In “Girl,” by Jamaica Kincaid, the author portrays a mother’s concern for her daughter’s behavior and upbringing in her community. The story portrays life from Kincaid’s childhood in Antigua during the 1950s.This short story warns of the dangers of female sexuality and the importance of the power of domesticity. Throughout the the story, the mother, who is also the main narrator, seems to teach her daughter important lessons, but also scold her on her improper behavior. This story expresses the importance of female domesticity. The mother figure in the story makes a list of tasks she is teaching her daughter.
She gives her instructions on how to speak, act, cook, clean, and how to carry herself as a lady. The way that the daughter is spoken to is not in a gentle manner filled with love. The mother speaks down to her child telling her such things as, “this is how to behave in the presence of men who don’t know you very well, and this way they won’t recognize immediately the slut I have warned you against becoming” (Kincaid 44). This statement can lead to the belief that perhaps the girl within this story had done something that her mother had considered very slutty and she wasn’t going to let her daughter get away with thinking it was acceptable behavior. It can be assumed that this daughter probably just started her monthly period, from the line towards the beginning to “soak her little clothes right after she takes them off” (Kincaid 43).
Despite her doubt about the usefulness of the advice, the mother insists on teaching the daughter how to act properly within the British culture, as she is responsible for making the daughter a good Antiguan woman. Thus, she tries to force the daughter to learn the social etiquette and to do the household chores. For instance, she tells the daughter, “[T]this is how you smile to someone you like completely; this is how you set a table for tea” (Kincaid 151). However, the mother starts to believe that the girl is on her way to becoming a “slut”, when she is frustrated with her daughter’s improper behavior, such as singing benna in Sunday school, the daughter’s way of walking. She even criticizes her daughter with harsh words, “[O]on Sundays try to walk like a lady and not like the slut you are so bent on becoming” (Kincaid 150).
Ona’s wishes are especially not welcome by her mother who frequently warns her of her past and a family curse which revolves around dance and adultery. It is because of this knowledge of Mira Nedd’s disapproval of dance that she doesn’t tell her that she has performed in the dance troupe. She was automatically chosen to be the lead dancer because of her moves which came so naturally something her mother would have argued as manifestations of the curse. She continued to participate in the dance troupe discreetly until she was chosen to try-out for the national dance troupe but needed permission from her guardian to take part. Hoping that her mother would be proud Ona was not surprised by the way Mira Nedd received the news.
As Hannah becomes a mother herself and a mother being the first model of love that the children experiences, she emotionally detaches herself from Sula as she was detached from her mother. Sula is able to shape her ego and separate herself from her family after she overhears her mother’s conversation: "You love her, like I love Sula. I just don't like her". Hannah not representing an admirable empathetic mother figure makes Sula assert control over her identity through the inability of connecting with other people as an adult. She is able to find her autonomy and independence denying responsibilities and attachment to anything.
Emily is a minor character in the story and is the Mother’s first born child. Throughout the story the Mother leads the reader to believe that something is not quite right with her daughter. Olsen writes, “Even if I came, what good would it do? You think because I am her mother I have a key, or that in some way you could use me as a key?” (290). Olsen tells of her Daughter’s quiet and backward demeanor, “She was not glib or quick in a world where glibness and quickness were easily confused with ability to learn” (293).
The speaker’s thoughts and phrases are on occasion interrupted with italics used to indicate the possible inner thoughts or spoken voice of whomever is being spoken to in the story. Line after line of instruction invokes a vision of a small child struggling to follow a hurried, exasperated and perfectionist mother through the activities of everyday life. She is a good mother with many lessons to teach and cares enough to guide her daughter into societal acceptance. She is also a selfish mother who is overly concerned with appearances. The lack of paragraphing and indentation gives the work a sense of being rushed to finish before this day becomes tomorrow.
This situation in her life makes her look down on herself and results to changing her name from Joy to Hulga, which according to her mother is an ugly name. She also comes off as someone who is naïve, rude and lacks respect. Her mother on the other hand is very patient kind and has a heart to help people hence the name Mrs. Hopewell. Mrs. Hopewell is able to withstand the constant visits from Mrs. Freeman who like her name goes by is very loose with her mouth, always talking about the shortfalls of her sick daughter, Carramae (193). Mrs. Hopewell comes off as a model character that the author uses to demonstrate ‘good country people’.
This scene shows a parent who is unable to speak to her daughter, and she handles this disconnection with anger, which serves to make daughter less talkative. On the other hand, the parents in Mean Girls make an honest effort: in multiple scenes, Cady’s parents inquire as to how Cady’s day at school went, and do so in a kind and honestly interested tone. They go so far as to ask if Cady had made friends and how she is doing. They actually dote on her. In effect, the contrast between parents in these stories is striking because it directly affects how the reader and viewer feel toward the main character.
When Susanna is held after class by her teacher to discuss why she is the only senior not going on to college, she tries to reach out for support from her teacher, by explaining that she's not a druggie but she is concerned about ending up like her mother. The teacher does not hear this and claims that there are more options for women today. Susanna is trying to open up and seek some guidance, but the only solution she gets is that she is to start acting like everyone else. This part reveals how secluded and trapped Susanna feels. Nobody seems to understand her; even her parents don't know what to do with her.