The Mother-Daughter Relationship in Jamaica Kincaid ‘Girl’

April 28, 2022 by Essay Writer

‘Girl’ was written by Jamaica Kincaid and its one-story people would get really attached with. This story can maybe make you feel different feelings about him because of her language, however, Jamaica Kincaid has not had the greatest life. Unspeakable things happened to her at home and that leads her to flee at only 17 years old. This short story shows what a mother should teach her daughter. To show her how to survive in this world from advice on society, her home and she shouldn’t listen to anyone else, but her mom because she is always “right.’ She wants her daughter to be a respectful woman. Her mom always saw herself not being a top tier woman, she always disliked this. She changed herself, but the society that she lived in made it impossible. It was a society that was meant for keeping people in their territory. Kincaid said enough suffices and left for New York where she could make money to send to her family. Being away from her hometown has brought a toll on her and reconsider her life, she reflected feelings on her life she changed it totally.

Kincaid was born in the year 1949 in the island of St. John’s in the Caribbean. Her family was not poor nor rich. Her mom was always the one who took care of things around the house who was looking after the house, and her stepdad was a hard worker. Kincaid always thought that she was very poor growing up. This event shows us that, Kincaid had a high standard in life, more than the Caribbean society could offer her. This event is a girl that is black, living in a time in which society sees her different. Kincaid when she was very young, had a lot of dreadful work from replacing oil, doing the clothes, taking care of her brothers and even carried buckets of heavy pounds of water. They didn’t grow up with the devices that we have today her country was not up to date with many of the technology, so it made a lot of things slow for them. She was interested in her studies and was one of the best at her school.

Academics brought her happiness and something she never experienced. Being 13 and simply having 3 younger brothers being born was very hard and that took her away from her studies to look after them more. She gave up her future for her brothers and which was a noble thing to do. She wanted something better, though she hated taking care of the kids, she wanted a better life. She always thought it was unfair. One day, she just picked up a book and started reading. Her mother burnt all the books that she used to love, but we don’t know why. Later on, Kincaid actually decided to leave her family and moved all the way to the big city of New York to help out her family to gain more income. She needed to do this for her family because her stepdad got really sick and stopped working. She stepped up to be the man of the house, and she did it.

Being away from home has brought Kincaid to start to critically and analyze her life, her future, and other things. She noticed that she was a girl of color she was always being used by everybody, she always had a foggy mind, having no interests. With all this, and she realized that this Caribbean life was not for her. She was unable to go back to that lifestyle, especially after going to New York and seeing a different lifestyle. With all this added up, she decided enough was enough and changed her full name, left her family and started her life at only 17 but she was strong enough to put her life in order. Later, her writing career started. When she read Elizabeth Bishop’s ‘In the Waiting room,’ this event inspired her to write ‘girl.’

‘Girl’ was a reflection on Kincaid’s real-life story. The story is talking about a girl who lives in Antigua. You don’t get this from the text but from the obvious clues she left about her culture and such. Other than that, the story does that tell a setting or time of where its placed. The main part in this story is that an older woman being “Kincaid” the author teaching her daughter how to live in their society of today, especially from moving to a small Caribbean country to New York. ‘don’t walk bare-head in the hot sun; cook pumpkin fritters in very hot sweet oil; soak your little cloths right after you take them off; when buying cotton to make yourself a nice blouse, be sure that it doesn’t have gum in it, because that way it won’t hold up well after a wash’ these are only a few examples of where the mother goes on and on saying what she should and should not do in this life.

However, people have to also remember that the mom and daughter came up in different times. This is why the daughter does not become what her mother expects her to be. Let’s talk about the skills that she wants to daughter to meet. She first starts off with how to set the table, how to clean the little parts you can’t see and so on. She also teaches her how to smile at someone you don’t patricianly might like. She thinks it’s important to be “fake” in this type of society which just makes her more pretend. Her mom thinks that she is too little to process this information, so she has to explain it in detail for everything she says.

The mom is very doubtful that the daughter won’t be able to catch on to these skills and use them in her daily life in the future. It all adds up now why the mom thought the daughter how to feel the bread before getting it from the store. The daughter asked, “what if the baker does not let her feel the bread” and her mom said that’s when you will figure out what kind of woman you are meant to be. Someone who will not touch the bread or will fight till the end to touch that bread. The story at the end of the day is showing what a horrible life the mother had growing up in the Caribbean as a colored woman in the 20th century.

Food and clothes play a big role into the story. It shows that the mother was really big with her lifestyle and always wanted the best type of clothes and food. She is so used to living in a lifestyle where the dad goes and gets the money and works for the family while the mom just stays home doing housework and looking over the kids. She found this very foolish and old-school. It could be called traditional but in the society that we live in today it does not work like that. It’s more of a competition now a days. Mom also is very big on the behavior of her daughter she gives tells her a lot of stuff like “on Sundays try and walk like a lady and not like the slut you are so bent on becoming”. This show that the mom is very big on her daughter not becoming a “hoe”.

Mom only wants her daughter to find a good man to live a healthy and wealthy lifestyle in the future. Of course, the topic of sex is brought in because she’s talking about her future. Her mom gives her some warnings like keep your dress down always. It gets a little cruel when she talks about throwing away babies. This shows her belief on that topic even after she has her daughter. By throwing away of course she is referring to having an abortion which was not fairly common during that time. The mom shows the girl how to cook pumpkin fritters, bread pudding, and pepper pot. These are some traditional Caribbean meals and it shows that the mom is still very cultured and that hasn’t left from her. She thought the girl how to keep things clean, was the table, set up the table. This shows her mom’s routine everyday what she had to go through while she was raising the girl, to show how difficult it is. The mom shows her how to iron clothes especially for her man because that can reflect on her.

This short story is a simple mother to daughter talk. She goes on and on what to do what not to do, but at the end of the day the daughter is her own person. She will do what she wants to at the end. She will wear what she wants, she will eat what she wants, marry who she wants, and simple just do whatever she wants. When you look at each thing her mother tells her you could tell she has fears. Fears that won’t go away because she’s been through them. A mother at the end of the day always wants to protect her child to the fullest and this is her way of showing how to protect her. Now it’s on the daughter to see if she will go through with these changes or will this just make her more defiant. The mother was somewhat harsh on calling her a slut, talking about abortion, and who to marry. She had a horrible tone throughout the whole story, and I think the daughter will see that. Learning to handle fear and overcome it is the best way even if it’s for a few seconds.

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