Family Sacrifices In The “Marita’s Bargain” By Malcolm Gladwell & “A Walk To The Jetty” By Jamaica Kincaid

April 28, 2022 by Essay Writer

The definition of a sacrifice is the surrender or destruction of something prized. In “Marita’s Bargain” by Malcolm Gladwell and “A Walk to the Jetty” by Jamaica Kincaid, the main characters Marita and Annie had to make sacrifices when it came to their families, friends, and overall lives. Marita understood the sacrifices she was making and why in her story, while Annie seemed conflicted about hers. Throughout both stories, the girl’s lives aligned when it came to specific aspects like their societal status and their relationships with others, but when discussing the reason behind the sacrifices being made, that is where they start to divert from one another.

In “Marita’s Bargain”, the main character Marita won a “lottery” to attend KIPP academy in New York City. Upon deciding to go to KIPP, she has to sacrifice having a relationship with her mother, to gain a higher education. In the story, they give the reader an insight on how poor Marita’s family is when author Gladwell adds the statement that “The two of them share a one-bedroom apartment in the Bronx” (Gladwell, 11). Just by reading the story, one can make the inference that always living under the poverty line is giving Marita the push to try her hardest at her new school, and take the next step of going to college. Due to her yearning to achieve greatness in life, her relationship with her mother is becoming more and more strained.

In between her hours of homework, Marita has to sneak in dinner and she herself says “…usually after that, my mom wants to hear about school, but I have to make it quick…”(Gladwell, 12). She is so focused on trying to finish her school work, and succeed in KIPP, that she does not even take time out to relax, and tell her mother about her day. In the opposing story “A Walk to the Jetty”, main character Annie, is sacrificing her relationship with both of her parents, to move abroad to England, and get ahead in life forgetting her roots in Antigua.

Similar to Marita, Annie too came from a poor neighborhood, to the point where her mother and father had to hand make everything she had for her. “The house we live in my father built with his own hands. The bed I am lying in my father built with his own hands. The sheets on my bed my mother made with her own hands” (Kincaid, 33). Always seeing her parents provide for her, is what made Annie want so badly to move away and support herself, without the help of anyone else. Some sections of the story make it very clear that Annie’s parents really do not know what she wants in life. At the dinner table, Annie’s mother says “Of course, you are a young lady now, and we won’t be surprised if in due time you write to say that one day soon you are to be married” (Kincaid, 35).

She had been spending so much time outside of her home, and preparing herself to move to England, that it’s almost like she is a stranger in her own life. Both characters can relate on having weak relationships when it comes to family, and they can do the same when it relates to self independence. “I wake up at five-forty-five a.m. to get a head start. I brush my teeth, shower. I get some breakfast at school, if I am running late” (Gladwell, 12). As a middle school student in the Bronx, just trying to make it in life, Marita has to put a lot of responsibility on herself. Being an only child, she has to wake herself up at five o’clock in the morning. At twelve years old, she has to make her own breakfast. Then, she has to get herself to school in time.

Most middle school students today have to rely on their parents to wake them up in the morning, make them breakfast, and get them to school, but Marita is giving up the irresponsibility of a child, just to make her dreams come true. Annie does not have nearly as many responsibilities as Marita, but in her story, she opens her own bank account with the help of her parents, and takes the initiative to save money, and have a foundation for her new life in England. Both of these characters have sacrificed a lot in return for their future, but the reason behind them might paint them out to be two opposing people. The job of a parent is to constantly make sacrifices for their kids and to ensure their lives are better than the ones they had.

In “A Walk to the Jetty”, Annie’s mother was told by the doctor three times that she did not need glasses, but still, her mother every day at recess, would bring her a “…glass of juice from carrots she had just grated and then squeezed…” (Kincaid, 38). Even after a professional had made the declaration that nothing was wrong with Annie’s eyes, her mother would still go out of her way every day and bring her what she needed to correct her eyesight. Knowing that her mother would make her juice, Annie stated “I knew there was nothing at all wrong with my eyes…”(Kincaid, 38). From an outsider looking in, it seems that Annie’s parents really do care for her, and want the best for her in life, but in her mind, she still looks at them with “…a smile on my face and disgust in her heart”(Kincaid, 35). After Annie said that, it became clear that the reason she wants to “sacrifice” her family is so that she can move away and have a blank slate. Forgetting about Antigua, and forgetting about the people who loved her the most.

In “Marita’s Bargain”, even at a younger age than Annie, she was observant and understanding about the sacrifices her mother was making for her. Like stated previously, Marita and her mother were beginning to drift apart due to the constant focus her daughter had to give to her homework, and she was willing to endure that if it meant a better life for her child. Marita knew how important it was for her to take this opportunity at KIPP, and sacrifice whatever life she had before when the time came for her to sign the paperwork. It was obvious that she did not want to, but her mother was there so “…I signed it”(Gladwell, 12). Both girls had parents that were sacrificing either time or resources for their kids, but it is very apparent that Marita is going to repay her mother for what she did for her by moving up in life and gaining a better education.

The primary reason why it seems like Annie and Marita are diverting from one another when it comes to their sacrifices is simply because of the stages in their lives. Annie is a teen that is setting off for England and sacrificing the life she had before, to start a new one and become someone she had always seen herself as, while Marita is a young girl in middle school who sacrifices all her old friends and the maternal bond with her mother to help herself in the future. It is very obvious that when two people are in completely different age groups, their views and priorities in life will be different from one another. “When I was in fourth grade, me and one of my other friends, both applied for KIPP” (Gladwell, 11).

When Marita was pushed into making the decision of going to KIPP, she was still a very young child who wanted to please her mother so she would do anything to make her happy. If Marita had been older, one can predict that she would already have her plan in life set, and would not care about what her mother would feel like. Because of her increase in age, Annie is at that point in her life when she sees her parents as these “awful” people who have done nothing for her in life, and will do anything she can to get away from them.

Both in “Marita’s Bargain” and “A Walk to the Jetty”, the main characters had to sacrifice a part of themselves to fulfill their goals in life, whether that was their families or their friends. Marita sacrificed her relationship with her mother and had to grow up fast, to be able to obtain a better life than the one she was given, while Annie had both parents in her life, and sacrificed their love and care for her to move to England and start a new life. I personally think that both characters had to sacrifice something, but I also feel that Marita gave more thought behind her sacrifices than Annie. Marita truly wanted to make something out of her life, and all throughout her story, the tone in her words came across determined to be someone, and that is something I can always respect and sympathize with. I mean couldn’t you?


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