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The “Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid

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          Sometimes a big story which consists of many volumes is completely clear to the reader. Despite of its considerable volume it is destinated to the only thesis statement and all the events and relationships of the story are presented by the author in order to prove and hilghlight this statement.But sometimes a short essay consisting of several passages or even sentences can provoke more questions than any other big story. “Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid is a wonderful example of that. At first sight that’s a simple dialogue between mother and daughter, a range of advices or instructions given by the mother in order to teach the girl how to behave herself. Actually, there is nothing of unusual in that taking into consideration the fact that the upbringing itself is based on istructions given by the parents to the their children. But the understanding “Girl” as only a list of instructions can result to be too simple and superficial if discussing this story within social, cultural and politic particularities of the time and place depicted in the story.

One of the main advantages reached by Kincaid in “Girl” is a wide range of hidden meanings which do not cover the whole subject matter of the story but are present on some subconscious, latent level. Kincaid revealed a great talent by putting so many of intense emotions in so small story. As it will be shown below, “Girl” contains a few thesis statements depending on how to analyze it. But through the tight and constant mother’s instructions the main and the most general thesis of the novel is expressed: each mother tries to pass the most of her experiences to her daughter in order the latter could avoid a plenty of problems and concerns her mother has lived through and it is very important for everyone to have such a “mother” in his life, to have somebody who could help you, teach how to do this or that thing, to be you guide in this life ,no matter how severe.   This thesis was issued by Jamaica basing on her own life.

      Regarding the whole structure of this research, it will be realized according to the following outline:

      1.The discussion of the whole structure of the story (its linguistic and semantic particularities)

  1. The main points of Kincaid’s autobiography and the description of social and cultural backgorund appropriate to “Girl”.
  2. The presentation of a range of literary genres  which “Girl” can be referred to.
  3. The discussion of the possible interpretations of “Girl” whether they really correspond to Kincaid’s intentions.
  4. The conclusion in which the main thesis statement given in the introduction is proved.

          Without any doubts “Girl” is a polysemantic story.The first reason proving that is that the reader doesn’t know exactly how to denominate the story’s genre. Is that an essay, poem or a dialogue? Certainly, each of these literary form can be correlated  regarding “Girl”. Below the word “story” will be used regarding “Girl” as a neutral variant. Being polysemantic, “Girl” gives birth to several thesis statements at the same time. The problem is to choose the right one, which would correspond to  Jamaica Kincaid’s seeing of the problem discussed in “Girl”. As a little piece of foreshadowing it can be said that, of course, “Girl” is able to give a great deal of thinking and there are many paths within which “Girl” can be interpreted but one hasn’t to deal with “Girl” within the one interpretation only. The understanding of “Girl” must develop in a free, flexible way. Of course, the understanding of a certain story is a very individual area and each can see it in his proper way but regarding “Girl” it will be helpful to remember that “Girl” is written basing on Kicaid’s own biography. So, it is necessary to perceive the story from the point of view of Kincaid being a little girl.

            (Kincaid 2004: n. p.):“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; don’t walk barehead in the hot sun; cook pumpkin fritters in very hot sweet oil…” –these and the rest of “Girl’s” instructions provoke a lot of questions. Is that a simple narrative showing on how a girl must behave herself in Antigua’s society? Is that the description of mother-daughter relationships? Or that is some personal, individual, proper of Jamaica Kincaid? The present research is planned to answer these questions through the detailed examination of social and cultural particlarities of Antigua of those times and its influences on Kincaid’s life.

           “Girl” is a one-sentence, 650-word dialogue between mother and daughter. The subject matter is typical for Kincaid. Many of Kincaid’s work are inextricably linked with the theme of motherhood. Actually, Jamaica Kincaid’s short story “Girl” is the opening piece in a collection entitled “At the Bottom of the River”.

          Jamaica Kincaid was born in Antigua while the island was part of the British Empire. From the time Kincaid was born in 1949 until she left in 1966, Antigua was a colony of Great Britain. England had gained control of the island in 1667, after thirty years of fighting with the Caribbean Indians, who inhabited the island, and the Dutch and French, who wished to own it. In 1674 the first great sugar-cane plantations were established, and slaves were brought in from Africa to do the work on them; the slaves were freed in 1834, and their descendants make up most of the population of the island. Antigua also became an important naval base for the British. “The Girl” can be also reviewed as an interpretation of the political relationships between England and Antigua. This point of view will be discussed below.

         Jamaica Kincaid became a professional writer almost by accident. Living in New York City in the 1970s, she befriended one of the staff writers at the “New Yorker” and began to accompany him as he conducted research for the “Talk of the Town” section. Before long, she discovered that she could write and that her writing impressed the editors of the magazine. When her first piece of nonfiction was published, Kincaid remembers, “That is when I realized what my writing was. My writing was the thing I thought. Not something else. Just what I thought” After working as a staff writer at the New Yorker for four years, she began to turn to fiction. “Girl” is the first piece of fiction she published. It appeared in the “New Yorker” in 1978. In her 1984 “New York Times Book Review” piece about Kincaid’s “At the Bottom of the River”, Edith Milton singles out “Girl” as  the most elegant and lucid piece of the collection, and observed that the mother’s exhortations define in a few paragraphs the expectations, the limitations, and the contents of an entire life. What will the future hold for the girl is she follows her mother’s suggestions?

           Henry Louis Gates Jr., a distinguished critic and black studies scholar compared Kincaid’s work to that of Toni Morrison and Wole Soyinka: (New York State Writers Institute 1999:n. p.): “There is a self-contained world which they explore with great detail. Not to chart the existence of the world, but to show that human emotions manifest themselves everywhere.”

           The structure of the story is very interesting as well. By its pure literary form it is a dialogue because two persons are involved (though the girl speaks only twice) but factually the story is written in the form of exterior monologue: the protagonist speaks to another person who is not in the performance space or to the audience. This way of writing is symbolic because the story itself is an external expression of author’s feelings. Kincaid looked back into her childhood and wrote what she found there.

            There are a few literary genres within which the “Girl” can be discussed. ‘‘Girl’’ does not have a narrator in the conventional sense, because it does not have action in the conventional sense. There is no event, or series of events, acted out or told about by the characters or by a third-person narrator outside the action. Instead, the story is for the most part one speech delivered by the mother. The mother speaks in the first person referring to herself as ‘I” when she mentions (Kincaid 2004: n. p.):“the slut I know you are so bent on becoming” and “the slut I have warned you against becoming.” Far more important than the pronoun “I” however, is the pronoun “you”. Critics have noted that the use of language in “Girl” as well as in the other stories of this collection is one of its most notable features. “Girl” is unusual because it’s a short story written in the “second person” voice, meaning that the narrator addresses the reader as “you.” The narrator here is a mother giving advice to her daughter, who is the “you” in the story.

Kincaid’s use of language in this story is a key to understanding the nature of the mother-daughter relationship which it conveys. Grammatically, the entire story is a single sentence, which is read like a list of statements made by the mother to her daughter. The use of repetition and rhythm makes the mother’s words to be almost hypnotic. The mother does most of the talking. She delivers a long series of instructions and warnings to the daughter, who twice responds but whose responses go unnoticed by the mother. There is no introduction of the characters, no action, and no description of setting. The mother’s voice simply begins speaking and continues through to the end.  The mother directs her speech to her daughter, the “girl” of the title, and every instruction contains either the word “you” (“this is how you set a table for tea”) or the implied “you” (“cook pumpkin fritters in very hot sweet oil”). In its handling of point of view, “Girl” is more like a type of lyric poetry, not a common poetry and not fulfilled with rhymes but a very particular one, so-called Kincaid’s poetry.

            “Girl” can also be perceived as an autobiographic essay. Typically, Kincaid writes in a deliberately precise rhythmic style about intense emotions. Her fiction is free from conventional plots, characters, and dialogue. The critic Suzanne Freeman has recognized that what Kincaid has to tell her, she tells, with her singsong style, in a series of images that are as sweet and mysterious as the secrets that children whisper in your ear. Although Kincaid is married to an American and lives in Vermont, she feels that the British West Indies will continue to be the source of her fiction. What she really feels about America is that it’s given her a place to be herself-but “herself” as she was formed somewhere else. The daughter is an adolescent or pre-adolescent girl in Antigua and speaks only twice in the story, voicing impulsive objections to her mother’s accusations and warnings.

The mother is a woman in Antigua who understands a woman’s “place.” She lives in a culture that looks to both Christianity and obeah, an African-based religion, and that holds women in a position of subservience to men. She recites a catalogue of advice and warnings to help her daughter learn all a woman should know.  The most of Kincaid’s writing focuses on the West Indies are generally autobiographical (for example, “Annie John”, “The Autobiography of My Mother”, “Lucy”, “My Brother”, or “A Small Place”). She once said, (Bonetti 1992: n. p.): “This is the life I have. This is the life I write about.” The family’s circumstances were those of the tropical poor. Her stepfather was self-employed and, as long as his health allowed him to work, the family was moderately prosperous, part of the genteel lower-middle class. Their small house on Nelson Street had no electricity, bathroom, or running water, but these conditions were the result of the slow development of the Antiguan urban infrastructure and not necessarily a reflection on the family’s financial situation.

Until her three brothers were born in quick successions during Kincaid’s early adolescence and her father’s health deteriorated, the family’s circumstances were easy enough to allow for occasional private schooling, books, lessons, and new dresses. Their situation determined Kincaid’s role in the household; her relatively light chores revolved around arranging for the “night-soil men” to collect and replace their outhouse tub when full, fetching buckets of fresh water in the morning and early evening, trimming, cleaning, and replacing the kerosene in the oil lamps, and later helping her mother care for her three younger. So, Jamaica had an excellent proper experience regarding relations with her mother. Kincaid was taught to live by her mother just like the girl in the poem under research. Unfortunately her relations with her mother didn’t last long because of an early death of Kincaid’s mother.

            Many of the instructions give purely practical advice for doing daily chores in a developing nation where running water and electricity are not common. Even in a society where people do not have many clothes, obtaining and maintaining them is hard work, and that work typically falls to women. Like much of Kincaid’s fiction, “Girl” is an examination of the relationship between the “girl” of the title and her mother. The mother’s instruction to (Kincaid 2004: n. p.): “soak your little cloths right after you take them off” refers to the cloths woman in many parts of the world use to absorb their menstrual flow and indicate that the girl is a young adolescent. Kincaid has said that all of her fiction is based on autobiography. In an interview with Selwyn R. Cudjoe she explains: (Cudjoe 1989:402): ‘‘the fertile soil of my creative life is my mother. When I write, in some things I use my mother’s voice, because I like my mother’s voice. . . . I feel I would have no creative life or no real interest in art without my mother. It’s really my “fertile soil.”

               Although the setting is not specified in the story, Kincaid has revealed in interviews that it takes place in Antigua, her island birthplace. Generally, in her novels, Kincaid reflects on the influence of the mother-daughter relationship in shaping a female identity in a male-dominated society and explores the phenomenon of female bonding. Because colonialism involves politics and public life, often thought to be male spheres of influence, Kincaid’s “Girl” provides the opportunity to explore Kincaid’s relationship with her mother as well as her development of identity in the light of cultural expectations. Kincaid examines also a mother’s role in her daughter’s socialization and explores the ideas of love, affection, hostility, death and their impact on self-discovery. In fact, in an interview with Kay Bonetti, Kincaid states that (Bonetti 1992:  n. p.):  “I don’t really write about men unless they have something to do with a woman.” Kincaid often portrays sex as a tool of independence for women, adding another dimension to the feminist aspects of her writing. Mother determined to make a well-behaved, soft-spoken, proper Afro-Saxon girl. Propriety demanded that the girl not become (Kincaid 2004: n. p.): “the kind of woman who the baker won’t let near the bread.”

            While analyzing “Girl” one hasn’t to forget about the whole political and social situation appropriate to this story. Kincaid’s tight, lyrical prose guides the reader through her tortured recollections of her mother, as that relationship takes on the dual gravity of mother-daughter relationships that many readers can relate to as well as of the hegemonic interactions between mother country (here England) and daughter island (Antigua): England teaches Antigua how to live. May be, subconsciously Kincaid provided “Girl’s” protagonists with some political references as the reflection of her childish’ memories about her native country.

            It was already said that the “Girl” is a kind of lyrical poetry. So, it can be discussed as a brilliant piece of African folklore and discussion on it at the same time. The mother’s litany of advice, warning, and condemnation in ‘‘Girl’’ also contains a string of confusing and contradictory messages about the daughter’s relationship to her African heritage and culture. On the one hand, the mother insists on warning the daughter against integrating African folk culture into her Christian education.(Kincaid 2004: n. p.):‘‘Is it true you sing benna songs in Church?’’ the mother asks. As benna songs are African folk songs, the mother’s question is designed to warn the daughter against maintaining cultural practices derived from her African heritage. Yet, on the other hand, the mother’s list of advice contains rich elements of this African heritage, which she clearly intends to pass on to her daughter. Thus, while warning against mixing African traditional songs with the Western practice of Christianity, the mother is sure to pass on information based on folk beliefs derived from African culture.

             Jamaica Kincaid’s story “Girl” can be also interpreted as some kind of imperative literature which has as its purpose to be a manual of upbringing children.  The sharp style Jamaica Kincaid uses in “Girl” recounts the experiences of a young girl through shared wisdom taught to her by some external force. Kincaid’s work shows this teaching as a mind-numbing list of demands. Undoubtedly, Kincaid’s most startling insight in “Girl” is the tremendous amount of detailed information the girl is being told. From proper table-setting to correct cooking methods to “womanly” walking, the girl’s lessons are many and extremely precise. The reader gets the impression that the story is about a girl who is in training. Many of the phrases the mother spits out at the girl seem silly and unnecessary. The mother, for example, tells the girl (Kincaid 2004: n. p.):”this is how you sweep a corner; this is how you sweep a whole house; this is how you sweep a yard”. The exactness with which the mother preaches lessons to her daughter gives the impression that children grew up under the direction of a drill sergeant.

The poem allows readers a glimpse into the strict, demanding manner in which parents reared their children almost twenty years ago. Through Kincaid’s careful structuring of “Girl,” readers capture the commanding tone of the story. The relationship between the mother and the girl also reeks of empowerment and distance, as best seen through the girl’s short-lived speech in the story. A person spends most of their developing years under the guidance of their parents or guardians. They affect how we think, how we feel, and how we act. These are among the people who hold the greatest influence. Jamaica Kincaid tells of an unknown person describing to a girl how to be a “good” girl. The essay illustrates an authority figure that has expectations for a young female and why and how those expectations will come about.

              As young children growing up without a care in the world, we cannot comprehend why authority figures dictate how we should behave. The girl is expected to do a myriad of chores and to become a “lady”. She is advised on how she should act and how she can avoid being a “slut”.  The girl in Jamaica Kincaid’s essays is not being held to such high hopes and dreams. The expectations placed on her are not very high, but are unforgiving. Her authority figure wants her to be the perfect “traditional” girl. She is expected to cook, clean, iron, and not assert her independence.

The girl, though, is naturally independent and free-willed. For the authority figures to have their way, the girls must be obedient. Obedience and denigration are the methods in which these expectations are supposed to be met. In the “Girl”, the girl is given two choices – be a girl or be a slut. Essentially, she is being told what she must do; there is no room for debate. In between being told what to do, though, the authority figure also reminds her she could well be on her way to becoming a slut. The girl comes full circle. She goes through a period of being told what to be and what to do. The girl resents the pressure and expectations put on them in their adolescence, but in the end, they choose paths that lead back to their beginnings. Jamaica Kincaid’s girl spends a good portion of her youth protesting the label of “slut” placed upon her. In the conclusion, she becomes the kind of woman she swore she was not.

           “Girl” can be also perceived in some psychological-pedagogic meaning. The most important is that “Girl” shows readers how particular the lessons taught to the children two decades ago were. The mother in “Girl” expects a great deal of her daughter, and she does not hesitate to let the girl know it. The use of repetition here is suggestive of the repetitive nature of the endless domestic chores which the girl seems condemned to spend her life performing. The fact that the two-page-story is entirely one sentence – and almost all of that emanating from the mother – gives off a powerful message: the mother demands a lot of her daughter. From the very beginning, the mother commands her daughter to perform tasks. The mother’s reluctance to speak gently or even use the word “please” strongly suggests that the mother is in full and overwhelming control of her daughter.

             With strict instructions such as the mother’s to her daughter, it is easy to see that the daughter is intimidated by her mother. Kincaid’s sentence structure again demonstrates the meekness of the girl whose thoughts and questions are represented a mere two times in the story. The first phrase the girl mutters represents the distance in the relationship between the girl and the mother, as the girl interrupts her mother with (Kincaid 2004: n. p.) “but I don’t sing benna on Sundays at all and never in Sunday school”. The mother, however, continues with her lecture. This relationship is very mechanical. The conversation between the mother and daughter is almost in a rhythm so strong it seemed to be hypnosis, aimed at magically chanting out bits of the subconscious. The girl’s comment is a true evidence of the mother’s expectation that her daughter must be quiet and listen to the lecture, regardless of whether the girl knows the lessons already. Because the conversation between the mother and daughter is one-sided, it can be concluded that the entire relationship between the two is the same.

           Generally, speaking about “Girl” Jamaica Kincaid’s story represents a piece of history steeped in formalities and strictness. Yet, Kincaid’s tale of a mother-daughter everyday conversation suggests two things. Firstly, it would seem that now, nearly twenty years after the story, a mother like the one in “Girl” would not be successful in her efforts to bring her child up well. In many aspects, the assumption would be correct. We are, after all, living in an era sparked with technology and equal opportunity for all. Children have stronger voices in the decisions made about their lives than ever before. Most importantly, there is both a lack of discipline from parents and an increase of respect for children that makes the old-fashioned manner of child-rearing nearly impossible.

            It can also be concluded that new opportunities for women have brought, unfortunately, an overall neglect in the area of child-upbringing. As more children in the 1990’s are uneducated and high school dropouts, they need more attention. Children today are expected to perform as adults in areas they may not have had knowledge or experience. Minus the petty details, Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl” could be a nice example. Despite the fact that the mother commands, suffocates, and repeats lessons to her daughter, the girl is, nevertheless, learning about values and morals. Although times today may have graduated mothers from house cleaners and lecturers, there is a dire need for a revival of the old-fashioned concern.

  In “The Girl”, the author relies on an extremely long and expressive sentence to convey the thematic content of the work that of girl’s feelings of rebellion toward the things demanded of her by society and the repressive nature of these demands. The reader can see the girl’s tone of two places she is allowed to speak in the text.  In these replies she never agrees with the demands, but questions them, albeit ineffectively. The fact that the girl is only able to respond only once or twice expressively conveys the girl’s feelings of repression and the smothering grip of either family or society.

The long sentence of the story is divided into sections each separated by semicolons.  Each section alternates between a long section of demands, one line of the girl questioning the demands and then another long list of things that the girl is being shown how to do. Through contextual clues the reader can glean that it is probably the mother speaking.   Most of the demands are domestic and feminine in nature, hinting at a mother-daughter relationship between the two characters of the story.  For example the mother demands (Kincaid 2004: n. p.): “this is how you fold your father’s shirt” and “this is how you love a man”.   It is however possible to gain other interpretations of the text due to the openness and generality of all the demands. These multiple interpretations come to light also as the reader analyzes the setting of the story.

“Girl” is a brilliant example of one-side personality’s education.  Actually, the poem isn’t a bad thing for a family member to teach their daughter since this is the role that women were to take in this culture. (Kincaid 2004: n. p.):”Wash the white clothes on Monday … don’t walk bareheaded in the hot sun … this is how to sew on a button … this is how you set a table for breakfast …” The story gives here these lessons plus many others and it throws in the negative thoughts of how the girl is “bent” on growing up. The constant repetition of how the girl is going to grow up to be a “slut” and how she is going to “sing benna on Sundays” are the true lessons that are going to have the most “shaping” effect on the girls life. By giving these “instructions” and repetitive accusations, the girl is only going to learn one path from her “family” that is teaching her. That is going to be a role of a subservient female whose only duty in life is to serve the males of her family in any way that they desire. A role that may be totally acceptable in one culture and to someone that is able to look at this with the open eye of cultural relativity, but for our ethnocentric society, this is not the concept of family.

“African woman is a slave” –that’s the next statement that can be issued regarding “Girl”. The girl is strictly taught by her mother. Of course, the mother tries to do her best in order to make her daughter be ready for the adult life. But at the same time, isn’t that a real despotism? The girls’ voice doesn’t have any importance at all. It can be explained in some measure with her age but since her childhood she already gets an impression that her opinion doesn’t exist. The girl is deprived of the ability to perceive herself as personality with her own opinions and thoughts. At the same time those are particularities of African children’s education. Many feminist issues are raised and addressed in “Girl”. Among the issues taken up in the state of feminist theory and criticism are the importance of feminism as a literary critical method, the representation and misrepresentation of women in literary texts, the education of women, the access of women to the economic means of survival, women in the domestic sphere, women as part of social communities, women’s role in politics and revolution, sexuality and the direct treatment of women by men and men by women.

Underlying this array of specific interests are questions of gender in representation and of the reality or realities of life for women in Africa-past, present, and future. The girl from the very beginning is destined to serve for men. African upbringing doesn’t mean girls’ development as personalities. That’s why it is sometimes difficult to perceive the dialogue between mother and daughter as an example of mother-daughter relationships because these relationships are too one-sided. The girls’ side is too weak to be an independent, individual way of thinking. The first time when the girl interrupts her mother asking what if the baker won’t let her feel the bread- isn’t that the result of her mother’s one-side upbringing? The girl from the very beginning, perceive herself as a slave which can be forbidden to feel the bread. And may be she doesn’t have any name in the story because her name isn’t important at all, like her mother’s name as well? In the course of these thoughts “Girl” can be discussed as Kincaid’s protest against African’s women status. There is nothing of surprising if it’s so as Kincaid knows by herself what means to be an African girl by her own experience.

        So, as we see one can interpret the “Girl” as follows:

-autobiographic essay

-political pamphlet (regarding political relations between England and Antigua)

-imperative manual writing

-a piece of African folklore reflecting the relationships within an African family

-some kind of demographic or feminist essay being a Kincaid’s protest against African women humiliation

-psychological, pedagogic essay

 The autobiographical essay in some not very common form of lyrical poetry -that is the most suitable title as to the labeling the “Girl” with some kind of genre or literary current name. But this story isn’t to be perceived according to one of these literary forms only. The story is full of instructions and commands. But they are more than commands; the phrases are a mother’s way of insuring that her daughter has the tools that she needs to survive as an adult.

The fact that the mother takes the time to train the daughter in the proper ways for a lady to act in their culture is indicative of their familial love; the fact that there are so many rules and moral principles that are being passed to the daughter indicates that mother and daughter spend a lot of time together. The reader gets the impression that the advice that the mother gives her daughter has been passed down from many women’s generations. The advice of the sages has enabled their daughters to endure hardships and to avoid making the same mistakes that they had made, such as planting okra far from the house because it attracts red ants. The reader knows that there was some woman in the past who learned this lesson the hard way, and included it in the litany of advice for future generations. The imperative character of the story is expressed within affectionate mother-daughter relations. So, it is hard to correlate it with hard and dry manual’s speech.

              The “Girl” can’t be perceived as a political pamphlet purely as well because the whole feminine character of the story denies any political influences. The mother shows the girl how to love a man. Surely, this theme is out of all the political relationships.

            As to the pedagogic character of this story it is difficult to call a pedagogic or psychological essay a 650-word writing which describes the mother’s monologue only twice interrupted by the daughter. The “Girl” can serve as a very narrow pedagogic manual only appropriate to the time and place depicted.

 Concerning “Girl” as an example of African-American folklore it must be said that of course, this story can be referred to some kind of Antigua’s  upbringing’s traditions but it is difficult to assure that Kincaid’ aim was the noting of cultural traditions. The folklore here is present only in the quality of reflection of women’s position in Antigua’s society.

 Of course, “Girl” presents a wide field for feminist discussions as well but there are no furious and radical protests in “Girl”. The girl and her mother perceive their fate as something that hasn’t to be discussed. Practical activities are more important for them. It is sooner a speechless protest by Jamaica Kincaid but not a main thesis statement of the story.

 The “Girl” is sooner a mixture of above mentioned genres expressed in autobiographic form. Of course, sometimes the opinions regarding this story are too sharp and extreme and can’t be treated as one of Kincaid’s intentions. It is really hard to agree with the following opinion: (Marxist reading: 3): “As such, the absence of plot in the story is more than a directionless narrative; it is the result of the girl’s oppression. Such is the condition of the working class: It does not progress beyond the perpetuation of its own labor. The girl will go nowhere, within or beyond the narrative of what her work-her life-entails. She is without any means for social advancement; she will always need to “make ends meet.” This is no more than purely ideological understanding of the subject matter of the story.

The real thesis statement is rather simple and bright. The mother just is eager of helping her daughter to find the right path in her life.

 When Gabriel Garcia Marquez was asked about the meaning of the symbols in his “One Hundred Years of Solitude”, he answered he hadn’t created any symbols, he was just noting his childhood’s memories. Equally, Kincaid created just a bright and full of love and tenderness story about mother-daughter relationships. It is not necessary to find some extreme decisions regarding “Girl”. Mother wanted to teach her daughter how to live, to prevent her from possible mistakes. Kincaid has just expressed her memories and feelings from her childhood in the mother-daughter dialogue which reflects cultural and social panorama of Antigua of that time showing the woman’s place in that society and the methods of upbringing appropriate to that time families.

This dialogue is full of intense emotions and is sharp and full of love at the same time like all the parents-children relationships are. Kincaid described the mother-daughter relationships she herself was looking for since her childhood. In her interview to Tricia Romano Jamaica Kincaid says: (Romano 1998: n. p.): “I have no mother. She died when I was 7 years old. Bloated, white and pasty – terminally ill from a strange disease they call lupus. The last 15 years of my life, then, have been spent searching for one – a mother. A woman who could nurture me, who could tell me how to cook and clean and who would then tell me I didn’t have to do these things. A woman who would reaffirm that I could (and can) do anything I so desired. I still haven’t found this person.” Precisely these words can be referred as the main thesis of “Girl”: to have someone in this life who could help you and show how to live, what way to follow in order to avoid mistakes and problems.


  1. Kincaid J.2004. Girl. http://www.turksheadreview.com/library/kincaid-girl.html (6 Nov.2005).
  2. Barnet, S. 1991-1190. “Jamaica Kincaid. Girl. The Harper Anthology of Fiction”. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc.

3 Dutton, W.1989. Black Literature Criticism. Vol. 2. Detroit: Gale Research Co.

  1. Cudjoe, Selwyn R.1989. Jamaica Kincaid and the Modernist Project: An Interview,” Callaloo: A Journal of African-American and African Arts and Letters. Baltimore, MD. Spring, 396-411.
  2. No author. Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl”: A Marxist Reading. http://bcs.bedfordstmartins.com/virtualit/fiction/criticaldefine/marxessay.pdf (6 Nov.2005).
  3. College Now.2004.Discussing Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl”: an entry from Elizabeth Benton’s reflective journal. http://www.collegenow.cuny.edu/teachers/pd/seminars/booktalk/journals/benton.html (6 Nov.2005).
  4. World Literature in English.1998.Jamaica Kincaid. http://www.eng.fju.edu.tw/worldlit/world_lit_97.htm (7 Nov.2005).
  5. The writing process. 2005. Girl by Jamaica Kincaid.http://virtualatdp.berkeley.edu:8081/wp6/_9/2 (7 Nov.2005).
  6. Mc Graw Hill. 75 Thematic Readings. 2003. Jamaica Kincaid. http://highered.mcgraw-hill.com/sites/0072469315/student_view0/jamaica_kincaid-999/_nbsp_.html (7 Nov.2005).
  7. English Literature. 2002. Jamaica Kincaid, Merle Hodge, George Lamming. http://www.english-literature.org/essays/kincaid_hodge_lamming.html (7 Nov.2005).
  8. Faithful Reader.com. Book Reporter.com. 2005. Jamaica Kincaid. http://www.bookreporter.com/authors/au-kincaid-jamaica.asp (7 Nov.2005).
  9. New York State Writers Institute. 1999. Jamaica Kincaid. http://www.albany.edu/writers-inst/kincaid.html (7 Nov.2005).
  10. Bonetti, Kay. 1992. “An Interview with Jamaica Kincaid.” The Missouri Review. http://www.missourireview.org/index.php?genre=Interviews&title=An+Interview+with+Jamaica+Kincaid (8 Nov.2005).
  11. University Bookstore. The Online Daily. Romano, T. 1996. Truth and pain. An interview with Jamaica Kincaid. http://archives.thedaily.washington.edu/1996/020896/Kincaid020896.html  (9 Nov.2005).

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