a way that it won’t someone else’s stomach; on Sundays try to walk like a lady and not like the slut you are so bent on becoming”. This explains that her mother wanted to see her daughter representing herself not as a figure but as a woman with respect.
In society, no one enjoys hearing the loud crunch of loaded cheesy nachos from a woman with her mouth open. However, men do not pay attention to etiquette manners when they are eating, yet they are not told anything due to their gender. This can help the reader understand that Jamaica’s mother Annie Richardson wanted her daughter to be seen with respect by the way she represents herself in society.
Although, Jamaica was told to do chores such as laundry, food, and be a woman with the respect she was never encouraged to go to school like her brothers were. Jamaica most likely was not encouraged to go to school like her brothers because her mother Annie was helping her become a woman who stays at home while her husband goes to work. Jamaica Kincaid stated, “my brothers were going to be Prime Minister, one a doctor, one a Minister things like that. I never heard anybody say that I was going to be anything”.
Kincaid’s mother Annie wanted her daughter to be a smart woman, so that she could provide for her family by cooking, cleaning, and making medicine for them. Jamaica could act like a man or maybe even have multiple husbands however, it was important for her mother that she was not a “slut”. For instance, it states “this is how to hem a dress when you see the hem coming down and so prevent yourself from looking like a slut”.
This signifies that Kincaid was a woman that is smart enough and should not expose skin because she has value by the knowledge that she has due to her mother giving her advice. Usually, women who expose their bodies are not respected and valued due to having a lack of respect for themselves. In addition, society has an important role in Jamaica Kincaid’s story because her mother is giving her advice on how to act around different people.
For example, “this is how you smile to someone you don’t like too much; this is how you smile to someone you don’t like at all; this is how you smile to someone you like completely”. Women are supposed to be well mannered and generous with everyone to be seen as a woman with dignity. This is why her mother helps her daughter act as a woman should at all times because society has an impact on people’s attitudes and who they truly are.
Overall, Jamaica Kincaid had a close relationship with her mother which could signify why she wrote this story. Later, she felt like her mother stopped showing her attention and backed away from her family. This could be mainly to focus on herself and to go to school. However, her parents were raised in a different lifestyle which could help determine why they did not encourage Kincaid in furthering her school.
The narrative “Girl” is a piece written by Jamaica Kincaid concerning a mother‘s attempt to teach her daughter about a woman’s role in society. The author’s intentions are evident through her feminist activities, familial relationship as well as the structure of the narrative. This short story is a feminist critique of the contradictions and tensions inherent in womanhood development; it sets out to show how women perpetuate gender inequality.
The author –Jamaica Kincaid – is an immigrant from the West Indies who entered the United States in her teens. She had a poor relationship with her mother and despised the societal structures that caused this rift. As an only child, Kincaid enjoyed the love and attention of her mother, but this changed dramatically when three brothers came into the picture.
The mother redirected all her affections to the boys and ignored her daughter merely because she was female. It is likely that this experience affected how the author perceived gender subjugation. While the Caribbean islands were immensely patriarchal, it was the woman who was used as a tool to perpetuate oppression against her own kind (Bailey 111).
Kincaid’s choice of structure is a hint on this theme of female disempowerment by women. First, the narrative is lengthy and fluid; it appears like a monologue although the daughter responds once in a while. Kincaid wrote her piece in such a manner in order to demonstrate that it was a lecture.
Instructions are often one-sided, long, and do not consider the viewpoint of the recipient. At one point, she states that “always eat your food in such a way that it won’t turn someone else’s stomach;” (Kincaid 350). In this case, the mother rants continuously without pausing or asking for her daughter’s feedback.
When the girl tries to ask a question about something, the latter immediately victimizes the girls and makes it look like she is at fault. For instance, she tells the girl how to test bread in order to ascertain that it is fine. The girl asks what to do if the seller won’t let her touch it. Her mother asks her why she would have a character that is not worthy of the seller’s trust: “you mean to say that after all, you are really going to be the kind of woman the baker won’t let near the bread?” (Kincaid 351).
The author wanted to show how gender was constructed in this setting. Women were instruments of gender inequality because they did not even give a voice to one another. Patriarchal societies often prevent women from talking back to men or having an opinion. Sadly, this starts with women’s interaction with each other as seen through the condescension and ridicule of the mother in the story.
It is particularly interesting that the narrative contains no real male character. The mother only refers to men in general and her husband in particular. It is likely that Jamaican Kincaid wanted to emphasize women’s role in gender inequalities within her society.
One can deduce Kincaid’s inclinations from her background as an activist. Jamaica has started a group that supports President Obama because he believes in women’s reproductive right to choose. Such leanings form a basis for her rejection of gender instructions and stereotypes about women in the narrative.
Women in the narrative could not enjoy the freedoms that men did. Someone had to transmit these expectations to younger generations; Caribbean societies chose women as their tools. They taught young girls about subservience, passivity, and domesticity. This theme is evident from the author’s work as a feminist activist and her relationship with her mother.
The short story “Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid is a story of the belief that happiness steams from a life of domesticity. The central topics of gender roles in a family structure, and the expression of female sexuality and will be examined. A look into the mother’s beliefs on the necessity of serving your husband and remaining sexually conservative will be the focus. Secondly, the importance of food and clothes in the story will be looked at, providing evidence to the central claim of being content with this lifestyle.
Lastly, the relationship between the mother and daughter will be discussed, reflecting on if the views of the mother will ultimately make the decisions for the daughter, as to the path she will follow in her own life. The portrayal of gender roles in this story shows the husband as the breadwinner and the wife staying home to tend to the house and children. This could be considered traditional, however, we would consider it outdated in western society today. This story has the mother, teaching her daughter her place in Antiguan society, most likely in the fifties, and in a marriage.
This is demonstrated through the teaching of everyday tasks she will need to know to run a household smoothly. It is also clear that the mother’s life reflects these ideals that a husband should be the one working and the wife is to be happy and content by taking pride in her home. The mother also has very strong views on behavior and throughout the story gives many warnings on this such as “on Sundays try and walk like a lady and not like the slut you are so bent on becoming”. This is a very clear statement giving us an idea of the mother’s values with female sexuality as well as a reflection on the values at that time.
She wants her daughter to find a husband and she believes kept pure, and with the knowledge of how to run a successful household, she will be a prize for any man. Abstinence sounds great in theory, but this is not always the case for young women. In this time, expectations are to be wed and then have sex. As much as the mother would like to keep her daughter from having sex, from warning her, and teaching her things like letting then hem of her dress down to be longer, she does realize this may not happen.
It is interesting how she feels it necessary to teach her how to get rid of a baby. This reference to abortion at this time shows how crucial the need to keep up appearances at any cost can be, even if it is illegal or against moral and religious beliefs. Food and clothes play an important role in many of the mother’s teachings. The mother shows the daughter how to cook pumpkin fritters, bread pudding, pepper pot, and doukona. Some of these dishes are traditional Antiguan which shows the importance of tradition and doing things the way they always have been done. The mother also teachers her how to set tables specifically for different meals.
This shows how in the household, eating together is an important part of her ideal home and family. The role of bread in this story is crucial. In the end, his mother teaches her how to squeeze the bread to tell if it is fresh. The daughter, replies “but what if the baker won’t let me feel the bread? ” The mother frustrated after all of her lessons is upset that her daughter has not gotten the point that if you do all of these things, you will not have to worry about it because the baker will respect you.
The role of the clothes is quite similar to that of food. She teaches her daughter to keep things clean, how to separate the colors from the darks and lights, as well as when to wash each. This particular example shows how much importance the mother places on routine. She also mentions the pressing of her husband’s khaki pants, showing that the way he presents himself can be a reflection of her. Hemming dresses and skirts were looked at with relation to female sexuality earlier, but it also is an example of how much importance is placed on appearances.
The relationship between the mother and daughter in this story is important to recognize because the mother seems to hold preconceived notions about what a daughter will or will not become. Following most instructions her mother provides, the mother concludes the set with some mention of her daughter being bent on becoming a slut. It seems like she uses this word to encompass any form of deviance from the social norm. It’s questionable as to why her mother has such a strong fear that her daughter will become his—we do not have any specific examples identifying any reason for her to think such things of her own child.
Therefore, we lack the ability to argue for or against such a point. However, this might be a difference in a generation, perhaps the girl’s mother is stuck in the ways to which she was taught by women in her family beforehand. Perhaps her mother has a fear that her daughter is going astray from her values or living a modernized life that she is so unfamiliar with.
We tend to fear what is unfamiliar, especially when it happens so close to home. Parents always want to teach their children what they know, however, children don’t always choose to follow. Whether the daughter chooses to listen and follow, or listen and lead her own life, it is clear that her mother has had a significant impact on the daughter’s life. The importance of domesticity to the mother, and having her daughter display a conservative sexuality ties back to the behaviors related to food and cloth in this story.
The mother places this vital importance on household knowledge and respectable appearances, believing they are the key to overall happiness. This is clearly not the case. For some people, this type of life could bring them a sense of fulfillment or accomplishment. However, for others, this may not feel like a life of their own and could live always feeling empty or wanting something more. People should be given the choice to do what they want. Unfortunately at this time, women did not get that luxury.
The story Girl by Jamaica Kincaid is an epic representation of how mothers are involved in the upbringing of their daughters in the best way possible, which creates their positive image in the society. More so, it tends to bring out the society’s perception of women who do not follow the standard forms of conduct in their daily lives. In terms of context, it highlights the experience of being young and female in a poor country especially during the colonial period. It is anchored on the themes of the transformative power of domesticity and the risks of being a woman in the society. Much is expected of a woman, and she is easily tagged a ‘slut’ if she goes against the expected behavior. The most interesting thing in the story is that Kincaid appears to be offering her own story, as it happened during Britain colonization of Antigua. A comparison of the story would be made to A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen, which also highlights the same issues in his work. The most significant lesson from both of these stories is that women have to exhibit a high level of submission and consistent behavior, as they live with their families, husbands, and other members of the society. This essay explicates the view that Girl by Jamaica Kincaid is an undisputed representation of colonization and the society’s expectation of women in terms of their behavior.
It is worth understanding that the story is a representative of a period when men dominated society and controlled women as they deemed it fit. The most significant aspect that makes Girl a representative of its time is the full involvement of mothers in the upbringing of their daughters to ensure they do not deviate from the expected standards of behavior.
From the beginning of the story, the mother offers vital pieces of advice to the daughter reiterating what should be and what should not be done by her daughter. For instance, she says, “on Sundays, try to walk like a lady and not like the slut you are so bent on becoming; don’t sing benna in Sunday school; you mustn’t speak to wharf-rat boys” (Kincaid 1144).
This is a clear indication of the view that mothers were keenly involved in monitoring and directing the actions and steps of their daughters at this time. Daughters have no option of going against the desired forms of behavior because they are likely to be branded ‘sluts’. However, mothers of this time do not have a chance to allow such things to happen with their daughters, as they take the dominant role of ensuring they are behaving in an expected way from different places such as a home, church, their husband’s house, and the larger eyes of the society (Bner 15).
The socio-cultural movement reflected in the text is colonialism. It specifically represents Britain’s colonization of Antigua and the plight of the colonized parties. With the existing colonialism, members in Antigua do not have any other option but to work as slaves. They do not receive much compensation for the services they offer as slaves and have to live on little money they have (Bner 7).
Therefore, the mother in the story appears to be transferring most of her poverty frustrations to her daughter in the story. In fact, she does not give her a chance to interrupt during the conversation. The daughter only manages to ask her two questions during the entire conversation. The high level of suffering that Antiguans undergo reflects the negatives of colonization, as it is the primary contributor to poverty and immense suffering among the locals. They do not have the option of overcoming these different forms of suffering (Seanor 23).
The dramatic aspect of the story involving the dialogue between mother and daughter helps convey the message of dominance throughout the story. The conversation between the mother and the daughter is not balanced from a dramatic perspective where everyone is supposed to be given the opportunity to contribute to the ideas suggested.
However, as a child, the girl is dominated by society from the early stages of her life while living with her parents. The only question she gets to say is, “but I don’t sing benna on Sundays at all and never in Sunday school” (Kincaid 1144). This dramatic aspect is vital in emphasizing the message that the girl has no voice in this society.
The only thing she has to do is to be cautious in everything she does, as there is a risk of being labeled a slut. Her mother continues explaining, “and this, they won’t recognize immediately the slut I warned you against becoming” to explain to her what it means to be good in the eyes of the society (Seanor 54).
There is nothing they could do to emancipate themselves because the whole process of silencing women begins with their mothers who are supposed to be in charge of ensuring they have the confidence. Therefore, drama effectively brings out the message of dominance in the story hence indicating the dominant power of men and their view on women who do not live in an expected way.
The story is anchored on one key symbol, ‘benna,’ that helps in the full understanding of what the mother tells her daughter. She warns her daughter against singing benna while in the Sunday school (Kincaid 1144). The benna symbolizes sexuality and the mother fears that her daughter should not get to this stage to be categorized as a slut. She is not supposed to sing a song that attracts negative feelings and perceptions of other people. Overall, singing benna in a Sunday school is not only perceived disrespectful of God but is also a forbidden knowledge that is not supposed to be discussed in public, especially by young girls, as they risk losing their dignity.
It is worth noting that the aspects presented in Girl relate directly to other common stories highlighting the plight of women. For instance, this story relates directly to the issues raised in A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen. Firstly, the Girl and A Doll’s House are similar in their depiction of the theme of domesticity for the girl child. Accordingly, both stories tend to bring out the view that women need to be domesticated and be limited to the performance of household chores. They do not have an opportunity to get into the field and participate in other activities that are fully perceived masculine.
For example, in A Doll’s House, Ibsen captures Nora’s assertion that “When I lived home with Papa, he told me all his opinions, so I had the same ones too” (Ibsen 34). This is reflective of the point that her father domesticates her just because she is a child. Despite her rich background, she does not have a chance to participate in the economic aspect of her own family.
The presentation of the plight of women is clearly captured in both stories, and it makes the case for domestication. The mother feels that the girl has to be fully domesticated for her to live in line with the desires of other members of society.
These stories are also similar in the utilization of drama to bring out the main point, which is the domination of men over women in society. The Girl specifically involves some sense of dialogue in the form of advice from a mother to a daughter to ensure she is able to learn the patterns of social behavior (Smithee 22). The mother brings out the dominance of men by paying attention to every aspect that touches a woman’ life.
For instance, she says, “this is how you behave in the presence of men who don’t know you” (Kincaid 1144). This is reflective of the view that men have a different perception of women. They do not view them as equals but as members of the weaker sex. In a similar sense, A Doll’s House utilizes drama in the best way possible to bring out the position of women in society. They do not have the authority to make their own decisions both at home and in their marriages.
This makes it difficult for them to prosper within society. For example, Ibsen’s assertion that “I’ll do anything to please you Tovarld. I’ll sing for you, dance for you” is reflective of the role of women as pleasers of men (Ibsen 56). The best way for them to be respected in society is to only act in ways that please men. However, the ultimate price they pay is that they gain nothing out of it, as their dignity is trampled on at any given chance.
However, these two stories differ in terms of historical time and place. As noted earlier, Girl is set in the 20th century during the colonial period when Britain comes into Antigua. This historical period is significant in highlighting the fight against the oppressive powers of the colonialists. In a similar respect, it can be seen that women are fighting for their rights within the society, but they do not get away out because of the prison that they have been locked in by their own mothers (Bner 14).
The context in terms of the place also seems to be set in a poor background where parents are only doing their best for their children to ensure they get everything possible in the course of their activities. On the other hand, A Doll’s House is set in a different period in the 19th century where women do not have a chance to speak for their rights.
The setting in terms of place elicits individuals living in a rich background, but women do not have an opportunity to make their own decisions in the course of their living in the society (Smithee 44). The rich setting does not give them an opportunity to handle the regular house chores, but they are still limited in terms of contributing positively to the wellbeing of their own families.
In conclusion, men seem to have dominated over women for a long period of time as highlighted in Girl by Jamaica Kincaid. The mother is determined to ensure that her daughter learns the best of the values required in society. Their actions are limited to the actions that would impress men and not their own personalities and conscience. The theme of women domestication seems to dominate this story hence emphasizing the generational dominance of men over their women.
This story relates directly to A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen in different aspects such as the theme of male dominance. The drama has been utilized in both stories in the best ways possible to highlight the plight of women and the need to change the aspects of the society that seem to put them down at any given time.
The varying historical periods between the two stories highlight the view that the practice of dominance over women has been in place for a longer period, and it might be a high time it stopped with transformative policies on affirmative actions and equality.
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