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The narrative “Girl” is a piece written by Jamaica Kincaid concerning a mother‘s attempt to teach her daughter about a woman’s role in society. The author’s intentions are evident through her feminist activities, familial relationship as well as the structure of the narrative. This short story is a feminist critique of the contradictions and tensions inherent in womanhood development; it sets out to show how women perpetuate gender inequality.
The author –Jamaica Kincaid – is an immigrant from the West Indies who entered the United States in her teens. She had a poor relationship with her mother and despised the societal structures that caused this rift. As an only child, Kincaid enjoyed the love and attention of her mother, but this changed dramatically when three brothers came into the picture.
The mother redirected all her affections to the boys and ignored her daughter merely because she was female. It is likely that this experience affected how the author perceived gender subjugation. While the Caribbean islands were immensely patriarchal, it was the woman who was used as a tool to perpetuate oppression against her own kind (Bailey 111).
Kincaid’s choice of structure is a hint on this theme of female disempowerment by women. First, the narrative is lengthy and fluid; it appears like a monologue although the daughter responds once in a while. Kincaid wrote her piece in such a manner in order to demonstrate that it was a lecture.
Instructions are often one sided, long and do not consider the view point of the recipient. At one point, she states that “always eat your food in such a way that it won’t turn someone else’s stomach;” (Kincaid 350). In this case, the mother rants continuously without pausing or asking for her daughter’s feedback.
When the girl tries to ask a question about something, the latter immediately victimizes the girls and makes it look like she is at fault. For instance, she tells the girl how to test bread in order to ascertain that it is fine. The girl asks what to do if the seller won’t let her touch it. Her mother asks her why she would have a character that is not worthy of the seller’s trust: “you mean to say that after all you are really going to be the kind of woman the baker won’t let near the bread?” (Kincaid 351).
The author wanted to show how gender was constructed in this setting. Women were instruments of gender inequality because they did not even give a voice to one another. Patriarchal societies often prevent women from talking back to men or having an opinion. Sadly, this starts with women’s interaction with each other as seen through the condescension and ridicule of the mother in the story.
It is particularly interesting that the narrative contains no real male character. The mother only refers to men in general and her husband in particular. It is likely that Jamaican Kincaid wanted to emphasize women’s role in gender inequalities within her society.
One can deduce Kincaid’s inclinations from her background as an activist. Jamaica has started a group that supports President Obama because he believes in women’s reproductive right to choose. Such leanings form a basis for her rejection of gender instructions and stereotypes about women in the narrative.
Women in the narrative could not enjoy the freedoms that men did. Someone had to transmit these expectations to younger generations; Caribbean societies chose women as their tools. They taught young girls about subservience, passivity and domesticity. This theme is evident from the author’s work as a feminist activist and her relationship with her mother.
Bailey, Carol. “Performance and the gendered body in Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl” and Oonya Kempadoo’s Buxton Spice.” Meridians 10.2(2010): 106-123. Print.
Kincaid, Jamaica. “Girl.” Fiction: A pocket Anthology. Ed. R. Gwynn. NY: Pearson Education, 2011. 349-351. Print.