“Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid is a series of teachings, instructions and advice that a mother gives to her growing child, daughter. Some of the teachings are about simple issues like housekeeping, washing and hanging clothes. For instance, the mother is telling her daughter to clean the clothes and place them on a stone heap on Monday; clean the colored clothes and hang them on the line to dry up on Tuesday (Kincaid, Girl).
Going by the history, most cultures have specified the roles of both men and women and some roles vary from one community to another. This correlates to Kincaid’s “Girl” where the women have a responsibility of staying and working at their homes. By closely checking into the gender roles and responsibilities, someone easily realizes how both men and women correlate and even how they foster their relationship in the business world and at homes in a healthier and a better manner.
During the time when the “Girl” was composed and written down, the women mostly had a responsibility of doing house chores at their respective residences while in lowly families, they were involved in industrial activities. Jamaica Kincaid has pointed out some precise roles or duties that a mother required her girl to perform in the poem (Kincaid, Girl). The author uses a sense of humor in this piece and her readers get entertained and amused as they read the poem. It’s apparent that the mothers in the poem require their daughters to always act rightfully and excel in life.
Specifically, they want their girls to become intelligent and smart young women as they mature. A girl in this piece of literature is remembering the instructions and advice she received from her mother and she hasn’t been identified by any name mainly because the piece symbolizes how most parents, especially the mothers, behave when their girls are maturing. It is humorous that the mother in this poem aims at teaching her girl the correct things from the bad.
The mother even suggests things such as avoiding crouching to play the marbles since the daughter is not a boy; stopping to throw things at the black birds since they may not be black birds; walking like a girl on Sundays and not like sluts who the daughter is bent to turning into (Kincaid, Girl). The author also handles a delicate and sensitive matter of gender inequality and sex role. He, however, demonstrates humor in the poem for the purposes of supporting the storyline and amusing the readers.
When the mother attempts to educate her girl to act in a way that is woman-like, she goes on to assert that a girl every time should squeeze the bread to ensure that it is fresh (Kinkaid, Girl). When the girl responds and asks if the baker refuses to allow her feel the bread, the mother gets dismayed and goes on to tell her daughter that after all she is just going to become a lady who would not be allowed to be close to the bread by the baker (Kinkaid, Girl). In this scenario, the girl’s mother has a feeling that she is obliged to educate, build and inform her daughter and it worries her so much that after several lessons she has offered her, the girl would still not mature to become the woman or lady she is expecting her to be.
From their conversation, it’s clear that the mother is very disappointed at her girl’s response and this arouses hilarity to those who are reading the poem. It’s evident that the girl is fed up and she is also irked by the restriction and nagging nature of her mother. Out of the mother’s numerous tasks, the girl could only single out her words. Moreover, this poem shows girls’ responsibilities and obligations all-through by documenting their duties and roles continually.
The readers, especially the ladies may feel some form of empathy in this and at the same time, get distressed by it. Equally, in their empathy, the ladies can experience an ironical sense of comedy or humor. In this manner, Kincaid’s “Girl” demonstrates a feeling of humor in several forms and by going through the poem, its readers get entertained. The humor, however, backs the poem constructively.
- Kincaid, Jamaica. Girl. San Francisco Examiner, 1991.