In "Girl," what can you infer through the readings about women’s lives in the story's setting?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The primary statement that Kincaid's story makes about women's lives is that there is a strict code of conduct in becoming a woman.  The mother's advice stems from the idea that there is not flexibility, the use of freedom, or the appropriation of the modern setting in defining what it means to be a woman.  The stark divisions that the mother draws reflects that either the girl will become a woman of tradition as her mother describes or a "slut."  There is no middle ground.  This helps the reader infer that there is a traditional structure of values being imparted from the mother to the daughter, a replication of the reality that the mother herself has had to live and this is being passed on to the daughter.  The further inference that can be made is that there is little hope present of changing this configuration.  The daughter is the best one to do this, but if she is going to be deviate from the outline that her mother has rendered, she risks being labeled as "a slut" from her own mother, and thus by implication, society, in general.  The lives of women, certainly the two women who are in the story, is one of traditional subservience of women to men and a strict adherence to what is and not what can be.