Jamaica Kinkaid’s novel Annie John is a bildungsroman, a novel that tells the story of a protagonist’s development from childhood to adulthood. Consequently, its title character, Annie John, doesn’t always possess the same characteristics from start to finish. Like any young person, the “Annie John” of chapter one is very different from the “Annie John” of the last pages. She’s a dynamic character, an individual who develops and changes in response to the novel’s events.
However, some of Annie’s characteristics remain the same. Throughout the novel, she shows herself to be both intelligent and curious. At the beginning, her intelligence and curiosity lead to a fascination with death (and like many young children, she can’t quite wrap her mind around it). Later, they lead to success in school and the praise of her teachers. However, her teachers’ admiration sours when Annie’s intelligence leads her to question the school’s rules. In all of these instances, the reader sees how one characteristic, developed over time, pushes Annie toward experiences that further shape her identity.
Apart from her intelligence, Annie John forms attachments very quickly. As a young child, she worships her mother, but when her mother begins to grow distant, she becomes infatuated with different girls at school. Through there’s a small subtext of sexual attraction, these infatuations aren’t necessarily motivated by love or lust, but rather by Annie’s inability to be independent. A horrible fight with her mother and a period of deep depression finally jolt Annie from her dependence on others, and at the end of the novel, she’s an independent adult, armed only with her intelligence for the next step in her life’s journey, moving to England to study nursing.