Maternal Lessons: Crafting a Proper Lady in Jamaica Kincaid's "Girl"

Categories: Girl

The story of Jamaica Kincaid “Girl” is about a mother giving the instructions to her daughter.

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The mother uses strict, demanding tone while parenting her daughter. She gives the orders, and expects listening and obedience, regardless what the girl says. Through mother’s words to her daughter, through the directions she wants her to follow, the mother reveals strictness, egocentricity, and exactingness that are her most conspicuous traits. The mother believes that numerous instructions will make her daughter become a proper lady.

This story supports the idea that a woman should be domesticated. The mother or a speaker describes the household chores and wants her girl to do them correctly. “This is how you sweep a corner; this is how you sweep a whole house.’ (Kincaid 396)

Considering the time this story was written, little women were not taught how to do a successful career, they were taught how to become good wives for their husbands. The mother is addressing her remarks to her daughter. She takes the position and does not listen to the girl. There is a gap in the relationship between two women, shown through the girl’s little speech. The mother is instructing how to act, talk, behave, and eat. However, this does not make her a bad mother. All that she wants is her daughter to know the values of life. The mother teaches her, probably, the same way her mother used to teach her.

The mother tells her daughter how to cook and set up the table.

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“This is how you set a table for dinner with an important guest.” (Kincaid 396) On one hand, all that we see in this story is mother and her guidance. On the other hand, in spite of mother’s strictness and directness, she reveals her praiseworthy characteristics by willing to make her daughter a proper lady. She wants her daughter to have outstanding manners and to know how to behave in front of the men. I believe that the culture the author was writing this story in, plays a very important role in this story. The mother wants her daughter to become a proper lady by guiding her and providing her with the strict instructions. She believes that the more detailed she is, the better her daughter will know. Despite the commands and strictness, the daughter will learn the values of life.

Updated: Nov 30, 2023
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Maternal Lessons: Crafting a Proper Lady in Jamaica Kincaid's "Girl". (2016, Apr 01). Retrieved from

Maternal Lessons: Crafting a Proper Lady in Jamaica Kincaid's "Girl" essay
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