Feminist Criticism on Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl” and "Two Kinds"

Women’s Rights is an extremely ethical topic that is surrounded by ethical theories and has a lot of history. While some of the theoretical systems in ethics have helped to gain women their rights, others have assisted in preventing women’s rights. Women in America have seen much improvement in our modern-day society regarding Women’s Rights, but what about the women in less economically stable countries? Women continue to fight against abuse, hatred, and discrimination worldwide. I will be discussing not only Women’s Rights history but also several theoretical systems and how they have impacted Women’s Rights in America and other countries.

In the story “Two Kinds,” the narrator is a Chinese American girl who is locked in a struggle over her identity with her Chinese immigrant mother, who believes “that you could be anything you wanted to be in America.” This particular struggle invokes the mother’s attempt to mold her daughter, Jingmei, into a musical prodigy so that she will be able to brag to her friend Lindo Jong, whose daughter is a precocious chess champion.

The idea of piano lessons comes from television and popular magazines. The narrator and her mother watch Shirley Temple movies and try to imagine her as a child star. They even go so far as to get her hair styled to make her look like the blond, curly-haired Temple. The mother also reads countless “stories about remarkable children” in the magazines she brings home from people whose houses she cleans.

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“And after that, I began to see terrible things. I saw these things with my Chinese eyes, the part of me that I got from my mother. I saw devils dancing feverishly beneath an old I had dug in the sandbox. I saw that lightning had eyes and searched to strike down little children…And when I became older, I could see things that the Caucasian girls at school did not. Monkey bars that would split into two and send a swinging child hurtling through space.” (II.2.8) Lena sees part of her identity as handed down from her mother. Part of this identity includes her “Chinese eyes,” which see freaky things…Lena’s intense and dark imagination comes from her mother’s side. Another reason “Why don’t you like me the way I am! I’m not a genius! I can’t play the piano. And even if I could, I wouldn’t go on TV if you paid me a million dollars!” (II.4.32) Jing-mei’s determination to be ordinary manifests itself as hostility towards any kind of self-improvement.
In the Story “Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid consists of a single sentence of advice a mother imparts to her daughter, only twice interrupted by the girl to ask a question or defend herself. She intends the advice to both help her daughter and scold her at the same time. Kincaid uses semicolons to separate the admonishments and words of wisdom but often repeats herself, especially to warn her daughter against becoming a “slut.” Besides these repetitions, “Girl” doesn’t move forward chronologically: there is no beginning, middle, or end to the stream.

The mother dispenses much practical and helpful advice that will help her daughter keep a house of her own someday. She tells her daughter how to do such household chores as laundry, sewing, ironing, cooking, setting the table, sweeping, and washing. The mother also tells the girl how to do other things she’ll need to know about, including how to make herbal medicines and catch a fish. These words of wisdom suggest that women live in a poor, rural setting, where passing on such advice is essential for daily living.

Alongside practical advice, the mother also instructs her daughter on how to live a fulfilling life. She offers sympathy, such as when she talks about the relationships her daughter will one day have with men, warning that men and women sometimes “bully” each other. She also says that there are many kinds of relationships and some never work out. The mother also tells the girl how to behave in different situations, including how to talk with people she doesn’t like.

Often, however, the mother’s advice seems caustic and castigating, out of fear that her daughter is already well on her way to becoming a “slut.” She tells the girl, for example, not to squat while playing marbles, not to sing any Antiguan folk songs in Sunday school, and to always walk like a lady. The girl periodically interjects to protest her innocence.

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Feminist Criticism on Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl” and "Two Kinds". (2020, Sep 09). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/feminist-criticism-on-jamaica-kincaids-girl-and-two-kinds-essay

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