How would you link Jamaica Kincaid's "Girl" with Julia Alvarez's "Snow"?

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meelah82 | Elementary School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

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On the surface, there wouldn't be much that these two pieces of literature have in common.  One is structured prose, written in paragraphs, containing an introduction, body and conclusion that allows the reader to feel as if the story is complete by the time he/she reaches the end.  "Girl," is free-verse poetry with no rules aside from the repetiitve line that begins with "This is how you...." In Alvarez's "Snow," there are particular characters with names such as Sister Zoe and Yolanda, who happens to be the first person narrator.  There are no named characters in "Girl," for this can be any girl living in any traditional town being told instructions on life by any mother across the globe.  This "conversation" is dominately held by the mother who talks "at" her daughter as opposed to "with" her daughter who only interjects once or twice in response to something her mother has said.

   What ties these two pieces of literature together is the inexperience of both girls that in turn gives way to being taught by each girl's maternal figure.  In the case of "Girl," we can assume that it is the biological mother of the girl that is teaching her how to be a woman--that is, how to cook, clean and present oneself like a lady instead of a whore.  Sister Zoe, however, teaches something very differently to her new immigrant student: English.  Both girls need to learn what is being taught to them in order to survive in a new world.  Without mastering the english language, Yolanda will never be able to succeed in America, especially academically.  Without learning the role of a woman, "the girl" in Jamaica Kincaid's poem will not survive either; she will never be marriage material, will never land herself a husband, who will clearly be the provider of the family.  Both listen intently and overwhelmed, but it is only Yolanda that actually gets to put her education to use, mistaking actual "snow" for her teacher's drawing of a nuclear bomb, something Sister Zoe has taught her and the other students to be able to recognize and fear, amongst other war realities of the 60's.  This reality highlighted in "Snow," the notion that experience is the best form of teaching of all, is not alluded to in "Girl," however one can understand how true this to be in any girl's quest toward womanhood.  Like Yolanda who must first see snow firsthand before truly understanding what it is, a girl must experience being a wife and mother and learn from her own mistakes before she can truly become her own woman.


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