The short story “Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid is a narrative about a girl between the ages of ‘innocence’ and ‘transformative entrance’ into adulthood. Her mother trains her how to be an ideal and respectable lady. She believes that she is the only person who can rescue the girl from a promiscuous life.
She is convinced that the girl is almost lost because of the way she conducts herself (Kincaid 4). The voice of the mother dominates the narrative. There are only two instances where the daughter interjects in response to her. The language used by the maternal figure, as well as the instructions she gives to her daughter, tell a lot about her character. It also describes the relationship she has with the girl.
The Character of the Mother in Kincaid’s “Girl”
The mother shares her knowledge on domestic code of conduct with her daughter. It is an indication of her intelligent nature. She knows how to co-exist with other people. She commands the respect of family members and the society. She has wide knowledge on domestic matters (Kincaid 4).
The woman is also compassionate. She cares about her daughter and warns her against being careless with her sexuality. She says, “So prevent yourself from looking like the slut I know you are so bent on becoming” (Kincaid 4). Whenever the daughter says something that is unusual, the mother reprimands her.
The girl’s mother is also autocratic and domineering. She tells the girl that she needs to be a domestic professional. The woman does not expect any objection from her child. The daughter has been denied the freedom to make her own decisions on whether or not to be domesticated (Kincaid 5).
She is a street mother who leaves no room for negotiations with regards to female respectability. A critical review of the narrative reveals that the woman is outdated. She holds old-fashioned opinions about what a woman should be. In addition, she is convinced that a woman should be a domestic helper (Kincaid 3).
She is an active participant in various issues both at the family and at the community level. For example, she is involved in such community projects as fishing. However, she is also unsympathetic. She commands the girl to learn the entire mother’s way of doing things. The woman does not give her daughter freedom to make decisions. On the contrary, she commands her by providing instructions (Kincaid 3).
The Relationship between Mother and Daughter in Kincaid’s “Girl”
The fact that the mother takes the time to guide her daughter is an indication of familial love. She expects a lot from the young lady. The girl is well aware of this fact. However, the strict instructions from the mother appear to intimidate the girl (Kincaid 4).
The relationship between the two characters is very mechanical. For example, the conversation between them is one sided. The daughter is quiet and listens to the mother pensively. The mother wants her daughter to be hygienic. She teaches her how to wash cloths, sweep the house, and clean the compound (Kincaid 3). She wants her daughter to have morals. She teaches her proper sexual conduct befitting a well-bred girl.
She shows her to conduct herself in front of men. The aim is to ensure that she gets a responsible husband (Kincaid 3). However, the daughter feels like she is denied the freedom of self determination. She is not allowed to make her own decisions. Her meek objections are discernible when she says “but what if the baker won’t let me feel the bread?” (Kincaid 4). Her mother does not tell her how to become a career and modern woman.
Kincaid’s “Girl” is full of irony. The mother expects her daughter to learn how to become a respectable strong woman like her. She forgets that strength is gained through experience and not instructions. She should give her daughter the freedom to think for herself, make mistakes, and learn from them.
Kincaid, Jamaica. At the Bottom of the River, New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1983. Print.