In "Girl" by Jamaica Kincaid, how does she use syntax to create an effect?

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beateach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Syntax is the study of the rules used to form accepted language. It includes the study and use of clauses, phrases, sentences structure, and the arrangement of words.

In “Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid the reader experiences one long run-on sentence mostly spoken by a mother giving her daughter directions on how to live her life. The daughter is only allowed to interject or provide an answer a few times. Kincaid does this to make it clear that the mother is the authority figure in the situation and the daughter is subordinate.Most of the sentence is written in the imperative, explicitly tell the girl what to do and what not to do. The mother covers subjects from personal care, to home care, to growing food. Kincaid also makes use of repetition in the phrases that make up the instructions to her daughter. Again, these repetitions provide points of emphasis. When the daughter does answer a question her comments are over-ridden by the mother. Only at the very end, when the daughter questions if the baker will allow her to squeeze the bread, does the mother answer her with a question of her own. The question that she throws back at her daughter seems to say, “Have you been listening to what I have been saying?”

Kincaid breaks the accepted rules of syntax in the English language with the run-on sentence that gives the piece its lyrical quality that is found in the language of the West Indies.

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