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Seven instructions given in the story addressing different aspects of the girl's life include:
- "wash the white clothes on Monday and put them on the stone heap" (housekeeping)
- "don't walk barehead in the hot sun" (health)
- "cook pumpkin fritters in very hot sweet oil" (cooking)
- "soak your little cloths right after you take them off" (hygiene)
- "when buying cotton to make yourself a nice blouse, be sure that it doesn't have gum on it, because that way it won't hold up well after a wash" (shopping)
- "always eat your food in such a way that it won't turn someone else's stomach" (manners)
- "on Sundays try to walk like a lady and not like the slut you are so bent on becoming" (reputation)
Although the speaker is unnamed, it is clear that she is the girl's mother. The words she offers are critical and demeaning, reflecting a relationship which is devoid of tenderness and a culture in which a woman's lot is very difficult.
1. 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
2. cook pumpkin fritters in very hot sweet oil
3. soak your little cloths right after you take them off
4. when buying cotton to make yourself a nice blouse, be sure that it doesn't have gum on it, because that way it won't hold up well after a wash
5. soak salt fish overnight before you cook it
6. always eat your food in such a way that it won't turn someone else's stomach
7. on Sundays try to walk like a lady and not like the slut you are so bent on becoming
More than the actual instructions, of which there are many, this is a philosophy about how to become a woman who is successful in this culture. In addition to some practical issues, such as cooking and shopping, this older, wiser woman explains the woman"s role in this culture--how to avoid an unwanted pregnancy, how to keep a man happy, how to act and react about true friends and not-so-true friends. While some of the advice is blunt almost to the point of rudeness, some of the things I mentioned above are spoken in much more subtle terms.
I love this selection!
Are the words of the mother critical and demeaning or are they simply a reflection of a woman who knows her "place" in a male dominated society. Yes the language seems belittling, but is it possible this is tough love in their culture, and the mother is simply trying to prepare her daughter for how difficult and demeaning life is going to be to her?
I would argue that far more important than the instructions the girl is given (which you can easily pick out through reading this short text) is the tone in which they are given and how this hints at the conflict between the mother and girl. Note the way that the text suggests a non-stop barrage of suggestions from the mother. How would you feel if you were the daughter receiving this advice? When the daughter does try to get a word in, it is wilfully interpreted as a sign of sluttish behaviour.
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