Children Issues in Annie John Novel
Growing Up and Separation: Rebellion in Annie John
In The Hunger Games when Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark eat the poisonous berries at the end of the games, they rebel against the games and challenge the authority of the leaders in the Capitol. This process is necessary for Peeta and Katniss, because they learn how to assert themselves and rebel against authority as part of the process of growing up. Jamaica Kincaid, an Antiguan native who moved to London as a teenager to escape her country and family, uses the same theme of rebellion in Annie John. Annie rebels to disobey her mother in order to leave her shadows and become her own person. While Annie never thinks to rebel, she later does it to shape her identity.
The inseparable, innocent bond between Annie and her mother shows that Annie would not rebel, because she does not know how to do so. Annie’s mother and Annie go to town, do the laundry, and make the beds together daily, while Annie watches and looks up to her mother. Because of their close bond, Annie and her mother “often [take] a bath together” (14). Kincaid uses the bath to symbolize the innocence in Annie and her mother’s relationship. The closeness and comfort in their relationship is still present, revealing that not only is their bond physical but also emotional, so Annie naïvely believes that their relationship will always be this way. However, Annie learns that this belief is unrealistic when her mother begins to turn her back on her. After Annie receives a certificate in school, she rushes home to show it to her mom, because she believes “with this prize [she] would reconquer [her] mother” (30). Kincaid uses the certificate to represent the strong yearning Annie has to impress her mother. Annie believes that through her actions she regain the “prize” of her mothers approval, because she thinks that with her actions, she can regain her mothers attention and reclaim the pleasant feelings her mother previously had towards her. Because she is so set on pleasing her mother, Annie never thinks to rebel because her mother is the most important person in her life.
As Annie gets older and becomes more experienced, she realizes that everything is not as pleasing and virtuous as she previously thought, so she begins to rebel. While Annie’s class discusses how Christopher Columbus came to America, her teacher claims that he is a hero, but Annie disagrees. Annie is caught writing under a photograph of Christopher Columbus in her textbook that he “Can No Longer Just Get Up And Go” because he is caught in chains (78). Christopher Columbus is used as a symbol to represent Annie’s feelings towards her country: she is caught in the chains of colonialism and feels like she is stuck in Antigua, a place with few options for a young woman. Out of her negative and rebellious feelings towards colonialism, Annie desecrates Columbus to show the disobedience and defiance she feels toward her country. Not only is Annie now rebelling against her country, but her parents as well. Although Annie would never do this before, she now starts going to “the lighthouse behind [her] mothers back” (58). The lighthouse serves as a symbol for Annie’s desire to go behind her mothers back as a form of rebellion. Annie challenges her mother’s orders by choosing to go to the lighthouse because it offers her guidance out of her mother’s darkness. Annie now is rebelling to make her parents angry and out of disobedience.
Annie soon finds herself and becomes more confident so she begins to rebel due to this positive view she has. In becoming her own person, Annie rebels towards other people in order to show her confidence. Rather than clinging to people like Annie previously did, she now leaves “people’s presence if they [do] or [say] something [she] [does] not care for” (129). Out of confidence, Annie now rebels against her peers by not worrying about what they think about her and only caring about what she thinks about herself. Annie is no longer hiding in her mother’s shadow by trying to be like her, but now has the ability to be confident in her own self. Because of her negative view of colonialism and Antigua in general, Annie takes the final step in rebelling against her country by moving away. Annie then sets sail to London to become a nurse on “a ship… [that] would sail to Barbados” (130). Annie realizes that her country is evoking thoughts of her days of depression and is a constant reminder of her mother’s previously coddling ways, so she leaves. Although Annie thinks that leaving Antigua is a big step in her rebellious life, in reality, she is doing the same thing her mother did by moving away from her native country in order to form a new life for herself. Annie’s mother moved to Antigua from Dominica and now Annie is moving to London from Antigua to lead a life just like her mother did.
Parents must push their children to take the first leap in finding themselves, forcing them to become confident in themselves to recognize their full potential. Although this process may seem unnecessary and unfair to the child at the time, the process is essential to growing up and creating an identity. In moving away, rebelling against her parents, and becoming more self-confident, Annie follows in Peeta and Katniss’ footsteps as she “eats the berries” of rebellion.
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