Xuela's Character in Jamaica Kincaid's Autobiography of My Mother

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Many critics of The Autobiography of my Mother have remarked on the unrealistic facets of Xuela's extremist character. Her lack of remorse, her emotional detachment, her love of the dirty and "impure," and her consuming need for total control over everyone and everything around her give her an almost mythic quality. A more well-rounded, humanistic character would have doubts and failings that Xuela does not seem to possess. In light of Xuela's deep-seated resentment of authority, stubborn love of the degraded and unacceptable, intense rejection of the ìmaster-slaveî relationship, and--most pointedly--her hatred of the British and British culture, many critics have embraced the idea that Xuela is highly symbolic of the conquered, colonized …show more content…
Early in her life, Xuela rejects her racial stereotype but does not make public her higher self esteem. Even as a child, she keeps to mostly to herself, and because of this, hardly anyone understands her.

As Xuela ages, she becomes preoccupied with the concept of "master-slave" relationships. Walking by a church on Sunday morning, she hears a hymn floating through the window: "O Jesus I have promised/ to serve Thee to the end/ Be Thou forever near me/ my Master and my friend," to which her reaction is, "Let me tell you something: this Master and friend business, it is not possible; a master cannot be a friend. And who would want such a thing, master and friend at once?" (184). Xuela also sees her relationship with her father as having the overtones of a "master-slave" relationship. She is embittered by this dynamic, and her resentful spirit takes it to heart. Xuela will not be anybody's servant.

Although Xuela never clearly addresses her contempt for the British "conquerors," her distaste for the British finds expression in many passages throughout the book. Xuela remarks that "A man proud of the pale hue of his skin cherishes it especially because it is not a fulfillment of any aspiration, it was not his through any effort at all on his part; he was just born that way, he was blessed and chosen to be that way and it gives him a special privilege in the hierarchy of everything" (181). She continues by comparing such a man to herself, who "owns nothing" (182).