1.Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl” is a daughter’s mimicry of how her mother tells her to perform housekeeping and other sensitive topics for proper behavior. Because of the content and demanding tone, do you find the mother abusive and demeaning, or is something else going on? The mother seems to be abusive, demeaning and cold. Her tone throughout the story is critical and commanding. The way she talks to her daughter makes me feel as if there were no warm feelings in their relationship.
The mother gives orders, scolds her daughter and demands things “on Sundays try to walk like a lady and not like the slut you are so bent on becoming.” The mother doesn’t respect her daughter and accuses her of behaving in a wrong way. She seems to be bitter and cold. The mother dictates how her daughter should act “don’t squat down to play marbles-you are not a boy, you know; don’t pick people flowers-you may catch something…” It seems that it’s important for the mother that her daughter is not rejected from the society and follows social norms.
She tells her daughter “how to make a good medicine to throw away a child before it even becomes a child.” On the other hand, the mother may want to protect her daughter and give her advice but she doesn’t know how to be protective and caring at the same time. She may come from a broken family or may have had a bad experience in life and wants her daughter to avoid what she went through. She may want her daughter to be independent and have a good reputation in the society. Maybe the mother doesn’t know how to talk to her daughter in any other way than how she does, because nobody taught her how to do it and nobody ever talked to her in a nice way.
2. Identify at least three or more contextual elements in the story that reveal this is not an American story. Explain how those elements also influence the mother-daughter relationship. Is the mother-daughter relationship in this culture any different than an American relationship? Explain. Jamaica Kincaid is an Antiguan-American novelist. In “Girl” the author shows the difficulty of being a woman in the Antiguan society. The mother wants her daughter to have a good reputation in the society. As a woman the daughter has to know how to iron, saw, prepare food, smile at a person, and love a man. There is tradition that has to be followed.
The mother asks her daughter “Is it true that you sing benna in Sunday school?” Benna is one of the earliest types of local music in Antigua and Barbuda (https://bestantigua.wordpress.com/2015/06/21/ popular-music-of-antigua-and-barbuda/) which indicates that it is not an American story. The mother tells her daughter how to prepare the food in a traditional way (which is not American). The mother also instructs her daughter how to grow okra. Okra is cultivated in tropical temperatures, which indicates it is not North America.
3. Why do you suppose Connie is so helpless to resist the darkness and undercurrent of violence that Arnold Friend brings to her? Consider her family influences, her teenage interests, and her own ideas about boys. Connie is only fifteen and I think she wants to show that she has no fear. Maybe she wants attention and admiration. Connie’s sister is the one who is praised by her mother and her aunts. Connie’s relationship with her parents is not great. She doesn’t have a role model at home.
She listens to the music and wants attention from the boys. She is helpless to resist the darkness that Arnold Friend brings to her because this means proving to herself that she is old enough to take risk. She also knows that there is no way back and she has to continue what she started.
4.The title character, as the narrator’s brother, explicitly summarizes a certain vision of Harlem: “[Sonny] turned back to the window looking out. ‘All that hatred down there,’ he said, ‘all that hatred and misery and love. It’s a wonder it doesn’t blow the avenue apart” (253). Explain what he means by this “hatred and misery and love” in the context of Harlem in the 1950s and 40s and at this point in his life. Sonny relates to Harlem which is a mixture of love and hatred. On one hand Harlem means home, a place where Sonny grew up, where he developed his love for music.
Music helped him escape the reality. It’s what he had passion for, what he really loved. On the other hand Harlem is a place where Sonny got into drugs. Harlem didn’t offer any possibilities to grow or to achieve something. It was a place where people were angry because they couldn’t change anything even if they wanted to. People were trapped there. They were angry, desperate and hopeless.