In honor of International Women's Day, I have decided to post my literary analysis of Girl, a short story written by Jamaica Kincaid. I wrote this piece for my literary analysis class in school. The page numbers I reference are from our class textbook.
Kincaid is a Caribbean women of color who regularly contributed to the "Talk of the Town" column in The New Yorker. In 1978, she published her first fictional piece Girl. To read more about Jamaica Kincaid click here or here. To read Girl click here.
Jamaica Kincaid’s Girl holds a powerful feminist message that still rings true today. This short story is about a young girl being told lessons from an older, female adult figure that readers can infer is her mother. Despite being written in the late 1970s, Kincaid’s message is still relevant today. In today’s society and in Kincaid’s short story, young girls are unfairly forced to grow up sooner than their male counterparts. Instead of playing, as a child should, they must learn to perform basic domestic duties, such as cooking and cleaning. Moreover, seemingly harmless actions by females are sexualized; yet, at the same time, young girls and women are called derogatory names to belittle them and suppress their sexuality. Kincaid develops these points throughout the dialogue, while simultaneously showing how outlandish these ideas are.
To begin with, Kincaid shows that girls and boys are forced grow up differently. While the mother is talking, she talks about boys several times. Nearly three-fourths if the way through the mother’s seemingly endless rant, she tells the young girl “don’t squat down to play marbles- you are not a boy” (356). This is a very clear example of how young boys and young girls are treated differently. While the boys are playing, the girls are forced to take on stereotypical domestic work. Not only does this show the difference between the two genders, but it also shows that girls are forced to grow up earlier than their male counterparts. Thus, Kincaid shows this gender divide perfectly in her writing.
Furthermore, Kincaid’s Girl addresses female sexuality in two ways. As aforementioned, the mother talks about boys and men several times throughout her monologue. The first time boys are commented on is when the speaker says “you mustn’t speak to wharf-rat boys, not even to give directions” (355). Essentially, this is the mother’s way of saying stay away from and don’t talk to bad boys. Obviously this paints the boys negatively, but the mother’s warning is likely related to how others would perceive her daughter if she conversed with such boys. A common theme and phrase iterated by the mother throughout the story is that the girl is “bent on become” a slut (355-356). Talking to a boy is not an excuse to sexualize a girl or call her a slut. To go further, this derogatory word is meant to demean the young girl for being sexual and suppress her sexuality. Many of the mother’s lessons are to prevent her from becoming that slut or to make the daughter appear as though she is not a slut. Yet, at the same time, she is taught “how to love a man” (356). This is another example of how boys and girls are treated differently that transcends the story. Therefore, Girl touches on how girls are both hypersexualize and sexually suppressed in society.
In addition, the organization of the short story was done intentionally by Kincaid to show how alogical the mother’s teachings are. Throughout the story, the main speaker gives lessons chaotically. Instead of telling the girl everything about cooking, the mother jumps from one point to the next. By organizing the message this way, Kincaid does two things. First, it makes the story more realistic because it is written almost like a train of thought. The mother brings up one point, which reminds her of another, which reminds her of another, and so forth. The second thing this does is show readers how random the lessons or the rules are that the girl in the story and girls in real life have to learn or to follow. Essentially, there is no real rhyme or reason why the lessons are being taught to the girl at this point in time or why they’re being taught to her at all. For example, the mom opens the story telling the girl “Wash the white clothes on Monday and… wash the color clothes on Tuesday…” (355). There is no logic to these instructions and the mother does not offer any explanation as to why the clothes must be washed on Monday and Tuesday or why whites must be on Monday and color clothes on Tuesday. These are just arbitrary instructions, which are then followed by more arbitrary instructions on a different topic.
Similarly, the entire story is one, long, run on sentence. It is broken in two spots by interruptions from the girl, but that never ends the flow of lessons. In the end, it doesn’t conclude with a period, but with this question: “you mean to say that after all you are really going to be the kind of women who the baker won’t let near the bread?” (356). By never concluding a sentence, Kincaid shows how these lessons or instructions pile on top of each other and create an unending stream of lessons for girls, the one in the story and those in real life, to learn and to follow. Likewise, ending it with this demeaning question instead of just ending it with a lesson and a period, not only proves the aforementioned point about sexuality, but also leads readers to believe that there is likely more lessons and rules to follow in the future. If the short story had ended with a period after a lesson, readers could assume that that was the end or the final lesson. However, like the sentences, the lesson are never truly concluded and the question at the end shows that more lessons will likely follow.
Moreover, the point of view and lack of descriptive characters was done purposely by Kincaid to allow any reader to better feel or understand what it is like to be a young girl growing up. This story challenges narration because it does not have a solid beginning, middle, or end. Likewise, the story itself can be read as a recollection or a memory, rather than an event that is taking place at this specific moment in time, especially since it lacks any quotation makes. As a result, the first person narration can also be read as a second person point of view. This perspective in this story truly allows readers to step into the shoes of the girl. By doing this, readers can experience what it feels like to be the girl while they’re reading the story. This is important because it helps readers better understand Kincaid’s message. Another way Kincaid helps readers step into the shoes of her characters is by not making them very descriptive. Kincaid’s characters have no physical descriptions or many defining characteristics. The most notable characteristic is that both characters are likely Caribbean. This inference can be made based on the food the mother teaches her to prepare and the “benna” music (355-356). Kincaid’s characters also lack proper names. This is important and yet another way she makes her story more relatable. The lack of defining features and names allows these two characters to be virtually anyone, including the reader. This, in turn, gives readers a better understanding of how growing up as a girl feels and Kincaid’s message about that unfairness.
In conclusion, Girl is Jamaica Kincaid’s statement on how girls are treated growing up. Primarily, Kincaid shows that young girls and young boys are treated differently growing up. Girl focuses specifically on how girls are unfairly forced to take on domestic roles and grow up sooner than their male counterparts. Furthermore, Girl not only focuses on the hypersexuality of girls, but it also touches on how girls are called derogatory names that are meant to belittle them and stifle sexuality. Moreover, Kincaid uses specific literary devices to show readers that the lessons are arbitrary and unending. Lastly, by not giving her characters names or lengthy descriptions Kincaid makes her story and characters relatable to nearly everyone. Despite being written nearly forty years ago, Kincaid’s story still rings true today. As a society, we can learn from these messages and begin to fix the problems of hypersexuality and treat all kids equally.
On February 9th, we arrived at our last destination: Grand Turk. After the ship docked, my parents and sister got off, but my room was still getting ready so we agreed to meet them later at Jack's Shack. Jack's is the very last place on the beach and since there's generally less people, it's the perfect place to find sea glass (and there is an abundance!). It's also right next to a pier that had conch shells under it. After seeing a few people walking back with shells, Madison and I went to see if we could grab our own. Madison picked up two, but one smelled so bad that we put it back. Overall, we spent a lot of time in the water cooling off or looking for sea glass.
After boarding the ship again, we read until it was time for dinner. This was the second formal night, so, after eating we took a few professional photos. Then, we changed into comfier clothing and headed to the casino. Madison and I both tried playing this claw machine that you could pull money out of (right) when we arrived. Neither of us won at first, so we played other games and watched my grandma play on some slot machines. I found my dad in the casino and we went to play my favorite casino game: roulette. While I was playing, Madison played the claw game again and pulled $100 out of it!
The next morning was the last fun day at sea. We didn't have any plans so we slept in a little bit later. After getting ready and eating breakfast, we looked in a few of the stores before heading back to the room to read. At one point, Trish, Madison, and I were on the balcony reading. Around 1, Madison and I picked my sister, Arabella, up from camp. We got her some food from the lunch buffet, then I took her to play mini golf. It was super windy on the mini golf deck and when we got there all the golf balls were being used so we went to the arcade instead. Trish and Madison both met us there and we played a few games using game cards we got from platinum card members. After playing, Madison went back to the room, Trish went to get lunch, and Bella and I tried to play mini golf again. There was still no balls, but one group was finishing soon, so we waited and got theirs. After playing, Bella got frozen yogurt and I picked up a pizza; then. we found my grandma and ate with her. My parents were also eating lunch, so when Trish and I had finished they kept Bella and we headed back to the room for some reading and naps.
After dinner, we looked at all the professional photos we had taken throughout the whole trip. Madison and I picked out one that we liked and bought it. Then, we headed back to the room and packed our bags. The following morning, we got on a plane and headed back home to Michigan.
After Amber Cove, we stopped at St. Thomas, USVI. We were supposed to dock at 11 A.M., but rain and wind from the previous night delayed us to 12:15. After getting off the ship, we took a Skyride to Paradise Point.
Later, we took a taxi to Magen's Bay where we relaxed and read on the beach or cooled off in the water. That evening, Madison and I went to Hasbro, The Game Show, an interactive game show with audience contestants, which was lots of fun.
The following morning, we woke up in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We didn't have an excursion planned, but after walking off the dock a guy offered a $10 bus tour and we took him up on his offer. The first place we stopped was a beautiful beach; then, we drove past the beautiful capital building that faces the ocean and a statue that appears to be flipping the bird. Finally, we stopped at one of the forts and the oldest cemetery in the new world before heading back to Old San Juan.
In Old San Juan, we did lots of shopping, got pictures with tropical birds, and ate lunch at the Parrot Club. After lunch, we did more shopping, then headed back to the ship for reading and card games.
Location: San Juan, Puerto Rico
The first full day on the ship was a Fun Day at Sea, meaning that we weren't stopping at a port. My room slept in a bit and opted to go to the breakfast buffet around 10:30am. Shortly after, we headed to Dave's Slot Pull in the casino. I blogged about the slot pull before, but essentially, everyone puts in $20 and the group plays on one machine (everyone plays three times) splitting the final earnings. This time, the very last person who went won lots of money and everyone ended up getting $38 back. Near the end of the slot pull, my mom took my sister to Camp Ocean and met Madison and me in the library afterwards where we played a few card games.
Around one p.m., Madison and I picked my sister up from camp and took her to the arcade to play a few claw games and air hockey. My parents and grandma met us there and we went to lunch on the Lido deck. After lunch, my grandma, Madison, and I went to see Clue: the Murder Mystery (pictures above). This was very cool and the actors did amazing! At this show they introduced the characters from the classic game of clue and their motive for murdering Mr. Boddy. During events throughout the cruise they would give clues to eliminate characters, weapons, and places and at the end of the cruise if you guessed the person, weapon, and place correctly you could win a prize. We actually sat in the front row, so we could see all the characters really well and Mr. Boddy was right in front of us. Following Clue: the Murder Mystery was a game of Bingo and the first clue reveal.
After Bingo, we went back to our room and played cards and read until it was time to get ready for dinner; then, we read and played cards again after dinner.
The following morning we arrived in Amber Cove, Dominican Republic! We met our excursion group in the lobby at 8 A.M. and got off the ship about thirty minutes later. The dock is kinda long, so my dad and grandma took a ride instead (see right). We walked to the tour bus and met our main guide, Felipe. Then, we drove through a few towns and alongside a beautiful waterfront before going to the hotel district. We deboarded the bus at one hotel and walked down an alley to the beach. Then, we took a mini boat out to meet the boat for the excursion.
Once on the boat, we drove across the ocean for about two hours (it went by so quick) and Felipe got us drinks before we stopped at a several snorkeling sites. The snorkeling equipment was provided on the excursion and we got to see so many cool fish in the water. After snorkeling, we stopped at a beach and had lunch and did a little shopping, then, took a bus back to port. Before going back to the ship, we stopped and got pictures by this cool Amber Cove sign (below). When we got back to our room they were delivering chocolate covered strawberries to all the blogger's rooms (YUM!). That night was also the first of two formal nights on the cruise. Overall, the excursion was so cool and Amber Cove was one of my favorite stops this cruise!
Location: Puerto Plata 57000, Dominican Republic
In honor of International Women's Day, I have decided to post my literary analysis of Girl , a short story written by Jamaica Kincaid. ...
On February 9th, we arrived at our last destination: Grand Turk. After the ship docked, my parents and sister got off, but my room was st...
The following day was another 'Fun Day at Sea'. Again, I started my morning by reading on the Lido deck while eating some breakfa...