Essays on Girl by Jamaica Kincaid

Essays on Girl by Jamaica Kincaid

Girl By Jamaica Kincaid consists of a chain of instructions and advice imparted to a daughter by her mother – instructions about how the daughter should dress, perform house chores, walk and carry out herself like a lady, lessons on gardening, cooking, fishing, playing with the boys, getting a husband and how to “spit up in the air if you feel like it”. The advice and instructions from the mother are intended to both help and scold the daughter at the same time. The mother expects an immense deal from her child and she doesn't hesitate in letting her daughter know about it. The reality that this two-page short story is utterly one sentence, with almost all the talking coming from the mother exudes a strong message that the mother requires a lot from her daughter. From the start, the mother orders her daughter to do various tasks. The author marks that the narrator who is the mother dictates 'Wash the white clothes on Monday and put them on the stone heap' (Kinkaid 839). Most importantly, Girl By Jamaica Kincaid demonstrates to the readers how specific the lessons given to the children in the past were. The short story relates to the feminist perspectives.

The main characters in this short story are the mother, who is the narrator, and the daughter. The mother views herself as the one who is capable of saving her child from a life of promiscuity and disrespect. She thinks that her daughter has already begun on this path due to the manner in which she sits, walks, and also sings “benna” (Antiguan folksongs) in Sunday school; she teaches her domestic chores to keep her daughter respectable. Somehow, the narrator is wise since not only does she understands how to clean, keep a household, and cook, but she also has got a sense of decorum and social etiquette, understanding how to behave around various kinds of people. Her instructions and advice indicate that society plays a big role in the lives of the Antiguans and that social behavior and standing in the community have a great weight. However, there is some bitterness in the narrator’s voice and the readers can learn that she directs her frustration and anger toward her daughter. The mother thinks that her wisdom will not make any difference because her daughter is already predestined for a disrepute life. Despite the narrator’s caustic accusations and remarks, the aspect that she is aware of abortion-inducing drugs means that she has also experienced illicit relationships with men.

Although the daughter speaks little in the piece, the fact that the readers can understand the mother’s views and words through her presents her as the protagonist and a silent narrator of the story. She tells the story as if she is recalling her mother’s memory from a far-away future place. Kincaid’s “Girl” isn’t an actual dialogue that is word-for-word between the daughter and the mother but a collection of instructions that the daughter recalls her mother conveying. For instance, the daughter can remember her mother accusing her of impropriety and promiscuity, accusations that haunt her throughout the years. Such remarks show how strong a mother’s opinions and influence can have effects on their children.

Regarding the setting of the “Girl” story, it is clearly evident that it happened in the 20th century. It, however, assumed that the story's setting is stationed at St. John's, Antigua. This place happens to be the author's homeland before she immigrated to the United States at seventeen years old. Exploring Jamaica Kincaid’s past, she didn’t have a very fine relationship with her mother when she was nine after becoming a big sister to her three little siblings.

There are themes of sexuality, powerlessness, independence, domesticity, identity, freedom, inequality, control, and tradition in Girl By Jamaica Kincaid's story. After going through the short story, the readers realize that the author may be delving into powerlessness as a theme. The daughter seems to be powerless considering the instructions issued to her by her mother. She isn't permitted to have her own opinion on how she is supposed to carry out her duties. This could be essential in the story since by being powerless, the author tries to highlight the fact that she is being trained on adherence to the tradition. The daughter is being trained on living a domestic life and she seems to be under the full control of the mother. The girl is also advised against exploring her sexuality as she is discouraged from becoming a slut. This could be important as the narrator seems to have a desire of molding her daughter into her own resemblance, something that further contributes to the theme of identity as well as the theme of control. Even though the voice of the daughter is only heard two times in the short story, it could be significant that whenever she says something, she is being disregarded by her mother. It’s like the mother is enforcing her own will on the girl. Somehow, the daughter does not have freedom since she doesn't have a choice. In the later stages of the piece, the mother assumes that her girl will get married and per se teach her about loving a man. It's as if there is a certain imbalance in the matters of gender. Mainly because the daughter is a female, she is not allowed a choice and voice; she is just supposed to be passive and subservient to males. Just in the manner in which the girl is quiet in almost all the story, it portrays the sense that she should remain submissive and silent in life, especially after marriage. With this, the readers are made to believe that even the mother in the story is accepting and condoning inequality between the two sexes.

Jamaica Kincaid has used various aspects of symbolism in the short story to hide the meaning of some important teachings. The bread has been used as a symbol in the piece when the mother instructs her daughter “always squeeze bread to make sure it’s fresh.” The individuals who do not read the story critically would just assume that the mother is referring to her girl about understanding how to prepare the bread. This is very wrong. It is a contradiction on the mother’s side considering her ‘morals’ since in Christianity, the bread is understood to symbolize Christ’s body, his death due to the sins of the world and yet in the context of this prose, the word “bread” has been used to refer to sexual undertone. Even though the approach of the mother may be viewed as bullying, she prepares her child for wifely responsibilities as well as how appear appealing to the members of the opposite sex. When the girl naively inquires if she would be allowed to feel by the baker, the mother replies “after all you are really going to be the kind of women who the baker won’t let near the bread?” the intentions of the mother for her daughter is very clear to the readers. It is for her daughter to become a proper woman among her peers and even to her future husband.

Reading the piece the first time is a bit comical. However, analyzing it widens the perspective or viewpoint of this story. Educating young ladies that it’s fine to submit to patriarchy through shaming them into abiding by the regulations of hypocrisy and duplicity is utter insanity. Teaching the girls via the media on what is regarded as beautiful, what can attract the attention of the boys and what they are not supposed to do otherwise they are called bitches or sluts for out-speaking. This is the reason why feminism is needed so that the girls can be taught to adore themselves and avoid falling victims to subjugation or to their peers.

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We've found 23 essays on Girl by Jamaica Kincaid

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Girl by Jamaica Kincaid

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 …

BeliefFamilyGenderGirl by Jamaica KincaidHusbandMother
Words 1080
Pages 4
Analysis of the Girl by Jamaica Kincaid

“Girl’’ is a short story written by Jamaica Kincaid, originally published in the New Yorker magazine in 1978. The story was in the author first book, At the Bottom of the River (1984), which included a collection of many other short stories. “Girl’’ is a …

Girl by Jamaica Kincaid
Words 1302
Pages 5
“The Story Girl” By Jamaica Kincaid Review

The Story Girl is a short story written by Jamaica Kincaid in 1978. It is an unorthodox text that gives an overview of the relationship between the girl and her mother also shows a list of rules that the mother gives to her daughter to …

FeminismGenderGirl by Jamaica KincaidMotherWomen
Words 939
Pages 4
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The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Gilman and Girl by Jamaica Kincaid

The short stories The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Gilman and Girl by Jamaica Kincaid share the common theme of women who are portrayed as frail beings. In both literary selections, women are depicted as dependent on men and other family members, and who must deal …

FeminismGirl by Jamaica KincaidMoralityYellow Wallpaper
Words 2307
Pages 9
The Mother Theme in Jamaica Kincaids Girl

In the story, “Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid, the premise and tone reflect that of a mother, who by her own past experiences and repression of being a woman in her time and tradition, administers guide to her own daughter in a changed world, to chasten …

ClothingGirl by Jamaica KincaidMother
Words 1158
Pages 5
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"Girl" is a short story written by Jamaica Kincaid that was included in At the Bottom of the River. It appeared in the June 26, 1978 issue of The New Yorker.
Originally published

June 26, 1978


Jamaica Kincaid

Frequently asked questions

What is the message of the Short Story Girl by Jamaica Kincaid?
The message of the short story Girl" by Jamaica Kincaid is that girls need to be taught how to be proper young ladies in order to be successful in life. The protagonist is given a list of chores and instructions by her mother on how to complete them properly. Throughout the story, the protagonist reflects on how she was never taught how to do these things and how she has had to learn through trial and error. The story ends with the protagonist realizing that she will never be able to please her mother and that she will always be seen as a failure in her mother's eyes."
How old is Jamaica Kincaid now?
Jamaica Kincaid was born on May 25, 1949, making her 71 years old as of 2020. Kincaid is a writer from the Caribbean island of Antigua. She is best known for her novel Annie John, as well as her short story collection, At the Bottom of the River. Kincaid has also written several books of nonfiction, including A Small Place and My Brother.
How does the girl represent Kincaid in her youth?
The girl in Kincaid's Girl" represents the author in her youth. She is a young, black girl growing up in Antigua. The girl is obedient to her mother, but also has a mind of her own. She is eager to please her mother and do what is expected of her, but she also has her own ideas and opinions. The girl is a good student and works hard, but she also likes to have fun and play with her friends. The girl is a complex individual who is able to balance her responsibilities with her own desires."
Where did Jamaica Kincaid go to high school?
Jamaica Kincaid went to Antigua Girls' High School in Antigua, West Indies. After high school, she attended Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, where she received her B.A. in English in 1974.

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