Jamaica Kincaid shows us many things in the very short story named “Girl. ” One is simply the change in parenting technique as orders like this would not typically be issued today. Another is the oppression of women in Kincaid’s world and the lack of options for women. Jamaica Kincaid uses structure and language to convey tone and theme in this short piece. In “Girl” Jamaica Kincaid uses a series of long sentences to convey both tone and theme. The tone is one of repressiveness and obedience.
The mother is preaching at the girl to tell her how to act. The long sentences signify the many dictatorial orders that she gives her daughter. The use of words like “slut” tell us what she will think of her daughter if her daughter fails to behave the way her mother thinks she should. The long demands are separated by semicolons and areas where the girl questions her mother very ineffectively. The long sentences in stream of consciousness style show how repressive the mother’s demands are to a modern woman.
All the references to housework and sewing again show the tone of repressiveness to the daughter. The theme of Jamaica Kincaid’s girl is in the conflict between mother and daughter. It is a perfect story about the generation gap. The mother gives the daughter advice to make her a “proper” woman, like “”Wash the clothes on Monday and put them on the stone heap; wash the color clothes on Tuesday and put them on the clothesline to dry; don’t walk barehead in the sun… “ (Kincaid).
Her advice gets more and more firm as the story continues; culminating in the final line “you mean to say that after all you are really going to be the kind of woman who the baker won’t let near the bread? ” (Kincaid). The daughter is from a different generation and may not heed her advice. According to enotes, “consists solely of a list of admonitions from mother to daughter, increasingly dichotomous and ultimately manipulative” (enotes). As a feminist Jamaica Kincaid shows the reader the difference between older generation and newer generation.
She doesn’t ask her daughter to behave this way; she orders it. The aim of the character is easy. The mother wants to rule her daughter’s life. She has many somewhat antiquated, definitely repressive ideas about what a woman is supposed to be. She orders her daughter, talking at her and never to her. Only twice in the story does the daughter question or speak against her demands, and she does so rather meekly. The mother demands her to be a “proper” woman and not become a slut, which her mother thinks she is already on the road to becoming.
She is using the scare tactic of becoming a slut to demand that her daughter “be good. ” The aim of this mother is certainly not to be nurturing in the more typical way or to get to know her daughter or listen to her. The daughter has no aim in this story. She is mostly a passive participant, listening to the lecture/rant of her mother about her life. As stated, she does speak against her mother twice, but not in any meaningful way, which speaks volumes about the lack of relationship or intimacy between mother and daughter.
At the end of this story in spite of the mother’s rant, the reader is not convinced that the daughter will follow her mother’s orders. She will not become a “slut,” but she may become a much more modern woman, which will cause dire conflict between mother and daughter.
Enotes. At the Bottom of the River. Retrieved at http://www. enotes. com/short-story-criticism/bottom-river-jamaica-kincaid Jamaica Kincaid. Retrieved at http://voices. cla. umn. edu/vg/Bios/entries/kincaid_jamaica. html Kincaid, Jamaica. Girl.
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