`` Girl `` : Kincaid 's Mirror On Gender Inequities
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“Girl”: Kincaid’s Mirror on Gender Inequities
With the initial read, Jamaica Kincaid’s essay, “Girl”, appears deceptively simple. Yet repeat readings show that under the surface, it is filled with cultural implications. Kincaid mines her memories and experiences of growing up in post-colonial Antigua in the 1960’s, to speak to outdated expectations. Her writing shows the influence of living on an island populated by people of African descent, living in a culture influenced by British rule (SparkNotes Editor). Relying on her past experiences, Kincaid inserts themes of domesticity and purity into a conversation between a mother and her daughter to highlight how a woman’s appearance and behavior determines her acceptance and value within a…show more content… Her rudeness shows that she is willing to take any action to influence her daughter’s behavior. It is interesting to note that the conversation is one-sided because mom does all of the talking. The daughter speaks twice, indicating that this is mom’s show, and the girl is just the audience. When the daughter does chime in on the two occasions, the mother ignores her.
One of the themes of the essay is mastering the art of housekeeping and cooking. In this culture, clean clothing, a clean house, and a well-fed family prove to the community that a woman is respectable. With this understanding, the mother focuses her instruction on how the daughter should live her life in order to garner the community’s respect. Her advice is specific and varied, covering topics such as how to launder and repair clothing, how to cook food for the family, how to act in public, how to treat other people, and how to treat a man. Her advice teaches the girl how to present herself in situations in which she might be judged. Gaining the community’s respect is paramount to survival and the key attracting a man. The mother does not mention applying to college or following a career path. It is obvious that none of those options are open to her. From a cultural perspective, her path is set, and she has no other choice.
One of the most striking elements of Kincaid’s essay is its form. She writes the essay as one, long, uninterrupted sentence