In Jamaica Kineaid short story “Girl” the name of the title says it all. The daughter is just a girl who is given no name and almost seems unimportant. Yet, her mother who is also given no name orders her around as if all she is good for is work and doing “girl” tasks. The only information given to readers is there is a mother and daughter and the mother is talking throughout the whole story except for two times where the daughter tries to defend herself and to ask her mom a question. In the story the mother is very direct in giving directions to her daughter. The mother is harsh and expects so much from her daughter. The mother speaks to her daughter in orders. The first two lines given by the mother gives readers a set tone for the whole story, “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; don’t walk barehead in the hot sun…” (530). Due to the fact that there is no periods shows the list of demands she wants her daughter to remember. The mother wants her daughter to grow up and become a woman.
In Jamaica’s short story, the mother vocalizes the importance of housework mainly focusing on food. The mother tells her how to set the table for all three main meals. Giving tips on how to bake pumpkin fritters to soaking fish overnight (530). The mother emphasizes how important it is to know how to cook and bake because it is essential to being a woman. Throughout the story, tips on cooking and baking randomly gets brought up. A detail in the story that cannot be overseen is the line, “This is how to make a bread pudding; this is how to make doukona” (530). In this statement it shows that they are from a different culture. In fact, they are from the West Indies. In their culture, food is very important especially for woman who would share and pass down recipes. Knowing that they are from a different culture gives readers an understanding of why this mother is pushing her daughter into becoming a wife type women. Her advice on how to survive if she becomes a wife, mother, or even a single woman.
Appearance is another major aspect of the story as well; “This is how to hem a dress when you see the hem coming down and so to prevent yourself from looking like a slut I know you are so bent on becoming…” (530). Her mother is obviously worried for her daughter’s appearance because she does not want her daughter to be disrespected for how she is portraying herself in what she wears. Throughout the story the mother makes sure her daughter knows how to wash clothes, iron, and to sewing because that is how they are defined. In the story it is never said if they are poor, but as long as the daughter is well groomed and knows how to hold herself together no one can recognize her status by her appearance.
Throughout the book it is hard to see the compassion the mother has for her daughter. This is because the mother does not use encouraging words like, “daughter, the way you walk or dress is not ladylike” or “You are showing disrespect toward yourself by wearing this or saying that..” instead she calls her daughter a slut three times in the story. We do not know how old the daughter is, but we know she cannot be any older than her teens. Assuming this because she would need to know this before dating and marriage. Trying to raise a daughter into becoming a respected woman is no easy task and I could not imagine how difficult it must be in another culture. In this story the mother knows how difficult it is to be a young woman and the struggles girls go through. As the mother has that in mind it confuses me why she treats her daughter as if she is a failure when we know the mother’s intension is to care for her and guide her, but acting as if her intensions are to hurt her daughter’s feelings. A problem we all face and especially the daughter in this story is how will she learn true respect and love if she does not receive love and respect from her own mother.
Kincaid, Jamaica. Girl. San Francisco: San Francisco Examiner, 1991. Print.