What does the power struggle between mother and daughter in the poem "Girl" reveal about the larger experience of oppression in Antiguan society?

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"Girl" by Jamaica Kincaid is a monologue delivered by a mother to her adolescent daughter, instructing her—in a series of pithy imperative statements—on every aspect of how to live her life as a woman. The mother teaches her daughter how to make traditional West Indian dishes, such as doukona, how to garden, how to attend to the man in her life and, most importantly, how not to be "a slut."

The monologue is based in part on Kincaid's difficult relationship with her mother, a woman who migrated to Antigua from Dominica. The mother, through her instruction, reiterates much of the sexism and racism that were instituted on the island to justify British colonialism. When the mother tells the girl not to "sing benna in Sunday school," she's telling her to deny an aspect of Caribbean culture for the sake of appearing "proper"—that is, conforming to Anglo-Saxon values and modes of conduct in Anglican churches. Benna is a form of Calypso music.

Mother's internalized sexism shows up when she instructs Girl on how to "walk like a lady and not like the slut you are so bent on becoming." The implication is that young women are inherently sinful and must be instructed on how to become ladies.

Every aspect of the girl's mode of expression—how to smile, how to love—is policed. There is not a single aspect of life that doesn't come with a guidelines. This strongly suggests that black women are not free to be themselves and that if they don't behave, they will end up becoming "the kind of woman who the baker won't let near the bread."

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