Jamaica Kincaid

Start Free Trial

Consider the mother's role in the story "Girl" by Jamaica Kincaid. What is the intention of her advice? How does the girl respond?

In "Girl," the mother seems to be attempting to educate her daughter about the ways of their world. Her intentions seem to be good, and she offers the girl lots of valuable advice about all aspects of life in their society. The daughter has little opportunity to respond, indicating her lack of choice.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

We can reasonably make the assumption that the woman who speaks the most in this text is mother of the titular "girl"; at the very least, she is an older woman in a position of some authority. The intention between all of the instruction she gives seems to be a good one: to help the "girl" understand what her role is both within her family and within society at large.

It seems like she is trying to educate the younger woman not just about how to do all the domestic work around the house—cooking, cleaning, laundry, and so on—but also how to get along in their community. Her instructions aren't exactly delivered in a loving way, but they are useful. She explains how to smile to someone the girl doesn't like much, someone she totally dislikes, and someone she really likes. She even explains how to make a medicine to "throw away a child before it even becomes a child," or "how to bully a man" if necessary. The "girl" responds by protesting that she doesn't do the inappropriate things she's accused of and by asking what to do if things don't go as planned when she tries to purchase bread. Importantly, she doesn't get much of an opportunity to respond, indicating how little a voice or choice she is given in these matters.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team