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“Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid Book Review

“Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid

Summary

“Girl”, a short story by Jamaica Kincaid focuses on two characters that develop the plot of the whole narration. The central voice belongs to an unnamed mother. From the title of the story, the reader can assume that the girl referred to in this context is a woman’s daughter. There is no defined mother-to-daughter relationship on the onset of the story. However, the daughter on two accounts has interrupted the mother in protests towards the instructions given to her, but her complaints do not stop the mother from giving instructions and guidelines (Kincaid 12).

The mother in this story educates her daughter on how to live and behave when an adult woman. Her advice and comments mainly arise from practical experiences. It is evident that the story setting is not in the United States based on the instructions that the mother gives the daughter at the beginning of the narration. She instructs her daughter to wash and dry the washed white clothing on a stone. She further directs her to do laundry of the next set of colored clothes on the second day. The essential adult woman’s chores are followed by teachings on how to cook various delicacies such as pumpkin fritters, how to soak salted fish, clean the yard and the house.  In addition, the woman teaches the young one on how to plant and tender to dasheen and okra and how to iron pants and shirts of her father properly (Kincaid 13).

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The mother also sensitizes her daughter about her sexual maturity by giving her lessons about her menstrual cycle. She insists on being clean as she instructs the girl to always soak her inner clothing. The story develops with the mother making an effort to teach her daughter the right honorable ways of living demonstrating the detriments of living a carefree life. Hygiene and moral uprightness are the most important lessons that the mother wants her daughter to know (Kincaid 14). An aspect of spirituality is shown when she advises the girl not to sing local trendy music in the place of worship. However, the mother realizes that her daughter may not adopt fully what she instructs her to do. Therefore, she also teaches her on various survival tactics such as showing her abortion medicines just in case everything turns different as she fears. The sexual advice given by the mother comes together with social advice. She educates her on how to interrelate with people of diverse nature, those she is attracted to, those she hates and those who can ruin her life.

The story captures different ways in which the adult population must mold their children’s behavior. The story vividly illustrates the mother’s fears in regard to her daughter growing up in an environment that will not facilitate her to have a decent adulthood. The fears of the mother make the daughter constantly protest, and various symbols are being applied by the author to show and model a young woman into a responsible individual.

Contradiction in the Story

The story contains issues that are embraced by the majority of people in society. The girl-child education is a crucial part of life of any girl. The lessons are always best taught by their mothers since they are presumed to have had experience and should be able to offer the best advice (Kincaid 17). However, the story illustrates a big contradiction between her thoughts and what she is teaching her daughter. The contradiction comes in where the mother vividly imagines how her daughter, having grown up, would become a loose woman. It is demonstrated in many instances of the narration. Moreover, these assumptions have are not reasonable despite the moral and spiritual guidance given to by the mother. The main question that arises is why she focuses so much on giving advice to her daughter, yet being convinced that the girl would grow to be a slut. Therefore, the contradiction here can be perceived as the mother’s ultimate love and faith in her child are being outweighed by full confidence in her poor morals.

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General Opinion about the Story

The “Girl” story has resulted in the majority of people looking at it from an antagonistic perspective. Scholars like Frank Birbalisingh perceive “Girl” as one of the most remarkable woman writing pieces in West India. The author’s experiences of her youth days in Antigua that have been narrated in the story illustrate various negative forces of poverty and colonialism that affected many people. Others look at the piece as a generalization of the mothers’ call to their daughters (Ferguson 12) and as a true definition of the role of a mother in the society. They attribute various parenting strategies to the ones mentioned in the story since the experiences described are based on the realities of the modern world.

Thesis/Claim

The actual paper derives its main theme from the story. The author focuses on the role of a mother in girl-child education. The reading questions whether the girl-child education should be the responsibility of the society or the mother.

Unfortunately, majority of the young girls’ population endures a lot of sufferings and faces deep frustration due to the absence or insufficient knowledge about how to handle different life challenges. They are often cast into the world and left to discover the real life on their own. Many references point to the girl as a weaker sex that needs guidance to be able to handle what the world brings forth. Majority of communities have taken the initiative to educate girl children on various aspects of puberty and how to handle it, hygiene, relationships, moral standards, spirituality and marriage (Ferguson 52).

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Nevertheless, mother plays a significant role in the life stages of her daughter. She helps to understand why various things happen and watches her cope with different life circumstances. Experience can be the best teacher. Moreover, a mother understands her daughter better than any other person in the world. She is able to identify her weak points and help her develop a brave and courageous attitude to overcome her weaknesses (Ferguson 65).

In the traditional African and Indian communities, boys and girls were not allowed to socialize freely unless under the watch of an elderly person. The stages of a child’s development were vital and were carried out with caution since the society did not tolerate any misbehavior that arose from a girl. If she was found indulging in various practices that did not hold her dignity, for instance, sexual immorality, she was cast out of the society. She was considered as a misfit and cursed by the elders. The society viewed the girl child as the keeper of morals. Young girls relied on their mothers and elderly women for teachings on maintaining a home (Ferguson 65).

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Nowadays, mothers play a very pivotal role in the lives of their daughters in any community. They equip the girls with the necessary armor to handle various challenges because they are vulnerable. Based on the above discussion, it can be stated that the best person to offer a girl-child education should be her mother because through time, they have learnt to study their children. They are aware of what their children are capable of doing. Education based on strengthening the weak features of character and establishing high moral values is the best education one can ever be given, and a mother as the closest person can do that in the best manner.

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