What is the relationship between a mother and a daughter in the short story "Girl"?

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As it is depicted—with the mother-figure addressing the girl on all manner of subjects, ranging from how to eat or walk or spit up in the air to how to bully or please a man—the relationship indicates that the young woman being addressed is relatively powerless both within this relationship...

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As it is depicted—with the mother-figure addressing the girl on all manner of subjects, ranging from how to eat or walk or spit up in the air to how to bully or please a man—the relationship indicates that the young woman being addressed is relatively powerless both within this relationship and within her society. Many of her mother-figure's instructions have to do with serving or pleasing other people: how to iron her father's shirt and pants, how to please a man, how to smile at people she doesn't like, how to cook or garden or sew or act so that she does not dishonor herself or her family. Therefore, we see that the girl is not really meant to establish an identity of her own; she is supposed to take her place as a caretaker in the home.

Very possibly, her mother anticipates having someone to help her with the chores around the house, as this is an incredibly long list of responsibilities, and there's not a single mention here of what the girl should do to take care of herself, to keep herself healthy or happy. We see that the girl is meant to learn what her forebears have learned and to take her place among them; she is not meant to develop a self.

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Although this short story is written in the form of a monologue, spoken by the mother and addressed to the daughter, there are moments too when we hear the daughter's voice. For example, it is the daughter's voice protesting, "but I don't sing benna on Sundays at all and never in Sunday school." The daughter has one more line in the story: "but what if the baker won't let me feel the bread?"

These two lines tell us quite a lot about how the relationship between the mother and daughter is perceived by the daughter. Firstly, the fact that she only speaks these two lines implies that the relationship is very one-sided and that she, the daughter, isn't allowed to speak very much. The implication is that her voice and what she might have to say does not much matter to her mother. The daughter is expected to follow instructions and think in the way she is told to think. She is not expected to think for herself. The first of the daughter's lines does suggest, however, that the daughter might feel that she is treated unfairly. She protests that she doesn't, as her mother has implied, "sing benna on Sundays." This reference also alludes to the religious aspect of the relationship. The mother expects the daughter to behave according to the standards of her religion.

In the rest of the story, which we hear through the voice of the mother, the relationship between the mother and daughter seems to be rather hostile, unfriendly, and even unloving. On three occasions the mother warns her daughter against becoming a "slut." Also, the fact that the story is comprised almost entirely of instructions given by the mother to the daughter compounds the impression noted above that this is a very one-sided relationship. The daughter is expected to follow instructions in every part of her life, whether it be as regards how she talks, looks, or walks—or as regards how she cooks, eats or cleans. This is not kindly, maternal advice. It is cold, clear instruction.

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In this story, the mother is the narrator. She gives a run-on list of lessons and ways to behave for the "girl" or daughter. The mother's advice suggests a traditional role for the girl to play. In addition, the mother gives advice for the girl as she becomes an adult and this is also traditional. Her main recurring warning is not to become a "slut." The mother even gives advice on how to obtain an abortion if the daughter finds herself in that position:

this is how to make a good medicine to throw away a child before it even becomes a child; 

This is an extended monologue with the daughter responding only twice. (This is noted by the italics.) The mother's advice is perhaps born out of love, but it comes across in negative tones. Her repeating warning to avoid becoming a slut that her mother thinks she is "so bent on becoming" illustrates this negative connotation. The mother-daughter relationship represented here could be a loving one. It's just that we are only getting the tension and the mother's apprehensions about how her daughter will turn out.

In this way, it is typical of many mother-daughter relationships. The mother wants her daughter to be a good wife and mother. In order to train her daughter for this life, the mother feels the need to be domineering and she feels the need to impose a traditional kind of gender training where the wife has certain traditional roles: cooking, cleaning, etc. In this way, the mother limits the possibilities for her daughter. But this traditionalism could be the result of the mother's cultural background which seems to be a mix of Christian and Caribbean cultures. 

One can draw different conclusions about the relationship. It is marked by tension and the mother's anxiety about her daughter's potential promiscuity. But it also shows the mother's determination (and therefore love) to make sure her daughter behaves and fits the role of a respectable woman. 

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