Literary Essay Sample: Girl by Jamaica Kincaid

Published: 2022-03-18
Literary Essay Sample: Girl by Jamaica Kincaid
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Literature
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 868 words
8 min read

It is worth mentioning that Girl is a short story by Jamaica Kincaid. The story is a dramatic monologue that gives a glimpse of a considered mother giving advice to her daughter, the girl. Notably, the girl is still a child who is just about to enter the puberty stage. The mother is giving her daughter a series of instructions both direct and indirect that are meant to help the girl become a respectable woman in the near future. The mother in the story tells the girl a list of behavior that explains how an adult woman should behave. The story shows a mother prescribing behavior that is deemed appropriate for the females.

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The title "Girl" is ironic in that the author gives the girl, who is the main focus in the story only two lines in the whole conversation. In essence, the whole conversation is the mother giving advice to her daughter. However, the title 'Girl' is intentional and Kincaid uses it to pass a very solid and concrete message to the reader. The choice of title passed two messages. First, the title shows that the girl is the most important one in the story. Even if the mother does all the talking in the story, she focuses more on the girl. The mother's conversation and instructions are to show what it means for a girl to grow up in such a culture that the mother is unreservedly describing. The title also provokes the reader about the feelings of the girl about the mother and the culture in general. Secondly, 'Girl' as used in the title is not for just this particular girl and her personal experiences but about a universal experience of girlhood in this culture.

In essence, the author intentionally chooses the title 'Girl' to provoke the reader's mind on the position of the girl who is just about to grow into a woman in the society. It is worth mentioning that girl is a very symbolic word that is used to describe a female child who is relatively a young lady who is just about to enter sexual maturity. The author uses the girl to draw a picture of some kind of universal experience of girlhood. As a result, the representation is not just for this one girl but all the girls in such cultures where growing up mean behaving in a certain manner that is considered right and respectable. Additionally, Kincaid chooses this title because she wants the reader to focus more on the girl and not the mother. She wants the readers to focus more on how the girl feels about her conditioned life and what it means to grow up into womanhood.

Notably, the story addresses a number of themes. The first idea addressed is the danger of female sexuality in our culture and society today. The mother is already worried about her daughter's behavior before, she has even reached puberty. It is evident that a woman's character and morality is determined by the worth of her being in terms of behavior in the society. Therefore, each girl must be cautiously concealed and guarded to uphold a reputable front. Therefore, the mother with the aim of making her daughter understand that she is not a boy scolds her for the manner in which she plays marbles, walks, and behaves among other people (Kincaid, 1991). She even goes further to insist that her daughter acts in a manner that will earn her respect from the society. The mother places precise weight on sex as she is afraid that her daughter will disgrace her in the society by becoming a loose woman.

The second idea is the transformative influence of domesticity, where her mother has confidence in that home knowledge will protect the girl from both ruin and a life of dissoluteness and also allow her to become a productive member of the society and also the head of her household. Primarily, in most of the cultures, domestic knowledge leads to productivity which in return helps a woman earn respect form both her family and the society. Therefore, domestic knowledge brings power and prestige to a woman and also keeps her busy at all times preventing her from unnecessary temptation. As seen in the story, there are two kinds of women it the society, the reputable one, and the slut. The difference in the two is found in the power of domesticity (Kincaid, 1991). For instance, the mother trains her girl in what way to do various domestic chores such as cooking, sweeping, washing, ironing, farming, and buying bread.

To conclude this discussion, we are expected to learn that childhood is an extremely significant time in every child's life and especially for girls. The reason is that it a period when they learn different things about the world around them and what is expected of them culturally when they grow into adulthood. We are also expected to learn the challenges that young ladies are prone to during their transition from childhood to puberty. Additionally, we learn about the dangers of female sexuality and the transformative power of domestic knowledge for the 'Girl' in the society today.


Kincaid, J. (1991). Girl (p. 4). San Francisco Examiner.

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