The story "Girl" by Jamaica Kincaid consists of a conversation between the daughter and her mother. The story shows how the mother gives commands and advice to her daughter on important life issues. Her main focus is exploring gender and society surrounding the girl child. The mother advises her daughter on how to carry out certain domestic duties like making Antiguan dishes, being a respectable woman and upholding her sexual purity. Additionally, the mother tells the daughter how to interact with people and how to behave romantically when in a relationship with any man. At the end, the daughter interrupts her mother and question her accusations. The mother says "always squeeze bread to make sure it's fresh," (Kincaid, 44). The daughter asks "but what if the baker won't let me feel the bread?" (Kincaid, 44 and the mother says again "you mean to say that you are really going to be the kind of woman who will not let the bread?" (Kincaid, 44). The story then comes to an end. Kincaid leaves the reader wondering what she meant, and the emphasis is outlined in the puzzle question. The question shows how women are perceived through the eye of the society. It shows how the mother is disempowering the daughter by not giving her freedom to be herself. It also shows the sexual reputation of a girl child in the society and role and power of women in society. It also shows how the community keeps on imposing their stereotypes onto their children.
The question shows the overwhelming power that the mothers have towards their daughters. The mother has the mandate to advice, counsel and commands the daughter on her responsibilities and role in society. Consequently, as the daughter reaches maturity, it is the role of mothers to advise them on how to stay clean during the menstrual period, "soak your little cloths" (Kincaid,43). On the other hand, the daughter is not supposed to question her mother's advice. The mother plans the daily duties for the daughter, "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, 43). The daughter longs to make decisions for herself by either rebelling or screaming, but due to the social norms, she cannot do so. It is an indicator that girl child has no power in society instead she needs to take instructions and orders from the mothers. The story shows how the adults are supposed to model the behaviors of their adolescent children as they grow and the mothers have power over their daughters.
According to the society, girls are supposed to carry themselves responsibly and their sexual reputation should be excellent. The question outlines the mother's effort to raise her daughter to be sexually upright in the society. Across the story, the mother teaches the daughter how to behave and dress amidst men. According to her, the way a girl dresses and talks to men determine men's view of her. Some behaviors are suspected to be sexually promiscuous. The mother is trying to protect her daughter from activities that would mess up her life.. "the slut I know that you are so bent on becoming,".. "the slut I have warned you against becoming" (Kincaid, 43). It shows the sexual reputation of the girl child in society.
The conversation also shows how women are expected to be submissive to men in society. There behaviors around men should show respect and obedient to men irrespective the age. The mother teaches their daughter family roles and 'do' and 'don'ts' of a girl child. In the story, the instances of submission is seen when the mother shows the daughter how to smile to the man she likes and how to please the man sexually. This shows how the society biasedly inclines towards the need for women to be submissive to men. The society perceives women as objects of pleasure and are required to satisfy men's' sexual desires.
Lastly, the question raises the issue of social stereotypes and how it is imposed on the children. Kincaid shows how various stereotypes especially those concerning gender are passed on by the parents to the children. For example, some activities are deemed to be for boys and not girls (Kincaid, 44). The mother tells the daughter that marbles are for boys not for girls thus indicates there are some activities that female cannot do. Additionally, the entire conversation shows that women should be limited to home duties while men go out to have fun and play.
In conclusion, the story shows the mother and daughter's power in the society and how life is. The author gives a hint to solve the issues surrounding the story from the question "you mean to say that after all, you are going to be the kind of woman who the baker won't let near the bread?" It shows that the mother wanted her daughter to be a person who feels the bread through teaching them the moral duties and responsibility. More so, it is an indicator of parents love towards training their children to be respectable persons in society.
Kincaid, Jamaica. Girl. San Francisco Examiner, 1991.
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