Girl is a short story by Jamaica Kincaid and was published in the book called At the Bottom of the River. Girl is told from a first-person perspective, as an unnamed girl recounts her memories of working under several mean mistresses at Madame Duclos’ House of Repose for Young Ladies.
Each mistress had their own expectations and disciplines, which the protagonist obeyed and eventually weathered; however, she soon becomes restless and feels that none of them understood her. Girl thus reflects on how these mistresses fail to understand the narrator and how she is unable to comprehend why they cannot seem to see things from her perspective. Girl is a sad story written in simple language, with short sentences and paragraphs; it has an open ending.
‘Girl’ by Jamaica Kincaid is written in an ironic, shocking manner. The short story can be understood to oppose what it means to be a woman and the role of women in society. There are no other characters except for Girl and Mother, who are both female. Girl learns from her mother that being a girl comes with many restrictions that she does not have any choice about. Girl has no power over anything that happens to her because she is just seen as someone who must obey all rules given to them by another person just because they are told too.
Girl was even told by Mother to give up her own dreams so her life won’t disappoint everyone else but herself . This short story mainly focuses on how Girl is taught about her role as a girl in the society. Girl’s got to do what she was told by Mother and never object against it, Girl has to do all these things with no questions asked while girls are still seen as someone who cannot stand up for themselves. Girl is constantly being advised by her mother about how to be a lady, love herself and other women.
Girl doesn’t have any power over anything that she could have because she gets discouraged from choosing what she wants or thinks, Girl is quickly exhausted of thinking about other people’s opinion because Girl hasn’t done anything wrong but just being born. Girl even tries telling her mother by saying “I am not you” this shows that Girl couldn’t help but think and feel like she has to be just like her mother. Girl thinks what is considered as “womanhood” in the society today, Girl only gets seen as a girl by everyone around when they see Girl following all of Mother’s rules .
Girl also knows that she is oppressed by the way society sees them no matter what Girl does, Girl knows this because Girl spends most of her time understanding herself and doing things that she wants to do for herself. Girl doesn’t get supported but instead persecuted by Mother, Girl keeps speaking up even though it ends up with Girl getting scolded or punished everyday. The short story has a dramatic build-up in terms of the setting, tension and conflict within the text. The short story Girl is set in Girl’s house, Girl lives with Mother who controls Girl completely.
Girl and Mother are both women therefore Girl does not have the option of having a dialogue with someone she could relate to. Girl spends most of her time alone because no one else shares Girl’s thoughts or ideas except for Girl herself. Girl even tries telling her mother about what she wants to do with her life but since Girl has been told that girls can’t be anything that they want to be by society and their mothers then Girl is only upset by this idea and cannot say anything more.
The mother is contradicting herself throughout the text and therefore, it gives the idea that she doesn’t seem to know what she wants.
The Girl is a young girl who seems to be in her early teenage years with experience of school but not enough to fully comprehend all advices given by her mother. The Girl does reflect on the words of wise by her mother when she says
“I am just a Girl,” “I know nothing,” and “Why me?” which shows that Girl has some sort of awareness towards the way her mother talks and behaves and beyond this, Girl tries to understand these things. Girl also refers back to previous advices from her mother by saying
“But I mustn’t do anything foolish, you say” and “I mustn’t be a fool, you say.” Girl distances herself from what her mother says but not in an aggressive or rude way. Girl is most likely to follow the advices of mother even if she does not always understand what is being said.
The Girl is very polite towards her mother, addressing her with “Mummy” which gives the impression that Girl has respect for her caregiver. Girl also tries to reassure herself by saying
“I am just a Girl,” “But I listen carefully”, and “My Mummy loves me”. Girl seems to be very insecure about herself and can often feel self-doubt because of how mother treats her. Girl feels like she is a bad kid and does not know what she is doing wrong when in reality Girl is simply a young girl. Girl remains calm throughout her interaction with the mother who seems to be more angry than Girl.
Jamaica Kincaid was born Elaine Potter Richardson on October 25, 1949. Her works are always centered around women and the relationships between them and men, especially family relationships. She has written for many magazines such as “Harper’s Bazaar”, “The New Yorker” and “The New York Times”. She also wrote a novel entitled “Annie John” which won an American Book Award in 1993. Jamaica Kincaid is a writer from Antigua but currently lives in Vermont where she teaches at Harvard University under the Creative Writing Program.
The Girl By Jamaica Kincaid was written because of the author’s experiences with her own mother. The Girl came from a short story called Girl that appeared in Ms. Kincaid’s book At the Bottom of the River. Girl is about a girl’s coming-of-age, which details how she becomes aware of her own beauty and sexuality which only serves to threaten her mother even more. This recognition highlights an irreconcilable difference between them, as it also can be interpreted as a power struggle over who will have control over the young girl’s body now that she has entered puberty.