Analysis Of Jamaica Kincaid’s Girl Through A Historical/Biographical Approach
Every day, tons of children especially teenage females endure the domineering parental nature due to the stereotypes imposed by society. The injustices, prejudices, and discriminations against particular a sex plays a significant role in teens abandoning their families and societies when given an opportunity. Jamaica Kincaid and the young daughter from her short story Girl are ideal examples of teen girls being targeted due to the specific gender roles developed in the communities. Approaching to Kincaid’s Girl through a historical/biographical lens, it is evident that the daughter represents the author in her adolescence. As the dictatorial and oppressive parenting style of Kincaid’s mother, after she had three sons in quick succession is similar to the harsh and autocratic mother to daughter relationship from the short story Girl. Besides that, both Kincaid and the girl were challenged by the unjust and prejudicial treatments caused by the different societal roles that boys and girls adhere to. Thus, the dominant parenting and biased gender roles imposed by society indicate how the experiences of the author are reflected in the main protagonist from the piece Girl.
First of all, the domineering mother-daughter relationship is apparent in both the author’s life, as well as the life of the girl in her short story. As, at the age of nine a sudden change came into Kincaid’s life with the subsequent births of her three brothers. This changed her relationship with her mother drastically. Her mother’s love had been severely diminished and she had been inexplicably rejected and cast out. For instance, she was an intelligent student and also won a scholarship to a school affiliated under the British system of education. However, her mother forced her to withdraw from school to support the family and to take care of her ill stepfather. It appears that Kincaid’s mother does not think about the social aspect of her daughter’s life. According to this, the bossy parenting can lead to resentfulness within familial relationships and in one’s behaviours. Correspondingly, authoritative parenting is illustrated in the entire Kincaid’s story Girl. The short story substantially consists of the mother’s outlook. As the use of semicolons and the avoidance of full stop or periods is greatly stressed throughout, showing the dominance of the mother over her daughter. Despite the fact that the things she has been instructing are beneficial for the daughter from her point of view. However, she is not willing to accustom the standpoint of the girl. For instance, mother says, ‘…don’t sing benna in Sunday school;…’ and in response, the daughter’s thinking is shown as ‘but I don’t sing benna on Sundays at all and never in Sunday school’. This illustrates how the mother is not even taking the account of the possibility that the girl already avoids singing benna in Sunday school. Thus, in this regard, the imperious and dominant nature of the mother can be advantageous but quite exasperated for the daughter.
Other than the despotic and repressive parenting, both Kincaid and the girl from her short story are impeached by the unjust gender roles and stereotypes imposed by society. These separate gender-specific roles have driven families apart from each other. As in Kincaid’s case, she was forced to support the family when her family was going through hard times; while her brothers were encouraged to attend school and universities to study further. As well as, she was sent to the United States to work as an ‘au pair’ for a wealthy family with an expectation that she will send her earned money back home to her family. However, instead of sending money back home, the rebellious Kincaid distanced herself from her family. After self-exiling herself in America, she shaped her new life away from the misery and discomfort she had felt in Antigua. For this reason, inflicting different societal roles based on sex can lead to differences within a family. Similarly, in Kincaid’s Girl, the instructions and ideas given by the mother are prejudicially distinct of women in society. For instance, the mother says, ‘…don’t squat down to play marbles — you are not a boy…’. This illustrates how society believes that there are some activities, only meant for boys, and females cannot or should not take part in them. More importantly, the girl is repeatedly labeled as a ‘slut’, exemplifying the discrimination against females. As well as, showing the ills of the society and how these stereotypes inaugurate the gap between the sexes. Due to certain cultural characteristics; unfair treatment against teen girls has negatively shaped their behaviour and familial relationships.
Kincaid, Jamaica. “Girl.” The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Short Stories, edited by Tobias Wolff, Vintage, 1994, pp. 306-07.
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