How do the strategies that Jaimaca Kincaid uses in "Girl" help her readers understand the overrall theme of the piece?

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teachertaylor's profile pic

teachertaylor | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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One of the major themes in "Girl" that Kincaid wants readers to understand is the tension in the mother/daughter relationship.  In order to highlight this theme, Kincaid manipulates standard uses of narrative voice to make the mother appear overly stern.  The use of the imperative statements throughout the story serve to overshadow the daughter and any attempts that she makes to speak up for herself.  The mother thus appears as the "all-knowing" entity; however, readers know that she is being overbearing because the daughter admits that she behaves herself properly without her mother's continual nagging.  So, Kincaid uses rhetorical strategies to manipulate the narrative voice in the story to help deliver the theme to the reading audience.

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ryzamartinez | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Honors

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Jamaica Kincaid’s short story, “Girl,” is a feminist reading through and through. I think that if you read it as a feminist reading, you will have no problem in understanding its overall theme. It explores how some females—in this case, the “mother” in the narrative—become subjects of their own marginalization by consenting to society’s dictates of what they should really be and how they should act. By doing things labeled as “feminine” they become truly “female” and exhibit “femininity”, but perhaps oblivious of that fact most of the time. The mother carried out instructions to her daughter that, simply put, endanger her own daughter into bearing the stereotypical notion of what females should be.

What could also make “Girl” a feminist reading is how the daughter might have possibly contested against the behavior of her mother. Daughter’s statements may be seen as defenses and resistance against the mother’s will: (1) “But I don't sing benna on Sundays at all and never in Sunday school…” and (2) “But what if the baker won't let me feel the bread?” By the end of the story, any reader would not be given a clue as to how—or if—the daughter would willingly obey her mother’s whims, given the fact that even if the daughter supposedly “spoke” twice, both statements began with the conjunction “but”—a conjunction that suggests feelings that have been aforementioned in this paragraph. We see a binary opposition between subjection (exemplified by the mother) and a possible resistance and hesitation (exemplified by the daughter), leading to a possible clash of ideologies, a fight for women equality and against prejudice.

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