Girl by Jamaica Kincaid Argumentative Essay Example

In the short story "Girl" by Kincaid, the author draws the experiences of being young and by virtue of being female in a poor country, the story focuses on the mother-daughter relationship (Madden). The voice of the author is entangled in the story as dynamically represents the coexisting relationship between a mother and her daughter. The mother is represented as a literate woman of valor, one that has struggled against poor circumstances and were bitter towards her children due it her problems (Mills). In the Autobiography of my Mother (1996), Kincaid describes a woman stuck in poverty and resents her children. The short story is an illumination of the whole autobiography as it illuminates the worries of a mother towards her daughter becoming a woman. The theme of the story develops fueled by the worries of the mother as she tries to mold her daughter to fit in the shoes of a perfect woman.

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It is a mother's duty instill discipline and good behavior to their children. In many societies, this role is instilled through education and constant monitoring of the child's behavior. The tone of the mother reflects her experiences and the repression she underwent in her tradition for being a woman. Through the entire story, tradition is a key emphasis. The voice of the mother, for instance, explains how to grow, make and prepare the Caribbean foods (Mills). The reflection is a continuation of culture as the mother recounts on how she learned. "Wash the whites clothes on Monday and put them on the stone heap;" marks the start of a normal day. One filled with custom, norms and expectations. The mother does not take into account the changes that have occurred with time. For example, she emphasizes "when you are growing dasheen, make sure it gets plenty of water or else it makes your throat itch when you are eating it;" (Bcs.bedfordstmartins.com). Putting this into context signifies her belief on the primary job of a woman. To her, it is a normal day where the norms and daily routine of the society have to be adhered. The series of instructions continues to the very next day as she instructs her daughter on what to do on Tuesday. Her routine would be to wash the color clothes and put them on a cloth line to dry.

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The belief of the mother is that a woman's respectability and reputation determines to a great extent the quality of life she will have in the society. As such she is worried of the current behavior of her daughter that she views, that will lead to a life of promiscuity (Mills). In order to maintain a respectable front, sexuality is a virtue that must be carefully guarded and even concealed. However, this is a contrast since the daughter has not even reached her adolescence and blossom years. There is a danger in being a woman; this is what the mother is trying to emphasize. In her quest to instill good behavior in her daughter, she has over projected her self-image in wanting the daughter to reflect a good image of the mother. The case of such a story holds true in the modern society where parents and especially mothers in this cause put high standards on their girls in an attempt of making them "perfect" (Madden). The result is an alienation of mother-daughter relationship as opposed to the unbreakable bond. Such as exists between girls and their fathers in most cases.

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In many aspects, the approach used by the mother is misguided. She uses a non-stop barrage of advice that is not only hard keeping up to, but also hard to recall. The story is not conventional, and the underlying undertone of the mother as she beckons the advice to her daughter speaks volumes. For example, she links tangential tasks and objects towards the taboo of sexuality. Her advice is one-sided, based on the expectations of the society and the position of a woman. As one wise man said, "women are their greatest enemies," this assertion can be proved to be true in the context of the paper (Cudjoe). On one hand, the mother does not take into account the views, opinions and needs of her daughter. She is self-centered, willing to mold the young women to fit in her shoes of perfection. Shoes she did not fit in the first place and were the beginning of her woes and scorn against her daughter. The universal relationship that exists between women reflects on these boundaries.

According to the mother, possessing domestic knowledge will empower the woman to be a productive member of society, be the head of her household and escape a life of promiscuity. This can be arguably seen as a wayward mode of thinking. Women are equal to men and according to gender equality, they should have the same chances and opportunities to compete and earn an honest living other than being look down upon. According to the mother, there are only two types of women; the sluts and the respectable women (Cudjoe). The assertion holds true to some extent. However, the measure of the degree of respect lies not within the ability of a woman meeting the expectations of the society. Passion and personal will should not be subject to suppression, and this implies to all women around the globe irrespective of the kind of society they hail from either rich or poor. According to the Antiguan society, possessing domestic knowledge wins societal respect and increases a woman's productivity (Koolish and Ferguson). Domestic chores are a source of power, one that keeps them busy and away from temptation. However, contextualizing this belief based on changes in time, there are other means of keeping a woman's brain occupied. For example, the pursuit of education and quest for knowledge empowers women beyond the boundaries cultivated by the society and makes them powerful and reputable people in the society.

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Possessing the knowledge on domestic chores is viewed and elevated as a transformation tool. For example, the mother gives specific details to the daughter on how to prepare different meals such as sweep, pumpkin fritters and buying bread. According to the mother, domestic chores such as preparing delicious dishes are the source of happiness (Koolish and Ferguson). However, this argument is open to criticism in a modern environment where happiness thrives out of mutual respect and love. Mothers want their daughters to make better homes of themselves that they can be proud. Clothes have been used in the story to reflect on the need for self-respect. A person's character reflects on the proper dressing. Amidst all the instructions and demands she throws to her daughter, she recounts on "how to love a man" and teaches the daughter various ways to do so. The family is an important aspect in the society, and the mother seems concerned and yearns for her daughter to have a perfect family. In the end, the mother instructs the daughter to "squeeze the bread to make sure its fresh" (Madden). To which the daughter replies "What is the baker won't let me feel the bread?" There are many interpretations to this response that indicates that the daughter may not have heeded all the mother said. The story is evident of the relationship that exists between daughters and their mothers. One where the mother tries to instill a series of instructions but in most cases, the daughters do not pay attention.

Work Cited

'Virtualit Fiction: Girl'. N.p., 2014. Web. 9 Nov. 2014.

Cudjoe, Selwyn R. "Jamaica Kincaid and the Modernist Project: An Interview." Callaloo, 12 (Spring 1989): 396-411. Print.

Ferguson, Moira. Colonialism and Gender Relations from Mary Wollstonecraft to Jamaica Kincaid: East Caribbean Connections. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993. Print.

Ferguson, Moira. Jamaica Kincaid: Where the Land Meets the Body. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1994. Print.

Kincaid, Jamaica. Girl. San Francisco: San Francisco Examiner, 1991. Print.

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