10th February 2015 Analysis of the short story Girl Jamaica Kincaid’s short story, “Girl,” (1978) describes a mother that is simultaneously berating her daughter and teaching her what’s expected to be and do as an Antiguan woman.
There's no traditional plot, no action, no character descriptions, and no setting. Only two voices, and it takes us a while to figure out that they are mother and daughter. The girl only responds twice to the mom and thats to ask, “but what if the baker won’t let me feel the bread?,”(Kincaid
484) and also to defend herself by saying, “but I don’t sing benna on Sundays at all and never in
Sunday school” (Kincaid 483). The purpose of writing this short story was to show how a parent gives advice and how the daughter reacts to it. It also portrays how difficult motherdaughter relationships can be, how a young lady should act, and how sometimes parents want their kids to be someone they’re really not.
The mother is the main speaker and all the advice she is giving, is to a pre adolescent girl.
She dispenses a long string of advice to her daughter to teach her how to properly run a household and live respectably. The mother says to the girl, “On Sundays try to walk like a lady and not like the slut you are so bent on becoming”(Kincaid 483). She fears her daughter will adopt a life or promiscuity. At the same time, however, the mere fact that she takes the time to
Clancy 2 impart her knowledge suggests a deeper caring for the girl. Although, the mother overacts because she thinks the girl is destined for a wrong path because of the way she sits, sings, and walks. The mom seems too controlling, but in a good way. All of the chores she tallies off to the girl are helpful like how to wash clothes, how to make certain meals, and how to keep the house clean. The pattern I traced from the mother’s advice was that the mother started off by giving advice on how to act like a proper woman and how to be on top of things. For example, she said,
“always eat your food in such a way that it won’t turn someone else’s stomach”(Kincaid 483).
Then she followed it up by talking about how to sew and press off khakis, going along with her advice from the beginning. After that, she started giving advice about things you wouldn’t expect like, “ this is how you spit in the air if you feel like it, and this is how to move quick so it doesn’t fall on you”(Kincaid 484). The mother also went on to give advice about abortions and how to bully a man. It would probably be normal for an unmarried woman to be shunned and called a slut if she became pregnant, but the mom teaches her daughter, "this is how to make a good medicine to throw away a child before it even becomes a child"(Kincaid 484). The one pattern that sticks throughout the story is that mom wants what is best for the girl and she knows how hard it is out there, and she seems to know that it’s not fair to be a female in her society. So, she’s trying to protect her daughter as much as she can.
The advice that mom gives her is useful because it is all advice that mom believes will help her. However, there are some points that don’t really make any sense like teaching the daughter how to spit and how to run away from the spit. The mom does contradict herself during
Clancy 3 the story. Mom wants the girl not to be a young, poor, single mother—but at the same time, she seems a little hopeless if her daughter will ever break out of the cycle that she went through.
Mom also tells her to act like a strong woman, although she then attacks the girl and says, “ this way they won’t recognize immediately the slut I have warned against you becoming”(Kincaid
483). Mom is making her daughter nervous because she is throwing so many ideas at her at once and it is making the girl unclear of what is actually important.
At the end, the girl asks her mom, "but what if…