Mother-Daughter Relationship in Annie John
The novel, Annie John, by Jamaica Kincaid shows how a young girl’s relationship with her mother changes as she goes through puberty. Annie John, the 12 year old girl, develops mentally and physically, but also starts to become distant from her mother who she has been close with all of her life. The young girl’s disobedient position towards her mother is shown throughout the novel, creating a toxic mother-daughter relationship. When Annie John was a little girl she loved spending time with her mother, but as she grows older she begins to show hatred towards her mom. The relationship between Annie and her mother changes throughout the novel as Annie becomes a rebellious teenager, going against her morals.
Before Annie John reached the stage of puberty, she had a loving relationship with her mother and they spent a lot of their time together. Her and her mother were very close-knit and the two spent their time bathing, shopping, cooking, and more. One day during lunch she looked at her father and didn’t think anything of it, but when she looked at her mother she took a moment and cherished her mother’s beauty, “When my eyes rested on my father I didn’t think very much of the way he looked. But when my eyes rested on my mother, I found her beautiful” (Kincaid 18). She expresses her mother’s features in a loving tone showing how much she truly loved her. Annie had great admiration for her mother and wanted to be exactly like her. Throughout the story, Kincaid shows Annie John following her mother around, admiring her mother’s beauty, and doing exactly as her mother does. Whether it was cooking dinner in the kitchen or watching her mother bathe herself, Annie was always at her side.
As Annie John becomes a teenager she begins to have a toxic relationship with her mother and starts to keep secrets from her, becoming a disobedient child. For example, the following scene shows her going against her morals: “Reaching into my mother’s purse for the odd penny or so was easy enough to do … I hardly asked myself what use the Red Girl could really have for these gifts; I hardly cared that she only glanced at them for a moment and then placed them in the pocket of her dirty dress” (Kincaid 64). Annie John was looking to buy a gift for the girl she liked, but didn’t have the money, so she stole it from her mother. As the novel progresses, Annie John reaches an age where she doesn’t receive as much attention from her mother. Her mother believes that since she is turning into a young woman, she should begin to find her own way of life. This makes Annie John feel betrayed and unloved, and because of this she begins to act very differently towards her mother, stealing and lying to her. She soon begins to hate her mother, sometimes wishing she was dead. The two characters distance themselves from each other, losing the close bond they originally had.
The mother-daughter relationship between Annie and Mrs. John is torn apart as Annie John becomes an unruly adolescent. When Annie John was a little girl her and her mother spent every moment together and had a very strong relationship. By the time Annie John begins to hit puberty they’re relationship becomes tense and they begin to drift. Mother-daughter relationships are tense, and Kincaid shows this through these two characters. The relationship between a mother and a daughter is developed at birth, but Kincaid shows the struggles that many teenage girls and their mothers face when reaching an adolescent stage. At times, the author shows how much Annie John hates her mother and wishes she was dead, but at other times she shows the loving affection between both of them. Annie and her mother may have difficult times throughout the novel, but they both know deep down how much love they have for one another.
Colonial Influence and Cultural Identity in Annie John
Annie John is a novel written by Jamaica Kincaid in 1985. The book is a coming of age story as it depicts the life of a young girl named Annie John as she shifts from her childhood to her adolescence. At first, the book shows the strong bond between a young girl and her mother, but as she searches for her own identity, we see this girl gradually distance herself from her family. As Annie grows she experiences knew facets of her culture through the diverse adventures she partakes in and many friendships she forms. The story centers itself around three main themes: parent-child relationship, feminism and colonial influence on Caribbean culture. Through the analysis of colonial influence on Antigua’s educational and cultural standards in Annie John, we can ask ourselves: How and why is a social group represented in a particular way? In order to answer this question, this text will focus on the depiction of the British by firstly examining the coexistence of the two different nationalities, secondly deconstructing British social expectations and conformity to British standards and lastly studying the colonial history of Antigua.
Firstly, the story depicts the challenges that Annie goes through to find her cultural identity on this culturally diverse island. Although most of Antigua had a predominant creole culture because of its Afro-Antiguans majority, the British still formed a white oligarchy by constituting 1,7 percent of the Antiguan demographic in the 1950s. The Creole culture emerged from the mixing of Amerindian, West African and European cultures during colonization and is still a greatly spread culture throughout the Caribbean region. In the story, we can clearly see a split between two cultures: British culture and Obeah culture. Throughout the story English folks are regarded as more uptight and proper individuals by depicting them as rule enforcers such as the school teacher ““our headmistress (said) that she hoped we had all left our bad ways behind us, that we would be good examples for each other and bring greater credit to our school”. On the other hand, Afro-Antiguans are regarded as more superstitious individuals that consult their spiritual guides (Obeah women) to make decisions, “We took these baths after my mother had consulted with her obeah woman, and with her mother and a trusted friend. And all three of them had confirmed that from the look of things around our house (…) one of the many women my father had loved (…) was trying to harm my mother and me by setting bad spirits on us.”
Secondly, the English school system in which the story is set illustrates the conformism of British culture and suppression of Creole culture. Annie John’s maturing pushes her to reject the oppressive nature of her school system. Therefore, the rejection of British order is exemplified by the judgment she has over her English teacher “I knew right away that she [miss Moore] had come to Antigua from England, for she looked like a prune left out of its jar a long time and she sounded as if she had borrowed her voice from an owl. […] I wondered if she even smelled like a fish.” Not to mention, the loathing sentiment Annie withholds for the codified gender roles that are imposed upon her. Therefore, these social constructs are threats to Annie’s sense of identity, as she has to follow a code that contradicts her very sense of personal freedom and identity. For example, Gwen and Annie’s relationship was frowned upon by the English characters in the story and at the time two girls would be forbidden to have such close relations.
Thirdly, Antigua’s history with colonialism is a central aspect of the book. Although Afro-Antiguans had been liberated from the slavery they had endured for centuries, the colonial culture was still predominant in the educational spheres. Annie John does not adhere to the ideals of colonial history and wants to challenge the order by contesting the actions of colonizers. For example, when Columbus Day rolls around Annie decides to take a stance against this commemoration by blaspheming Christopher Columbus in her history book and consequently gets reprimanded by her principal by having to Annie copy Paradise Lost as punishment, “When I next saw the picture of Columbus sitting there all locked up in his chains, I wrote under it the words: The Great Man Can No longer Just Get Up and Go.” The principal’s choice of the book is important because it serves to symbolize what is to come if Annie does not straighten up her behavior and depicts quite fairly the reality of Antigua when this paradisiac island became a living hell with the arrival of the British and establishment of slavery.
To conclude, it is now clear that British cultural clashes with Annie John’s character development throughout the story. Although Annie rejects the British social standards, these aspects of her environment are constantly evoked by the often criticized English characters in the story. Therefore, Jamaica Kincaid establishes a constant struggle between the coexistence of these cultures and shows the difficulty Annie has to find her own cultural identity.
Similar ideas in Annie John And Things Fall Apart Novels
In conducting an analysis of the two postcolonial works Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid and Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe there are multiple postcolonial themes present in both of these works. The primary focus of this paper will be to examine the way in which the course themes of religion, marriage, and education are manifested in these two works. Note will be given to how the subjects appear similar or different in these works, as well as how much emphasis the author seems to put on these postcolonial themes.
Another important aspect in looking at these works is the representation of Christians in the postcolonial work. In particular, the way missionaries are portrayed is where the emphasis will lie. The final aspect of this paper will be to talk about a Christian response to injustices that may have been portrayed in the works. The way Christians as global “neighbors” should respond to what has been done to native people who have been colonized.
Religion is the first topic between the two books that should be given thought. Religion is very important to native cultures and it is something that colonizers wish to do away with when they arrive in a country and take it over. In Annie John Kincaid gives the reader an idea of what the religion of the native Antiguan culture is all about. She talks about Obeah, a form of Voodoo, which is practiced and adhered to by her mother. Part of the novel is a story about Annie becoming ill and what is done to try and heal her. Her mother calls in a woman who is in touch with the spirits to try and help out Annie’s condition.
The woman comes and does things in a different manner than a standard doctor. Annie says that, “She told my mother, after a careful look around, that there were no spirits in my room or in any other part of the house.”(Kincaid 117) This scene where Annie is sick gives the reader an idea of what some people believed in Antigua. Annie’s mother is the one in her house who believes in the native religion, her father puts his faith in the modern medicine brought by the colonizers. He comes into Annie’s room when the Obeah woman leaves and, “he looked at all the medicines-Dr. Stephen’s and Ma Jolie’s- lined up side by side and screwed up his face, the way he did when he didn’t like what he saw.”(Kincaid 117) This shows the father’s disbelief in the religion of his culture and how he puts his faith elsewhere. However, Annie’s mother still puts her faith in Obeah.
Religion is a theme Kincaid chooses to only mention briefly. She gives her thought to other subjects besides religion in her work. There are a few times when Annie mentions religion or at least she implies her religiousness. Annie mentions at one point how, “When [she] came home from Sunday school, [they] would sit down to [their] Sunday dinner.”(Kincaid 14) There are several other brief mentions of religion in this work, but Kincaid is focused on other issues and that is apparent. In Annie John it appears there is not outright animosity between the religion of the colonizers and the religion of native Antiguans. Religion is an issue, which Kincaid briefly deals with, showing how it was somewhat unimportant to her way of life.
Things Fall Apart presents a culture very different from the Antiguan’s in terms of their religious beliefs and practices. People in Umuofia society, and the other villages in the area, are deeply concerned with the spiritual and supernatural. All people in the society accept basic spiritual truths. Okonkwo and his family, as members of Ibo society, are ruled by practices they must follow. There is the story of Okonkwo’s wife Ekwefi and the children she had that kept dying. Okonkwo wanted to fix the problem so he went to a medicine man to figure out what to do, “This man told him that the child was an ogbanje, one of those wicked children who, when they died, entered their mothers’ wombs to be born again.”(Achebe 77) This society has explanations and remedies for events based on their religion. Fear and control are elements of this religion as well. The town’s spirits decide important matters and have the final say in what will happen in the village. The situation with Ikemufuna is an example of this, and it also shows how the religion violates some basic human rights.
Ikemufuna is taken into Umuofia as a peace offering from another village because of a crime that was committed. Okonkwo takes care of the boy and then one day an elder comes to talk to Okonkwo about Ikemufuna. The elder informs Okonkwo that, “‘Yes, Umuofia has decided to kill him. The Oracle of the Hills and Caves has pronounced it. They will take him outside Umuofia as is the custom and kill him there.”(Achebe 57) This gives a clear view of what the native religion’s system relies on, the word of oracles, diviners, and medicine men.
Achebe goes on his book to introduce Christianity, which shows up in a different light than in Kincaid’s work. Christianity is a completely different religion from what the people in Ibo society are used to following. The people of Ibo society are shaken by what the practices of the Christians. The Christians took in twins, who were considered abominations. There were also “outcasts, or osu, seeing that the new religion welcomed twins and such abominations, thought that it was possible that it was possible that they would also be received.”(Achebe 155) Achebe presents a more obvious controversy between the religion of the Ibo and Christianity. The reason this controversy is more apparent in his work is because the Ibo culture places such emphasis on the spiritual. Achebe’s work in contrast to Kincaid’s spends a lot of time dealing with the religious aspects of colonization.
Society is affected by new ideas especially when there is great controversy involved. Switching to a different subject, marriage as a gender issue is addressed in both Kincaid’s and Achebe’s works. Marriage can be seen as a means of establishing gender roles and it informs people as to how they should act.
In Annie John the institution of marriage is fairly standard as far as European marriages are concerned. Annie only has one mother and one father. There is never mention of any polygamous marriages being practiced. Although, Annie does find out that her father was involved with more than one woman before her mother. Kincaid shows how women are pitted against one another in postcolonial culture by talking about the attitude they have towards each other. Annie says that bad things happen sometimes as a result of, “one of the many women [her] father had loved, had never married, but with whom he had had many children was trying to harm my mother and me by setting bad spirits on us.”(Kincaid 15) This attitude of women hating each other over men is engrained into Annie’s young mind. She remembers walking with her mother and, “[She] would hear an angry voice saying angry things, and then, after [they] had passed the angry voice, [her] mother would release [her].”(Kincaid 17) Annie learns about the dynamics of marriage and the role of men and women in this way.
The society Annie lives in is patriarchal, and the men are in control of the important matters in marriage. Annie’s father works and takes care of getting money and does physical things as well. The father built the house they live in. He goes off to work everyday to take care of the family’s needs. Annie’s mother stays at home most of the time taking care of household duties, making food, and she will run errands to pick up food or clothing materials. The father has the final say in most situations. For example, the situation where Annie’s father disliked what he saw with the medicines on the shelf, he took the Obeah medicine and put it behind the modern medicine. Marriage and gender relations/roles are something Kincaid focuses on frequently. Most of the stories in her work deal with Annie’s interactions with people and say something about the way Annie should act.
Things Fall Apart gives a lot of explanation about marriage in Ibo culture. Achebe presents a clear picture of the way things are run in Okonkwo’s household his society. Marriage, in Ibo culture, is different from the standard marriage of two people for life. In Ibo society marriage is polygamous, men can marry more women as they grow older and it is socially acceptable. The more wives a man had the better, wives were seen as a status symbol. People said Okonkwo was going to go places in life because, “He was a wealthy farmer and had two barns full of yams, and had just married his third wife.”(Achebe 8) Okonkwo’s wives were listed like they were just another one of his possessions. It was an accomplishment for Okonkwo to have three wives and their children, because it showed he was wealthy enough to care for all those people.
Women are subordinate to men in the Ibo society and Achebe makes a point of showing this relationship in the household of Okonkwo. Okonwo’s wives are expected to do what he says without question. Okonkwo is described as ruling, “his household with a heavy hand. His wives, especially the youngest, lived in perpetual fear of his fiery temper, and so did his little children.”(Achebe 13) The way things happened on Okonkwos’s compound were simple. Everyone would work during the day doing their respective duties around the compound or running errands, and the wives would fix Okonkwo his meals. They would then send their children to deliver the dishes to Okonkwo. It is clear who is in charge of the household.
Marriage in Ibo society is not based as much on love as it is based on economic interests. Achebe presents a scene where the reader can really draw an understanding of this way of thinking. Okonkwo goes to his friend’s house to be apart of the bargaining for a bride price. Okonkwo’s friend Obierika is looking at a girl who will marry his son, Achebe describes his as having, “surveyed her young body with expert eyes as if to assure themselves that she was beautiful and ripe.”(Achebe 71) This scene shows how marriage was more an economic deal between families as opposed to something based on love. The bride’s family brings all sorts of gifts and food for the festivities. The suitors also have to have some type of money to negotiate the bride price. There are negotiations for the bride price that take place involving some bartering using broomsticks to represent bags of cowries. “In this way Akuke’s bride-price was finally settled at twenty bags of cowries. It was already dusk when the tow parties came to an agreement.”(Achebe 73) Looking at all of these events and situations put together gives the reader an view of what marriage was in Ibo society.
Education is another issue both Achebe and Kincaid choose to focus on in their works. It is a force shaping the lives of the people in both Antiguan society and Ibo society. The manner in which people are educated is different the two books.
Annie’s education comes primarily from a white colonist’s perspective. A lot of value and importance is placed upon the education Annie receives. Kincaid focuses on the way in which Annie is educated. In particular how students are educated to have a desire for the colonizer’s culture. A clear example of this is when Annie and her schoolmates write personal essays in their first day of class. Most of the children choose to write essays that in some way pertain to colonial culture. For example, “One girl told of a much revered and loved aunt who now lived in England and of how much she looked forward to one day moving to England to live with her aunt.”(Kincaid 40) This shows how children are educated by their colonists to believe in a better country than their own. England is presented as a culturally more sophisticated and better than Antigua.
There is a theme in postcolonial literature associated with education that appears in Kincaid’s work. The theme is one called historical amnesia. It refers to the way in which colonizers rewrite the history of the country they inhabit. Kincaid talks about this in the scene where Annie is learning about Columbus in her class. Annie says how, “Miss Edward asked a question the answer to which was ‘On the third of November 1493, a Sunday morning, Christopher Columbus discovered Dominica.’ “(Kincaid 75) The answer is an example of how the native people are denied existence by the colonizers and this theme of historical amnesia is brought to the forefront. Annie is looking in her textbook at a painting with the title “Columbus In Chains” and she writes the phrase “The Great man can no longer just get up and go.”(Kincaid 78) Annie’s teacher ends up seeing this written under the picture and is quite upset with Annie for what she wrote.
Annie comments on her teacher’s attitude towards her, “I had gone too far this time, defaming one of the great men in history, Christopher Columbus, discoverer of the island that was my home.”(Kincaid 82) Education is based on a colonialist view and it negates the culture and history of Antigua. Kincaid does not show any other type of education as being used as prominently as this white colonial education. Achebe presents education in a different manner than Kincaid presents education. In his work there are two types of education that can be examined pre-colonial and the type of education that is used when the white colonists arrive.
Education in Ibo society is in stark contrast to what Annie John experienced growing up being educated in the colonist’s point of view. The primary mode of education in Ibo society is oral tradition. It is through stories and myths that children and adults alike communicate the society’s values and norms. These stories also tell people about nature and why things are the way they are in the empirical world. Okonkwo educates his boys by telling them stories he considers masculine, and communicate masculine values. Achebe tells how “Okonkwo encouraged the boys to site with him in his obi, and he told them stories of the land-masculine stories of violence and bloodshed.”(Achebe 53) In this way Okonkwo’s son Nwoye learns about masculinity, and what is considered important for a man in his society. Women in Ibo culture tell stories as well, their stories are of a different nature though. The stories women tell serve to explain nature to their children and give them some basic moral values. One of Okonkwo’s wives Ekwefi and her daughter Ezinma had a story time and Ekwefi explains why the turtle looks like it does.
At the end of the story Ekwefi says, “His shell broke into pieces. But there was a great medicine man in the neighborhood. Tortoise’s wife sent for him and he gathered all the bits of shell and stuck them together. That is why Tortoise’s shell is not smooth.”(Achebe 99) This illustrates the way women told stories in Ibo culture, they educated children about nature and morals.
The type of education that arrives with the whites is quite different from what the people in Ibo society are accustomed to having. There are schools formed by the missionaries and some people are sent off to universities. In Umuofia “one of the great men in the that village was called Akunna and he had given one of his sons to be taught the white man’s knowledge in Mr. Brown’s school.”(Achebe 179) The colonizers were already talking down towards the Ibo culture and their methods of education. One of the missionaries makes an interesting and even prophetic statement over the people that, “the leaders of the land in the future would be men and women who had learned to read and write. If Umuofia failed to send her children to school, strangers would come from other places to rule them.”(Achebe 181)
Education in the white way was presented to the native people as a saving deal. If they accepted this new type of education they would be alright in the end. But if they continued in their “primitive” ways they would fail. The representation of Christians in these works is another important issue to cover. Kincaid gives little mention of Christians in Annie John. There are several instances where Christianity is mentioned, but significant time is not given to discuss it. Annie mentions how she knows what time it is because of the Anglican church bell. She also talks about some girls in her class and says their parents are the sexton and the minister in church. Kincaid does little more than mention Christianity, she does not give a representation of the Christians.
Achebe, however, gives the reader a detailed representation of Christians in the form of two missionaries that come to live in Ibo country. The missionaries are named Mr. Brown and Mr. Smith and they are at opposite ends of the spectrum as far as missionaries and ambassadors of Christ go. Mr. Brown is a more loving example to the people, he is respective of their culture though he disagrees with it. He is successful in wining over some of the people and perking their interest in Christianity because he, “was very firm in restraining his flock from provoking the wrath of the clan.”(Achebe 178) Brown also takes the time to learn about Ibo culture and the Ibo appreciate the fact that he learns about their culture. In talking with a leader in the town Mr. Brown and the leader educate one another about their different beliefs, but conversion does not occur.(Achebe 179) The representation of Christianity portrayed in the character of Mr. Brown is one that the people could stomach somewhat, but Mr. Smith would change their opinion.
Mr. Smith was a different person entirely from who Mr. Brown was and what he tried to implement. Mr. Smith was far more confrontational and controversial in his attitudes and actions towards the Ibo society. “He condemned openly Mr. Brown’s policy of compromise and accommodation. He saw things as black and white.”(Achebe 184) He would openly condemn the practices of the Ibo showed that he was not appreciative of their rich culture at all. There were converts who under Mr. Brown were restrained from their zealous behavior. But when Mr. Smith came to the church “the over-zealous converts who had smarted under Mr. Brown’s restraining hand now flourished in full favor.”(Achebe 185)
The attitude Mr. Smith brings with him drives many people away and creates outright hostility towards Christianity. He is a sad representative of Christianity. Christians reading these works should think to themselves, how should I respond to this? As global neighbors witnessing the injustice heaped on the people of colonized cultures what should the response be? As people commissioned to show love to God and to our neighbors how should Christians respond? There are many things that can be taken from these stories and applied to the Christian’s life and their attitudes. It is important to value other’s cultures and appreciate them. Culture is such a large part of who people are and to negate it is a great injustice to people that are created by God and whose life is equally important to any other. Christians should know that these people have worth and are known by God. An attitude that is important is to realize how much these people are worth to God and the love he has for them should be something Christians emulate.
The band Thrice makes a powerful point in their song “Image of the Invisible”, they tell the listener that, “We are all named, and we are all known.” Christians can do a lot to help out those who have been hurt by injustice in the past if they learn to love their neighbors and appreciate their value.
A Providing Theme of Annie John Novel
Annie John Chapter 1 Response
Death is a predominant theme in Annie John right from the beginning. The story starts with death, explaining that Annie thought only people she did not know died. This is a strange start to a coming-of-age story because Annie is so young and is already obsessed with death. Annie becomes obsessed with wanting to see a dead person up close, since she has never seen one before. She was curious to see if people looked different in life than in death. She began to go to funerals after school without telling her parents because, after her neighbor Miss Charlotte died, her parents would not let Annie attend the funeral. However, the day finally came when a girl with a humpback from the neighboring school died. Annie wanted to see not just anybody dead, she wanted to see someone she knew dead. Annie saw this as her chance to see a real life dead person that she had actually met when she was alive. She crashed this girl’s funeral and looked at her as she lay in her coffin. It was her face that Annie wanted to see. Annie had heard that dead people look similar to sleeping people, but she disagreed as she looked at this girl dead in her coffin. Annie is so young and is obsessed with going to funerals and trying to see a dead person, but not just any dead person, someone that she knew so she could feel something or anything towards them.
Annie and her mother have an interesting relationship from the start as well. I pick up on a coldness about her mother. She has no sympathy when she tells Annie that children can die too. When Nalda dies, Annie’s mother helps Nalda’s mother prepare her for the funeral because she cannot bear to do it herself. Annie’s father made the coffin while her mother prepared the little girl for burial. After that, Annie could not look at her mother’s hands the same. All Annie could see when she looked at her mother’s hands was her mom stroking the dead girl’s forehead. The smell of bay rum would linger on her mother when she came back, this sent made Annie ill for a while. Annie would cringe at the feeling or thought of her mother touching her food or helping her with her bath because she had touched a dead girl. But her mother shows compassion of Annie as well. For example, when Annie lied about the fisherman being busy, her mother made her eat dinner outside and told her she would not give her a kiss goodnight. But when night fell and Annie was in bed, her mom came in and gave her a kiss on the forehead goodnight.
Two motifs that really stood out to me were hands and water. For example, Annie’s father built their house with his own hands. And Annie looked at her mother’s hands differently after she knew that she had touched a dead girl. Hands could indicate a sense of power. Another motif is water. Annie noticed that the girl sitting next to her in class stopped sucking her thumb. She told Annie that her mom had washed her thumb in water in which a dead person was given a bath in. This scarred the little because she did not want to put her thumb in her mouth since it now makes her think of death.
What Is Annie John About
Annie John is a story of a life of a young girl and her relationship with her mother. The story starts out with Annie being ten years old and has a very close bond with her mother. During the summer months her mother lets her sleep in, takes hot baths with her and adds herbs and spices to relax them. She takes her into the town and shows her how to shop for produce and get the best prices. Annie sees her mother as very beautiful and very wise. It doesn™t talk much about her father but only that he has many partners and children before her mother and her mother is often yelled at on the streets by these women. One day Annie came home from school to find her parents making love and she feels alone. She is jealous and rejected when she sees them because she feels like she is not part of their union. She really looks at her mother coldly because of this because she felt betrayed of their special relationship.
Annie starts school and finds a girl and quickly becomes best friends with her. The girls name is Gwen. At school Annie is liked by all the teachers because of her good writing skills and good grades and also by all the children because she is good at sports and she stands up for everyone. Annie and Gwen walk to and from school everyday but Annie soon learns that she is using their friendship to ease her feelings of being neglected by her mother, and she also learns that it is not working very well. She then finds another girl to be friends with who calls her self the Red Girl. This girl is not like Annie and starts to get her in trouble. She lies, plays dirty and steals things. Her mom catches her one day with her stolen items and demands that she is showed the rest of the things. Annie denies everything and takes joy in her mother™s inability to find them. The Red Girl soon moves away and Annie learns to grow up.
Annie begins to get bored at school and starts to read ahead in her books. She finds a picture of Christopher Columbus in jail and writes beside it œA great man can no longer move. The teacher finds this and Annie is punished for her improper behavior. She is disciplined at school and then returns home in hope of being comforted by her parents. Only that her parents seem to be to into each other and don™t even realize her misery. Annie now feels complete betrayal of her mother and grows hatred for her. She goes into a state of depressed and is bed ridden for 3 months. No on is able to cure her sickness until her grandmother comes and just sits with her, holding her night after night.
After Annie turned seventeen, she decides to leave Antigua and goes to England to study nursing. On her trip to the boat that is going to separate her from her family, she thinks about her childhood and the love there used to be and realizes there is no room for her at her house anymore. She gets on the boat with big expectations of the future and disregards her parent™s wave™s goodbye
Annie’s Family in the Novel Annie John
Normally, parents would always try to give their children an affectionate upbringing. But sometimes they find it difficult to guide their children through the complex process of growing up, and so, they may fail to help their offspring during adolescence, for instance. This seems to be the situation in the story Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid. Annies mother was a doting parent who cared fondly for her daughter. However, she made Annies first steps into adolescence unnecessarily abrupt, painful and unsettling for she became suddenly detached, refused to spend time with her daughter and started to disapprove of Annie.
Undoubtedly, Annie Johns mother was a very devoted parent: she showed great love for her daughter and paid a lot of attention to Annie. Many times, both, mother and daughter took baths together. In doing so, Annies mother bathed affectionately different parts of Annies body. She also included Annie in everything: she did the shopping, prepared lunch and supper and made the washing in the company of her daughter. Both were so attached to each other that Mrs. John even made sure Annies dresses were made out of the same cloth as hers. Moreover, she tenderly told stories about Annie while cleaning Annies trunk, which was full of souvenirs of Annies childhood. These stories pleased Annie so much that she always yearned to clean the trunk with her mother it was in such paradise that Annie lived.
However, in seeing that her daughter was on the verge of becoming a young lady, Annies mother became suddenly detached. Probably she wanted Annie to be less dependent on her, but in doing so, she disconcerted her daughter: she unexpectedly asserted that Annie was too old to wear dresses made out of the same cloth as her. She said, Its time you had your own clothes. You just cannot go around the rest of your life looking like a little me. Moreover, she unreasonably claimed that there was no time to clean her daughters trunk anymore. This was also very sad for Annie because her mother would no longer tell her stories in the way she used to. Definitely, this abrupt change in her mothers attitude unsettled Annie and caused her great pain.
What was probably more disconcerting and saddening for Annie was her mothers refusal to spend time with her. Mrs. John informed that they should stop doing the household jobs together because Annie was becoming a young lady, but there was no further explanation. Besides, instead of their usual days spent together, Annie was now sent to learn manners and how to play the piano. In this way, Mrs. John caused pain to her daughter again: the old sweet moments they had spent together were now left behind, without any apparent reason.
Not only did Annies mother refuse to spend time with her daughter, but also she suddenly started to disapprove of Annie. It was sad for Annie to see her mother with the corner of her mouth turned down in disapproval of her. For example, when the piano teacher told Mrs. John of one of Annies misdeeds, Mrs. John turned and walked away from her daughter. Evidently, her mothers back turned in disgust for her daughter was something new for Annie. Her mothers face had always borne a smile for Annie, and so, Annie was taken aback by her mothers harsh attitude.
Certainly, Annies mother had always shown tender loving care for her daughter. Nevertheless, she was unable to make Annies transition into adolescence a painless and easy process. Mrs. John suddenly changed her attitude towards Annie after realizing that her daughter was becoming an adolescent and so, she disconcerted her daughter and caused pain to her. Needless to say, Mrs. Johns behavior was unnecessary, for she could have avoided Annies distress by talking frankly and straightforwardly to Annie, and of course, by supporting her daughter during this arduous and crucial stage in her life.
Requiem for a Dream
In the novel Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid, the title character faces the reality that she must grow up, detach from her parents, and establish an identity independent from that of her mother’s — that the beautiful childhood she once had cannot and will not last forever. Especially in the chapter “The Long Rain,” Annie’s character undergoes an epiphany that lets her take the first real step toward adulthood. Flashbacks and first-person narrative are used to create a surrealist scenario, which creates a recurring motif on Annie’s difficulty in differentiating between dreams and reality. This is one of the main things that define Annie’s character and her constant drawing away from the prospect of having to grow up. The first-person narrative storytelling also maximizes the reader’s understanding of Annie’s character and how she is evaluating her childhood with a newfound bias. This warped view of her childhood was what eventually drove Annie to have an equally warped perspective on adulthood. The use of dramatic diction, personification, and symbolism also figuratively portrays Annie’s unconscious decision in finally accepting the fact that her childhood has ended and defining her own separate identity. Kincaid uses first-person narrative to set both the readers and also Annie as an audience, thus illuminating Annie’s train of thought in evaluating her childhood and deepening the understanding of Annie’s character. The novel Annie John itself is a work of literature that is very centered around its titular character. A first-person narrative based on Annie’s point of view is crucial in letting the readers understand her character. Moreover, the simple and honest narrative gives the work a more contemplative feel. For example, in lines 3-30, Annie is lying on her bed watching the photographs loom up and down, and the first-person narrative allows the readers to be inside of her head with the character. This benefit on the side of the readers allows them to understand themes that might otherwise be lost. Annie’s calmness in the delirium repeats a motif of Annie’s difficulty in telling the difference between what is real and what is not. Also supporting this point is how Annie tried “with not much success, to straighten out the creases in Aunt Mary’s veil [and…] to remove the dirt from the front of my father’s trousers” when she was bathing the photographs. Before this, Annie often had trouble in interpreting her dreams and in deciding whether to take them seriously or not. This disability sheds light on Annie’s hesitance to grow up. She is an inexperienced child and she is clueless about what it truly means to be an adult. She finds it difficult to differentiate between the childish dreams she must leave and the mature realities she must accept. Previously in the book, it is clear that Annie has a very crude understanding of the subject matter. The driving force in Annie’s life is portrayed in power struggle after power struggle in school or with her mother. Annie defines being an adult as being the most intelligent, the most popular, living in Belgium, and looking important. Annie defines growing up on the basis of the piano lessons and manners courses when in truth, being an adult means much more than “all this young-lady business” (28). Another theme revealed by the personal level of first-person narrative is how Annie recalls and evaluates her childhood memories with a bias that she developed in the past years due to her rocky relationship with her mother. Annie says, “I have forgotten everything except that” (18-19). This shows how Annie filled the gaps in her childhood memories with her current knowledge, meaning that many of the memories Annie recalls are inaccurate. This has two implications on the storyline and the character of the novel. First, it affects Annie as a narrator and the readers’ ability to trust her. Annie’s relationship with the readers is therefore affected in multiple ways: the flaw makes Annie less credible and lets the readers see how she can be conceited and heavily biased. However, the flaw also makes Annie more vulnerable, and imperfection is quite the perfect tool that allows a reader to relate well to the characters. Second, it sheds light on the twisted and ugly conclusions Annie makes about growing up and separating from her parents. Her distorted view of her childhood and her distorted evaluation of her overall relationship with her parents led to a distorted mindset on how to handle being an adult. Again, this point sheds light on Annie’s character, and it may even, as stated above, allow the readers to sympathize with her impairment and understand the reasons for her vanity.Perhaps one of the most profound meanings delivered by this passage is accomplished by means of symbolism, which portrays Annie’s subconscious intentions and her final decision to deal with the culmination of her childhood. Most of these symbols are not defined independently in the passage; instead, they are recurring motifs that have presented themselves everywhere in the book to present a specific and constant idea:The photographs […] now began to blow themselves up until they touched the ceiling and then shrink back down. […] They did this for so long that they began to perspire quite a bit, and when they finally stopped, falling back on the table limp with exhaustion, the smell coming from them was unbearable to me. (36-40)The photographs symbolize Annie’s childhood, the memories she had, and the concepts that were taught to her by her parents. Using the diction “perspired” and “falling back […] limp with exhaustion,” Kincaid communicates how Annie has worn out her childhood and it is no longer of any use to her. The image of something dropping down and leaving a horrible smell is also descriptive of a death; thus, the whole scenario signifies Annie’s final acceptance of the death of her childhood. Before this, Annie is constantly in denial about growing up; she first blames herself for not being a good enough daughter. Later, she uses a dysfunctional coping mechanism by domineering over her peers, but in the end, Annie decides to finally end this fait accompli and admit her defeat. Kincaid states that Annie “laid [the photographs] down in a corner covered with a blanket, so that they would be warm while they slept” (48-50). The photographs are being treated like a baby, further reinforcing the symbolic meaning of Annie’s childhood. By then, the only thing she can do is take what is left of her childhood and tuck it away as happy memories.The pictures manifested in the photographs symbolize the identity Annie has chosen for herself as an adult. In the photograph, “None of the people […] except for me, had any face left” (60-61). Thus, this shows how Annie has shaped herself as a stand-alone figure no longer dependent on leeching off of her mother’s identity and intentions. Moreover, “in the picture of my mother and father, I [Annie] had erased them from the waist down” (63-65). This is another instance of imagery of Annie’s detachment from her parents. Her parents’ bodies from the waist down allude to Annie’s origins. In this way, Annie is rejecting her origins and her obligation to be her mother’s daughter. Finally, “in the picture of me [Annie] wearing the confirmation dress, I had erased all of myself except for the shoes.” After detaching from her parents and erasing “all of herself” (the combined contribution of her parents), Annie burns bridges, closes doors, and begins to build her own identity. Annie got those shoes after a fight with her mother. Thus, the shoes represent Annie’s own concepts and ideals. They also represent her transformation into a mature person who can make her own decisions — decisions that will not always coincide with those of her parents.Water and baths also have recurring meanings in the whole novel. Water symbolizes separation. In her dream on Rat Island, a body of water separated Annie from her parents. When Annie woke up, she had “spilled water all over” (57). The water she used was also the water that warped the photograph, so, and as stated above, the warped photographs symbolize her adult identity. Thus, Annie’s separation from her parents is essential for her to be able to shape her own identity and not be dependent on her parents forever. Baths are also a recurring motif. Annie bathed in the sea due to her weak liver, and she and her mother bathed in herbs to repel Obeah magic. Baths symbolize renewal and healing. When Annie bathes the photographs, she is closing the doors and starting the healing to her heartbreak. She finally accepts her fate and starts on the first step toward patching herself together again as a grown woman.Overall, the passage in the chapter “The Long Rain” serves as a turning point in the story. After denying and trying to cope with the changes going on, Annie finally accepts that her childhood has long gone and that she must carve a new identity as an adult. Kincaid uses literary elements such as first-person narrative, symbolism, and diction to deepen the dimensions of Annie’s character from a happy child to a woeful adolescent and finally to a grown young woman. Bibliography:Kincaid, Jamaica. Annie John. Farrar, Straus and Giroux: New York.
Sea Symbolism in ‘Annie John’
As a Caribbean author, Jamaica Kincaid submerges Annie John, the novel, in rich sea symbolism. Living on the island of Antigua, and with Dominican parentage, the novel Annie John is immersed in deep, sea imagery, in which the author connects Annie John’s insular origins with the themes of (i) birth-rebirth (ii) childhood (iii) journey and immigration (iv) history (v) mother and motherland and (vi) separation-death As a terrific mass of water, the sea evokes images of the womb, the West Indian navigation of Christopher Columbus in conquest of New World gold, the horrendous Middle Passage during the period of Chattel Slavery, consequent colonialism, and contemporary immigration. From the times of our ancestors to modernity, the seas have moulded life in diverse ways.
Jamaica Kincaid portrays the sea as the medium of birth and rebirth. The human foetus playfully swims in amniotic fluid, a natural water environment, in its mother’s uterus until delivery. This water in the womb nourishes the unborn during the 9-month incubatory period, completely surrounded by a life-giving essence. In the same way for Annie John, from birth, she is enclosed in the blue Caribbean Sea. One of her favourite pastimes as a child includes naked sea-bathing, “since this bathing in the sea was a medicine and not a picnic, we had to bathe without wearing swimming costumes” (Kincaid 42). She never dreams that she would finally be separated from her island home, but in the end, she is reborn – fully mature as a young adult and ready to experience an outside world without her mother. Further, as Annie John travels by ship to pursue her studies, she puns on the word “berth” symbolising a rebirth of sorts as she launches out on a journey to new terrain. “I … lay down on my berth … I could hear the small waves lap-lapping around the ship. They made an unexpected sound, as if a vessel filled with liquid had been placed on its side and now was slowly emptying out” (Kincaid 148). As she hears this sound, it is reminiscent of the point of delivery of a child, as labour is induced and the water breaks, signalling the end of term of a pregnancy. The amniotic fluid empties in preparation for labour and the emergence of a new life.
In her girlhood, Annie John enjoys the game of marbles likening it to the sea. Employing rich, descriptive terminology, she elucidates on her first encounter with marbles – “it was my mother who gave me my first marbles … they looked to me like miniature globes, the white representing the seas, the colours representing land masses” (Kincaid 55). In her eyes, the marbles resembled planet Earth, diagrammed with land and seas. The sea imagery here enables Annie John to see herself as one, in a sense, holding the world in her hands, toying and manipulating it to her own fancy. When scrutinising the game of marbles, the layout includes a wide circle in which are positioned several marbles, parallel to the galaxial system in which revolves several clusters of planets.
Sea imagery retains a potency in the novel as the channel of change and rediscovery, underlining the theme of personal journey. Annie John’s parents both migrate to Antigua from Dominica, fleeing family crises and economic challenges. At the book’s conclusion, Annie John too must escape her beloved island home, bound for England to improve her prospects there. In the era before air-travel became common, navigation stands as the only medium of transport (especially for the poor). These characters embark on a metamorphosis and self-discovery in which they must remove from their once familiar environment to the great unknown.
Personal, national and world histories are united by sea imagery in Annie John. In her history class, she learns from her texts about Christopher Columbus and other European explorers who sailed to the ‘New World’ on a mission to aggrandise themselves, under the famed three-fold dictum: God, gold and glory. Afterwards, British and French voyagers and buccaneers navigate to exploit the newfound islands of their wealth. She unmistakably remembers, “a picture of Columbus that took up a whole page, and it was in colour – … at the bottom of the ship” (Kincaid 77). Annie John also evokes the time of slavery, when her African ancestors would ride aboard ships, surviving the horrific Triangular Trade and treated as living cargo. In her modern world, her seafaring parents and later she herself would flee their homes that restrict their movements and possibilities for progress to venture into a new land of promise.
The sea in Annie John depicts a prevailing spiritual connection to the mother. As an unborn child relishing in its maternal connections, and encased in amniotic fluid, Annie John, in the initial stages, glories in the intimacy existing between herself and her mother. She bathes with her mother in the sea, perches herself on her mother’s back and in time of loneliness and danger, cries out for her mother. Likewise, in Antigua, her own motherland, she loves her little island home with her adoring parents. From her spirited and mischievous schooldays, the reader understands that her protective family feed her with lots of fish (one abundant food source in the Caribbean) as they instruct, strengthen and sustain her until young adulthood. Nevertheless, these times pass as her mother induces labour and causes an eternal separation. On her way to the port on her journey to England, she recalls: “I passed by sounds and smells that were so familiar that I had long ago stopped paying any attention to them … but now here they were, and the ever-present ‘I shall never see this again’ bobbed up and down inside me. (Kincaid 145).
The sea incidence of little Annie John augurs the gradual estrangement from her mother and her development into adulthood. Propped on her mother’s back “arms clasped tightly around her neck” (Kincaid 42), Annie John and her mother delight themselves bathing in the sea, building sand castles and enjoying one another’s company. Strangely, they drift apart and in terrified panic, Annie screams for her mother as she could no longer see her (Kincaid 42, 43). This traumatic event recurs as a cryptic dream, reminiscent of her alienation and imminent separation from her mother. In her girlhood, Annie John takes pleasure in the warmth, sweetness and closeness of the mother-daughter relationship: visiting the town together, listening to stories and relishing mouth-watering dishes. However, as she enters adolescence, her mother becomes colder and more distant. Annie laments much later as she marches to the boat bound for England (from an estranged mother to the motherland): “Why, I wonder, didn’t I see the hypocrite in my mother when over the years she said that she loved me and could hardly live without me, while at the same time proposing and arranging separation after separation, including this one, which unbeknownst to her, I have arranged to be permanent?” (Kincaid 133). As Annie John and her mother finally part ways, the large distance renders her (mother) “just a dot … swallowed up in the big, blue sea” (Kincaid 148)
As the book concludes, Annie John returns not to Africa, her ancestral motherland, but England, the colonial motherland to further her education. She ironically explains her departure from Antigua in sea imagery, closely resembling that of a sea buoy defying gravity: “I passed by sounds and smells that were so familiar that I had long ago stopped paying any attention to them … but now here they were, and the ever-present ‘I shall never see this again’ bobbed up and down inside me” (Kincaid 145). Even as she navigates her way through life, she realises her life will not only be always surrounded by the sights and sounds of the sea, but also inside of her.
Kincaid, Jamaica. Annie John, Vintage Publishers, 1997.
Colonialism and Neocolonialism in Annie John
Colonialism pervades Annie John (1985) by Jamaica Kincaid as a theme underlying the action in the eventful life of a little girl and her coming of age into adolescence. Colonialism is defined as that “governing system by which an imperial nation dominates or exerts sovereign control and influence over administrative dependencies, territories or people” (New World Encyclopaedia). Moreover, it is considered the “practice of domination, which involves the subjugation of one people to another” (Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy). In the discourse of colonialism, three phasal points are projected in the life cycle of both the colonial country and the protagonist herself: (a) dependence or dependency, (b) development and (c) independence or autonomy. Living in the small island of Antigua, rediscovered by Columbus (1493), conquered by the British (1632) but then awarded independence (1981), Annie John experiences these stages of life as she matures, faces challenges and finally breaks free as a emancipated, young adult.
In the narrative, the vestiges of colonialism in the area of education survive as young Antiguans must study Colonial History and British Literature as part of the core curriculum. Annie John mentions that she has to study Thomas Coke’s “A History of the West Indies” (1808) – a British historian and Methodist bishop; John Milton’s “Paradise Lost” (1667), a British poet and her favourite novel, Jane Eyre (1847), composed by British novelist Charlotte Brönte. She also avidly reads “The Schoolgirl’s Own Annual” a British weekly journal featuring articles on the lives and adventures of aristocratic, boarding schoolgirls. The headmistress or principal of Annie John’s school, named Miss Moore, hails straight from England and so is her doctor, Dr. Stephens. In contrast, had colonialism weakened, an Afrocentric or Caribbean-centered approach in education would have been implemented. Slave history and African culture would have figured more prominently both in theory, and in practice in celebration of a unique identity. However, Antiguans as well as most Caribbean inhabitants cherish and imbibe classic British scholarship, considering it as most prestige and elite. As a matter of fact, the only channel of freedom for Annie John transplants her to the UK, where she undergoes training as a nurse.
First of all, the conquerors employ religion as a colonizing tool to dominate and manipulate subjects in the New World, including Antigua. The deployment of Christopher Columbus by the Catholic kings and the christianization of Antigua with both Catholicism and Methodism as the religions of the majority, attest to the hierarchy of Christianity and its exercise of governance over the collective psychology. Through the efforts of zealous missionary efforts of priests and preachers, large masses convert to the new ‘Christian’ faith. Like most Antiguans, Annie John is Anglican which church originated in England. In all of these examples, one realizes that colonial supremacy reigns ascendant over a major pillar of society – religion. The only strategy for resistance to universal colonialism lies in a syncretic version, as with the African slaves of old, in which both Christianity and pagan tradition are fused to form a new identity. Antiguans meld both Christianity and Obeah or Voodoo as in the case of Annie John’s family who contract the services of Ma Jolie. Ma Jolie and other herbal doctors serve as both spiritual guide and health practitioner for several poor citizens in Dominica and Antigua. For them, they do not have to surrender either identity as they embrace both the universal religion and their native beliefs.
As she matures, Annie John grows to despise colonialism and its overbearing impact on her culture, life and people. At school, she plainly voices her scorn for Christopher Columbus. “King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella had sent him back to Spain fettered in chains attached to the bottom of a ship. What just deserts, I thought, for I did not like Columbus. How I loved this picture – to see the usually triumphant Columbus brought so low” (Kincaid 78). She understands that Columbus, the revered historical icon, actually plundered and violated the indigenous peoples, snatched their lands and introduced an oppressive and galling slavery. Annie John’s consequent action entails the defacement of the image of Columbus on her school textbook which instigated trouble for her. Here, one perceives bitterness, resentment and even vitriol towards the colonial conquerors of Spain. In her eyes, the subjugation of one country or one people to another could never be justified – not even for imperial or economic objectives. One notices Annie’s despising colonialism in her reflections on slavery. In her assessment of a British classmate, Ruth, Annie John observes that “Perhaps she wanted to be in England, where no one would remind her constantly of the terrible things her ancestors had done … her ancestors had been the masters, while ours had been the slaves. She had such a lot to be ashamed of … ” (Kincaid 76). In her eyes, slavery had wreaked such havoc on humanity and the Caribbean cultural identity that the reproachful burden of guilt could never be atoned. She shows her struggle in reconciling past wrongs with harsh modern realities of an unequal society.
On the contrary, there also subsists the sentiments of sycophant reverence for all things British. Many indications harken back to the Golden Age Victorian England. Antiguans still celebrated Queen Victoria’s birthday or the Queen’s Jubilee. Attempting to sound sophisticated, some schoolboys “were looking at (Annie John) and bowing as they said in an exaggerated tone of voice, pretending to be grownup gentlemen living in Victorian times, “Hallo Madame…” (Kincaid 99). At the end of the book, Annie John does what most colonial citizens do to better themselves, return to the imperial motherland in search for opportunity. She ventures on a boat to England in the hopes of becoming a certified and respected nurse. Although not naturally inclined to go to England, her parents are convinced that this migratory step would serve best for her.
Noteworthy is the instance when assigned as prefect in her class, a position of authority, Annie John is gifted with the book entitled, Roman Britain possibly authored by R. G. Collingwood (1900) Roger R. Sellman (1966) or J.S. Wacher (1976). This book refers to imperial Rome’s invasion and conquest of Britain under Julius Caesar, the rout of the Anglo-Saxons and Britain’s subsequent tributary role. Here designates the sovereignty of Rome, at her pinnacle ironically establishing another empire to rule the world. Her receipt of the book marks the period when she too acquires a measure of control in the classroom and over her classmates. However, corresponding to other tyrannical empires, she ends up abusing her power and never becomes a model exemplar.
At Annie John’s Brownie meetings, she reports that it started “with the whole troop standing in the yard of the Methodist church forming a circle around the flagpole, our eyes following the Union Jack as it was raised up; then we swore allegiance to our country, by which was meant England” (Kincaid 115). Her many allusions to colonialism or the pre-Independence era of Antigua, serves to compare her own desire for independence as a young lady. Her constant resistance to authority in her rebellious adolescence demonstrates this fact.
In sum, the British colonial system curtailed man’s free-will; however, in Annie John, one discerns in a young girl the signs of active resistance and rebellion which ironically terminate in a return to the imperial motherland – England. As colonialism encroaches on the rights of colonial subjects, Annie John feels that her mother invades her individual rights to autonomy. Strangely, Annie John also yearns for her mother and clings to her, until her mother literally must detach from her and force her into adulthood. In the realm of culture and politics, this transition (indicating rupture from the mother to maturity) can also signify the passage of a nation into independence and yet, blind adherence to a past identity that is obsolete and incongruous.
Kincaid, Jamaica. Annie John. Vintage Publishing Company, 1985.
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy – Colonialism https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/colonialism/
New World Encyclopedia – Colonialism http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Colonialism