In Jamaica Kincaid’s short story “Girl,” the mother is very disapproving of her daughter’s attitude towards life. She wants to educate her daughter about developing into a respectable woman, domesticating herself and proper etiquette in the presence of men. The relationship between mother and daughter depicts a traditional Caribbean “dictatorship” in which the mother shows her love in a controlling manner and the daughter’s only option is to follow her mother’s instructions.
It appears that the mother is very old fashioned, and in her mind she knows how a young woman should behave.
In her culture, there are certain routines she is trying to instill in her daughter. For instance, she is trying to mold her on becoming a proper young lady. “On Sundays try to walk like a lady and not like the slut you are so bent on becoming” (Kincaid), the mother is emphasizing that she should act a certain way so she will not be judged by others.
My belief is, she fears society will view her negatively if she does not comply with the rules set forth by their culture.
Kincaid’s mother feels that the woman’s role is to take care of the home. Domestication is strongly suggested in this story. “Wash the white clothes on Monday and put them on the stone heap; wash the color clothes on Tuesday and put them on the clothesline to dry” (Kincaid). In her point of view, she is giving her daughter instructions on household chores so that she can become a good housewife or caretaker of her home.
The mother is giving her advice about relationships with boys because she feels she is making wrong decisions. “This is how to behave in the presence of men who don’t know you very well, and this way they won’t recognize immediately the slut I have warned you against becoming” (Kincaid ). This shows she is telling her daughter how to behave in front of men so she can find someone who is acceptable. The mother sees something in her daughter that she considers slutty behavior and she wants her to know it is unacceptable for a young lady.
This short story depicts a mother daughter relationship, in which they have a great deal of love and respect for one another. It is connected to Caribbean values, which appear to be geared towards guiding the daughter in a positive direction. The mother may seem to be very condescending and judgmental, but she only wants what’s best for her child. She wants to be assured that she is instilling values in her daughter that were instilled in her.
Kincaid, Jamaica. “Girl.”The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Short Stories. Ed. Tobias Wolff. New York: Vintage, 1994. 306-307.