Woman as Dictated by Society in Girl by Jamaica Kincaid

Throughout time mother/daughter relationships have been tattered as woman’s liberation has taken place. Many mothers have the “old-fashioned” opinion about what a woman should be. The short story Girl by Jamaica Kincaid is a prime example of this relationship. The theme in “Girl” strongly suggests that a woman should be domestic and there is a certain way that she should act.

Many elder women feel that a woman’s role in life is to be domesticated. The theme of girls reinforces this opinion.

The third-person point of view places an important part in the reinforcement of the idea that a woman’s place is in the home. “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.” (Kincaid 296) This is the mother telling the daughter that this is the way to do things. The mother also goes on to describe other household chores and how to do them correctly.

“This is how you sweep a corner.” (Kincaid 296) She tells her daughter how to set a table for different meals, how to cook things, and how to pick out bread. The story does not tell a woman how to have a successful career, go to college, or how to work outside of the home.

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Considering the year that this story is written, 1978, women’s liberation is taking place. This gives the setting a role in the interpretation of the theme. Many young girls started to rebel against their mothers as they decided to work out of the home. The young girl in the story is building resentment towards her mother because she feels that should be allowed to make her own decision on whether or not to be domesticated. This leads to the issue of why the point of view in this story is so essential. The mother telling this story never once stops to hear the daughter’s input on these issues. She just simply tells the daughter that she needs to be domestic and there is no objecting to it. The characterization of this story is also an important part of understanding the theme. This reinforces the idea that elder women feel that a woman’s place is in the home.

Many women in society feel that a woman should act a certain way. This is once again reiterated in this story. The mother tells the daughter how to act. She tells the daughter how to act, how to dress, and how to talk. “Always eat your food in a way that it won’t turn someone else’s stomach.” (Kincaid 296) A woman should be allowed to make her own choice on how she eats. “On Sundays try to walk like a lady and not like the slut that you are so bent on becoming.” (Kincaid 296) The mother is emphasizing that the way that a woman walks determines her sexual history. Once again this reiterates that a woman must act a certain way to not be judged. The setting of this story once again plays a major role in the theme of this story. “This is how to behave in the presence of men who don’t know you very well.” (Kincaid 296) The mother tells her daughter how to act in front of men so that she will find an acceptable man. The theme demonstrates that a woman is expected to behave in a certain manner.

“Girl,” tells the story of a sad mother/daughter relationship and the pressure that young girls faced when sent out into society. Many elements of literature demonstrate this in the story. However, the theme strongly suggests that elder women feel that there is a right and wrong way to be a woman.

Works Cited

  1. Kincaid, Jamaica. “Girl.” Literature and Its Writers: A Compact Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. 3rd ed. Ed. Ann Charters and Samuel Charters. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2004. 396-397.

Cite this page

Woman as Dictated by Society in Girl by Jamaica Kincaid. (2022, Aug 06). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/woman-as-dictated-by-society-in-girl-by-jamaica-kincaid/

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