Why don't the girls have names (Jamaica Kincaid's "Girls")? 

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literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jamaica Kincaid's "Girls" is a very short story. Written using 650 words, no periods, and only one sentence ending punctuation (the question mark), the story's narrator (a mother) tells her daughter about the trials and tribulations of being a girl. The "dialogue" contains advice and warnings by the mother and only two responses by the daughter (one where she denies singing "benna" on Sundays and, with the second, asks what will happen if the baker does not let her touch the bread). The mother's conversation limits the daughter's ability to respond, since she continues to talk throughout the whole of the text (even ignoring what her daughter does say). 

The names of the girls (mother and daughter) do not matter. This conversation could be held by, essentially, any mother and daughter. For this reason, the author seems to refuse to name the characters. By not naming them, readers are able to engage and understand the conversation in a completely involved way. Some readers may even feel as if it could be a conversation which could take place between them and their own mothers. It seems as Kincaid wants readers to feel apart of the text (by not naming the characters).