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“Girl”, “Drown” and “The Language of the Body” Literature Comparison Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Mar 27th, 2020


Authors express themselves through their work. One can tell the character and personality of a writer by analyzing their text. In addition, a given piece of work reflects the situation in society at that particular time. In this essay, the author is going to provide a critical review of three short stories.

The three include Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl,” Junot Diaz’s “Drown,” and Kathy Acker’s “The Language of the Body.” The themes, characters, and motives associated with the three stories will be analyzed. From a critical perspective of thinking, the author of this essay will review what Kincaid, Diaz, and Acker were aiming at when writing their stories.

Kincaid’s “Girl”


It is a short story highlighting a number of issues. The issues include changes in parenting techniques and women oppression. The story revolves around the difficulties faced by teenage girls and the complex relationship between the main character and her mother.

The issue of parenting comes to fore when the girl says, “…I was always being told I should be something, and then my whole upbringing was something I was not” (Kincaid 86). The story focuses on the ‘fit’ between what the society expects from a person and the individual’s real desires.


The story unfolds in a homestead where a mother and her daughter interact regularly. The mother gives advice to the young girl on everyday aspects of life. She tries to guide the daughter through life. She advises her on how to lead a satisfying life by handling relationships with men and the people she does not like. The mother is worried that her daughter is taking the wrong path and making poor decisions in life. She is worried the girl will turn out to be a bad woman in the future (Kincaid 87-88).

Analysis of Themes


There are conflicts between the mother and the daughter. The latter is not happy with how the mother treats her (Kincaid 86). She tries to address some of the issues raised by the mother, but this does not help. She says, “…but I don’t sing benna in Sunday at all and never in Sunday school” (Kincaid 87). She continues to argue with the mother when she is advised always to squeeze bread to make sure it is fresh. In protest, she asks, “…but what if the baker won’t let me feel the bread?” (Kincaid 88). The response shows that the two are in conflict.

Freedom and Independence

Kincaid shows how the daughter is denied her freedom of thought and expression. The matriarch gives the young girl guidelines on how to do everything. The orders range from sewing a button, ironing a shirt, sweeping the house, and how to love a man (Kincaid 87-88). The mother denies her child the opportunity to explore her own ways of handling issues.


The mother is striving to bring up her daughter to be the best in the world. However, her parenting style is not convincing enough. It appears that the daughter finds it hard to adhere to what she is being “turned” into (Kincaid 88).

At the end of the story, the mother doubts all her efforts and thinks the daughter will turn out to be what she did not intend her to be. For example, she tells her, “you mean to say that after all, you are going to be the kind of woman the baker won’t let near the bread?” (Kincaid 88). The matriarch feels that all her parenting skills have amounted to nothing.

Review of Characters


She represents the older generation and aims to rule her daughter’s life. She gives instructions on what to be done and how it is to be done. The mother has been practicing most of these things over time. She wants to pass them down to her daughter (Kincaid 87-88).


She represents the younger generation that is modern and independent (Kincaid 87). She tries to stand up against her mother. At the end of the story, the mother thinks that the daughter will take her own route and become her own woman regardless of all her efforts (Kincaid 88).

The motive of the Writer

Kincaid intends to show the reader the difference between the old and the new generations. The mother does not request her young girl to do something. Instead, she orders her around. Kincaid also seeks to portray the difficulties faced by teenage girls as they transit into adulthood.

Diaz’s “Drown”


The story analyzes how a family struggles with poverty and other issues. The narrative revolves around an immigrant family from the Dominican Republic. Diaz shows the challenges faced by these immigrants as they chase after the infamous American dream (Diaz 1). The story focuses on the father who leaves behind a family and goes to America in search of a better life.


The story takes place in an island in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. Poverty and desire for a brighter future in America define the small town. The setting then moves to New York and New Jersey, an area characterized by pollution and skyscrapers. Life in America is better than in Domingo. The skyscrapers represent wealth and modernization, something that is missing in the islands. The development of signifies improved living standards for Yunior’s family (Diaz 1).

Analysis of Themes


Poverty is highlighted when Yunior’s father leaves home for America. Yunior, his mother, and brother are left behind. They go through many problems, including living on the streets and going without food (Diaz 1). However, the time comes for them to join the father in America. Their desire for a life free of poverty is realized.


Yunior and the family must stay united to overcome the trials and tribulations that confront them on a daily basis. Unity is depicted through the common agenda shared by the family. They have the common goal of rising above poverty and leading a comfortable life. The whole family focuses on this goal and support each other along the way. For example, Yunior’s mother supports the father by assuming the role of a breadwinner when the latter leaves (Diaz 2).


Racial profiling is shown when the family relocates to America. They are discriminated against on the basis of their Hispanic descent. Yunior’s ‘highs and lows’ in life are highlighted when he enters America. Diaz shows how racism remains a major problem in contemporary society.

Review of Characters


He is strong and does not give up regardless of the challenges faced by the family. His strength is illustrated in how he handles himself in the Dominican Republic and in America. He represents triumph against poverty, racism, and other forms of stereotypes in society (Diaz 2).

Yunior’s family

Diaz shows that the family members will do all they can to achieve a brighter future. The desire to improve their living standard makes the father relocate to America. It is a typical family that represents the struggles faced by other social units in contemporary society.

The motive of the Writer

Diaz is driven by the motive to introduce the reader into a new world that they have never experienced before. The struggles, challenges, and disappointments experienced by Yunior’s family are things that some Americans have never gone through. Diaz intends to show the reader how it feels to lack in life and to face a myriad of challenges (Diaz 1).

Acker’s “The Language of the Body”


Acker seeks to show how body language is more important than verbal communication. The author takes the reader through the feelings experienced by the narrator and how they impact on the decisions she makes. Body language is the “key-and-cure” to many psychological problems (Lowen 6).


The setting keeps shifting throughout the story. The story begins in an army barrack before moving into the woods. It later shifts to a hotel room. In the room, conversations and sex are taking place. Dreams are also occurring (Acker, 4). The setting shifts again and moves inside an apartment in the city before Acker takes the reader to the countryside.



Sexuality appears everywhere in this story. It ranges from masturbation, promiscuity, premarital sex, and sexual naivety. At some point, Elizabeth does not want to have sex with Steve as she fears she might contract a disease (Acker 3, 4, 7).


The narrator is chased by the “evil ones” in her dreams. The sightings signify her worries in life. A policeman is working on a case where young girls have been killed and their bodies mutilated. In another scene, the husband wants to visit Bruges, a place where a number of murders had just taken place. The above are some of the crimes covered by Acker in the story (Acker 5-6).


The narrator asks her husband whether he loves her or not. At some point, the countess notices how much the narrator loves the husband. She asks him, “your wife is very much in love with you, isn’t she…?” (Acker 7). The sentiments show how the characters regard to love and other issues.



The narrator seems not to understand the man she is married to. Throughout the story, the husband is treated like a stranger to the persona.


She is portrayed as a confused lady who gets married at a very tender age. She is going through a series of dreams and endless streams of thoughts. The thoughts are meant to help her discover herself. However, they make her more confused.


Acker aims at showing the reader how society operates. The writer illustrates the everyday experiences of different people. In addition, Acker tries to portray the issues of love, family life, crime, security, and how to make money. It also appears that Acker (1) wants to highlight how people may get themselves into situations that they do not understand.


An analysis of the three short stories shows that Kincaid, Diaz, and Acker strive to show the challenges faced by different people in society. The three stories address the issue of women and the barriers they encounter in life. For example, they are expected to take care of their families in the absence of their husbands. They are also expected to hold together their marriage. The three stories are easy to read and understand. The authors put across their messages in a clear and simple way.

Works Cited

Acker, Kathy. The Language of the Body, London: Serpent’s Tail Limited, 2006. Print.

Diaz, Junot. Drown. New York: Riverhead Books, 1997. Print.

Kincald, Jamaica. The Individual Society: Girl, Mumbai: Dorling Kindersley Ltd., 2006. Print.

Lowen, Alexander. The Language of the Body, New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1997. Print.

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1. IvyPanda. "“Girl”, “Drown” and “The Language of the Body” Literature Comparison." March 27, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/girl-drown-and-the-language-of-the-body-literature-comparison/.


IvyPanda. "“Girl”, “Drown” and “The Language of the Body” Literature Comparison." March 27, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/girl-drown-and-the-language-of-the-body-literature-comparison/.


IvyPanda. 2020. "“Girl”, “Drown” and “The Language of the Body” Literature Comparison." March 27, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/girl-drown-and-the-language-of-the-body-literature-comparison/.


IvyPanda. (2020) '“Girl”, “Drown” and “The Language of the Body” Literature Comparison'. 27 March.

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