Form and Content

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Annie John, a slim novel—the chapters of which originally appeared as short stories in The New Yorker—is a first-person account of the childhood and adolescence of Annie John, a girl reared on the small Caribbean island of Antigua.

Annie experiences a childhood paradise. Her island home explodes with bright colors: the brilliant, flamboyant flowers, white sand, and blue sky and sea. The close community nurtures her. Mr. Earl and Mr. Nigel catch the fish that Annie and her parents eat. Mr. Kenneth, the butcher, offers Annie a piece of raw liver, one of the few foods that she enjoys, and Miss Dewberry bakes the buns that Annie’s parents serve at tea. Annie is also part of an affectionate and supportive family. Together, she and her father, a carpenter, select the lumber that he will fashion into her bedroom furniture. Most important, however, Annie loves and is loved by her mother. Her mother teaches Annie about washing (white clothes are to be bleached by the sun on a stone) and about cooking traditional dishes (such as pumpkin soup, banana fritters, and stewed salt fish)—skills that Annie will need when, it is assumed, she establishes her own household on the island. Annie enjoys the days spent with her mother, days filled with walking to the grocer’s; arranging her mother’s trunk that holds memorabilia such as Annie’s wool booties, certificates of merit, and dresses worn on special occasions; bathing together in water seasoned with bark, bay leaves, and flowers; and wearing dresses patterned after her mother’s. Yet, the closeness with her mother cannot last, since Annie will need to create her own existence separate from her mother’s, as her mother realizes. Thus, one day her mother purchases different fabrics for their dresses, shocking Annie. From then on, Annie’s world has changed.

Annie spends her adolescence in a love-hate relationship with her mother: “I missed my mother more than I had ever imagined possible and wanted only to live somewhere quiet and beautiful with her alone, but also at that moment I wanted only to see her lying dead, all withered and in a coffin at my feet.” Annie longs for the love and the closeness that once was even though she often incurs her mother’s displeasure by playing marbles or dawdling on the way home from school and then lying about her actions. Her rebelliousness leads her to steal books from the public library and to befriend the Red Girl, who climbs a tree to pick guavas like a boy, not throwing stones to dislodge the fruit as a girl should.

The conflicts of adolescence lead Annie to sail to England at the age of seventeen to study nursing, not a career that she desires but one that offers an escape from the island. As she walks between her parents to the jetty, her departure is edged with conflicting emotions. She, “on the verge of feeling that it had all been a mistake,” almost regrets her decision: “I don’t know what stopped me from falling in a heap at my parents’ feet.” On the other hand, she wants to escape the “unbearable burden” that her life has become and escape to “a place where nobody knew a thing about me.”

Annie John

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

When her first book, At the Bottom of the River (1983), appeared, critics and fellow writers praised the originality of Jamaica Kincaid’s voice and vision. Susan Sontag hailed an “unaffectedly sumptuous, irresistible writer” of “splendid stories about personal and cosmic desire”; Derek Walcott promised that the book would “burn” on its...

(This entire section contains 2053 words.)

See This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this study guide. You'll also get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

readers’ shelves, “too choked with love to invite envy, too humble for admiration, and too startling to escape astonishment.” In her first novel, Kincaid more than justifies that early praise in a beautifully crafted and subtly modulated work, in which her voice and vision are focused on the story of a sensitive young girl’s coming-of-age in the West Indies.

In a sense, Annie John elaborates the persona, emotions, and experience of the finest stories in At the Bottom of the River, reweaving those threads into a stunning tapestry of ecstasy and loss. Like the self-conscious young girl in “Holidays,” Annie is “filled with sensations.” “I feel,” the girl in the story says, “oh, how I feel. I feel, I feel, I feel.” Like the narrator in “Wingless,” what Annie feels most are the disappointments of growing up. “Tears, big, have run down my cheeks in uneven lines,” that narrator explains. She identifies the cause of those tears as her disappointments:My disappointments stand up and grow ever taller. They will not be lost to me. There they are. Let me pin tags on them. Let me have them registered, like newly domesticated animals. Let me cherish my disappointments, fold them up, tuck them away, close to my breast, because they are so important to me.

Like the girl in “My Mother,” Annie is shaped by both the tremendous love and the importance she feels growing up as an only child at her mother’s side and by the confusion and isolation she feels when that relationship begins to change during her adolescence. “Though glowing red with anger,” the girl in the story returns to her mother’s side and remains there. Yet once their relationship has begun to change, it is as if “my mother and I built houses on opposite banks of the dead pond. The dead pond lay between us; in it, only small invertebrates with poisonous lances lived.” Finally, like the narrator of “At the Bottom of the River,” Annie is forced to confront the power of death and its subversion of her own sense of her privileged existence. Instead of what she once thought life would be—“glorious moment upon glorious moment of contentment and joy and love running into each other and forming an extraordinary chain”—the story’s narrator comes to recognize with intense regret that “in the face of death and all that is and all that it shall be I stand powerless, that in the face of my death my will, to which everything I have ever known bends, stands as if it were nothing more than a string caught in the early-morning wind.”

Annie John begins with Annie’s first encounters with death and ends with her departure from the island of her birth. Midway through it, a teacher orders Annie to copy books 1 and 2 of Paradise Lost as punishment for defacing a picture of Columbus, discoverer of the island. In between, Kincaid details the joys and disappointments of growing up in lyric, often exquisite, always compelling prose. Love and loss, security and insecurity, inclusion and expulsion—these are the emotional poles of Annie John’s experience. Pervading that experience is the sense that growing up consists of a series of paradises found and lost, a series of expulsions from one garden after another—and that, as often as not, the serpent in the garden is the self.

The first-person narrator of the story of Annie John’s growing is Annie John, grown. “For a short while during the year I was ten,” she begins, “I thought only people I did not know died.” In this first paradise, where death does not exist, Annie’s innocence is complete. Like everyone around her, she fears the dead—“because we never could tell when they might show up againstanding under a tree just as you were passing by”—but she does not fear death, which is as yet unreal. As the first chapter, “Figures in the Distance,” proceeds, death swiftly comes closer to her and she approaches closer and closer to it, at first repelled and then intrigued. The daughter of one of her mother’s friends dies in Annie’s mother’s arms. Annie’s father makes the girl’s coffin; her mother prepares the girl for burial. “For a while, though not for very long, I could not bear to have my mother caress me or touch my food or help me with my bath. I especially couldn’t bear the sight of her hands lying still in her lap.” She feels a similar revulsion when the mother of her first friend, Sonia, dies in childbirth. She “couldn’t ever again bring herself to speak to her.She seemed such a shameful thing, a girl whose mother had died and left her alone in the world.”

Soon Annie begins to be intrigued by the mystery of death. At first, she lingers outside the local funeral home; next, she begins to sneak in to view the remains of people she has never met. Finally, when a humpbacked girl whom she once stood behind in the library dies, she finds that “someone I knew was dead.” Instead of picking up fish for the family’s dinner as she is supposed to, she attends the girl’s wake and sees her body. When she returns home, she lies to her mother about the fish, is found out, and is punished. “As a punishment,” the first chapter ends, “I ate my supper outside, alone, under the breadfruit tree, and my mother said that she would not be kissing me good night later, but when I climbed into bed she came and kissed my anyway.”

With Annie’s first taste of knowledge comes her first loss of innocence, her first fall from grace, her first lie, her first expulsion, and her first alienation from her mother. As the novel progresses, as this pattern in the distance emerges more clearly, Annie will experience it repeatedly. Gradually, reconciliation will not come so easily; inevitably, safety and security in the face of knowledge will become harder to recover; ultimately, Annie John will find herself alone.

In the novel’s second chapter, “The Circling Hand,” this movement is presented with immense tenderness and nostalgia for what must be lost. It begins with an extraordinary paean to an all-encompassing mother love, “the circling hand” which makes Annie John feel that she is the center of the universe for a while.

“How important I felt to be with my mother,” Annie recalls. She and her mother bathe together. They shop together, her mother explaining why she buys each thing. She follows her mother around the house, “observing the way she did everything.” They cook together, do the wash together, clean the house together. As they go through their days, Annie’s mother tells her tales of her own youth and of Annie’s. When they air out the trunk which holds mementoes of Annie’s life, “as she held each thing in her hand she would tell me a story about myself.No small part of my life was so unimportant that she hadn’t made a note of it, and now she would tell it to me over and over again.” Annie thinks “how terrible it must be for all the people who had no one to love them so and no one whom they loved so.” Picking herbs together in the yard, “she might stoop down and kiss me on my lips and then on my neck. It was in such a paradise that I lived.”

The trajectory of her experience, however, is such that this paradise, like the others she will find, must eventually be lost. The loss begins when she is twelve and her mother suggests for the first time that she should choose different material for a dress. “You just cannot go around the rest of your life looking like a little me,” she says. Shortly afterward, she informs Annie that she “was on the verge of becoming a young lady, so there were quite a few things [she] would have to do differently.” Since Annie knows that this loss of her previous relationship with her mother is linked to her growing up, she thinks of asking her father to build clamps so that she can stop growing. For “instead of days spent in perfect harmony with my mother, I trailing in her footsteps, she showering down on me her kisses and affection and attention, I was now sent off to learn one thing and another.”

When Annie, expelled from paradise, fails to show an interest in piano lessons and manners, “my mother’s back turned on me in disgust.” Before this “young-lady business I could sit and think of my mother, see her doing one thing or another, and always her face bore a smile for me. Now I often saw her with the corners of her mouth turned down in disapproval.” This movement away from her mother reaches a crisis when Annie rushes home with a certificate she has won in school and discovers her parents in bed together. When her mother speaks sharply to her later, she replies in kind and sees something in her mother fold up and become suddenly small. “She carried her hands limp at her sides. I was sure I could never let those hands touch me again; I was sure I could never let her kiss me again. All that was finished.”

Annie turns her interest and affection to school. She does well and quickly falls in love with another girl, Gwen. One paradise lost, another comes into view. She meets another girl, “the Red Girl,” whose wildness, strength, and adventurousness attract her. She then starts a “new series of betrayals.” She lies to Gwen and her mother to hide her meetings with the Red Girl. She begins to steal small change from her parents to buy the Red Girl gifts. She steals books from the library and hides them under the house. She begins to get in trouble in school.

At fifteen, she is “more unhappy than I had ever imagined anyone could be.” The conflict with her mother has escalated to the point where both have two faces: one for her father and the rest of the world, one for each other when they are alone. Annie begins to dream that “my mother would kill me if she got the chance. I would kill my mother if I had the courage.” She turns away from Gwen, becomes more solitary, looks into a shop window and sees herself as Lucifer. This progression culminates when she suddenly becomes seriously ill and spends months delirious, tended by her parents and her grandmother Ma Chess, a believer in obeah cures and spells.

When she is seventeen she leaves for England. On the way to the jetty where she will board a boat, she passes one by one all the places that have been the center of her life and is again overwhelmed by her sense of loss.

Annie John’s conflicts are not unusual. In fact, it is precisely their universality which draws the reader into Kincaid’s world and engages him. This world is, nevertheless, unique. It is a world where the dead walk; where spurned lovers have the power to disrupt the objects in someone’s house; where angry spirits hang in the air like black things; where a grandmother appears and disappears magically when she is needed; and where an illness that is more sickness of the soul than of the body resolves the plot’s conflicts. It is a world where the common becomes uncommonly moving and the uncommon is accepted as part of the way things are. Finally, it is a world rendered so thoroughly, in such extraordinarily simple yet resonant prose, that to encounter it is to remember it vividly, long after the story is told and the book is placed, still “burning,” on the shelf.

Form and Content

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Annie John, originally published as a series of short stories in The New Yorker magazine, is the story of the title character’s childhood and adolescent years in Antigua, West Indies. The novel is divided into eight chapters, each with its own title and internal unity of plot. Set in Antigua, these eloquent and engaging chapters chronicle Annie’s confused understanding of the rift between her happy, carefree girlhood years of adulation for her mother and the power struggle and rebellion that mark Annie’s transition into adolescence. The tale is told simply, with unrelenting and unapologetic candor, in the hypnotic narrative voice of a young schoolgirl. Annie presents the tension and alienation that she experiences from her mother; the separation from her friends as she outmatures them physically, academically, and emotionally; and, finally, her separation from Antigua, her island home.

Images of separation pervade each of the eight stories. In “Figures in the Distance,” for example, Annie speaks about her fascination with death and dying, specifically about the deaths of Nalda, the mud eater, and of the humpbacked girl, whose hump Annie wished she had tapped to see if it was hollow. The images of the “black and white sticklike figures” bobbing in the distance in what turned out to be a cemetery, the peculiar curiosity about funeral parlors, and the compulsion at the tender age of ten to attend funerals of people she does not know seem to foreshadow Annie’s wrestling for independence. This struggle that begins with simple lies to justify unexcused absences or tardiness intertwines with Annie’s curiosity about separation by death.

Story after story chronicles the varying phases of Annie’s physical and emotional development and her subsequent movement away from the childhood closeness that she once shared with her mother. The separation, formally and abruptly announced in the summer of Annie’s twelfth birthday, is recounted candidly and with the anger and overt bitterness of one who feels betrayed and rejected. Half confused, Annie notes how her mother’s laughter, which was once shared fully with Annie and her father, no longer has anything to do with Annie’s presence. The perfect harmony once characterized by the “circling hand” of a doting, maternal love is now transferred solely to Annie’s father, who had remained somewhat peripheral in the first ten years of Annie’s life with her mother. As Annie unequivocally proclaims, “all that was finished” by the summer of her twelfth year, thus marking Annie’s full initiation into adolescence. She therefore transfers her familial affections and attention to others, such as her bosom friend Gwen and the Red Girl, of whom her mother disapproves.

Thereafter, separation after separation is recorded, symbolized in the school essay that Annie writes during her first few weeks of secondary school. The two-part essay describes at once the paradisiacal union of mother and daughter and the symbolic separation by water, with the mother on the rock. Annie’s recurring dream about this image leads into the final separation in the climactic and final chapter of the book: “A Walk on the Jetty.” The pull away from the Edenic, prenatal world, complete with a physical breakdown at age fifteen, is now complete as Annie embarks on the adult phase of her life aboard the ship that will take her away from her native Antigua to England to study nursing.


Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Many women writers of color are not averse to the idea of feminism. They are still grappling, however, with the issue of being placed in the feminist category, their writing read exclusively within the feminist protest tradition. Consciously engaging in a feminist discourse is not a choice for many of these writers. While Kincaid detests the idea of claiming to belong to, or of being categorized as belonging to, any school of writing or thought, she confesses in a 1989 interview to owing much of her success to the idea of feminism. Her writings make a major contribution to women’s literature in that they examine the feminine role. By using the autobiographical first-person narrative and protagonist, Kincaid offers a voice that articulates the female coming-of-age experience.

Praised for giving new meaning to familiar things and of having a remarkable eye that sees minute details in a different light, Kincaid, along with several other women writers of color, offers new myths of female development. As she has noted in an interview, if her writing is an intensely personal, interior kind of writing, one which is characteristic of the nature of feminist discourse, it is because that is the way she could write. Indeed, her first two novels, At the Bottom of the River (1983) and Annie John, stories about a girl and her mother, confirm Kincaid’s claim that the “fertile soil” of her creative life is her mother. Even though her mother did not approve of her writing, Kincaid claims that it is indeed her mother who “wrote” her life for her and “told it” to her. In her own words, “When I write, in some things, I use my mother’s voice, because I like my mother’s voice. I like the way she sees things . . . I feel I would have no creative life or no real interest in art without my mother.”

As many women writers of color have avowed, this tradition of turning to their mothers, of “turning inside” to find their stories, has become the hallmark of their creativity. In this regard, Kincaid joins the ranks of Paule Marshall, Buchi Emecheta, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, and Alice Walker in “searching for our mothers’ gardens” (Walker) and learning from the “poets in the kitchen” (Marshall) as sources of literary creativity. In the claiming of the heritage of their “creative spark,” these women writers have delineated paradigms articulating female development and success that are alternatives to the victim models of Eurocentric literary tradition.

In Annie John, Kincaid contributes to the storytelling tradition, an integral part of West Indian culture, particularly in her introduction of the obeah tradition. Significantly, it is in the emphasis on storytelling throughout the novel that Kincaid’s belief in the power of language to transform reality is best articulated.

Historical Context

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Contact, Colonialism, and Independence
Originally inhabited by the Siboney people, the Island of Antigua, the setting for Kincaid's Annie John, was populated by Arawak and Carib Indians when Christopher Columbus arrived there during his second voyage in 1493. He named the island after a church in Sevilla, Spain, named Santa Maria de la Antigua. Thirty years later it became an outpost of the Spanish Conquistadors. In 1629, the French made a base there as Spanish power descended and the British had not yet taken control. French control was brief, however, and the English arrived in 1632. The Treaty of Breda formalized this situation in 1667.

From 1674 to 1834, the island was one large sugar plantation. Slaves were imported from Africa because the indigenous peoples fled or had been killed. The end of slavery brought freedom but no opportunity to be free. For the next hundred years, Antigua and surrounding islands were under the jurisdiction of one and then another federation. Greater independence was achieved in 1967, with statehood within the British Commonwealth granted in 1981. Finally the seven islands of the East Caribbean formed a merger. The single nation of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) came into being in 1987 and included the former British colonies: Antigua, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla, St. Vincent, Tobago, and Trinidad.

Latin America and the Caribbean
The 1980s was a troubled decade for the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean. Warily, they attempted to cease being the playground and raw material supplier of Europe and America. In doing so, they strengthened old trading alliances and forged new ones. Meanwhile, the United States began to create NAFTA with Canada and Mexico, while Europe moved closer to unionization. In addition to economic competition, the United States practiced active interventionism.

Acting out of the Monroe Doctrine—-that the United States will not tolerate interference by any European power (including Russia) in the affairs of the Western Hemisphere—and the precedent set by President Theodore Roosevelt, the United States intervened everywhere to both good and bad effect.

In the late 1990s, the U.S. still enforced a trade embargo against Cuba that had been in effect since 1959. It may never be known just how involved the United States was in the turmoil that disrupted life in El Salvador and Nicaragua throughout the 1980s. Nor will the full story of Haiti's troubles be known. Less mysterious, however, were the invasions of Grenada in 1983 and Panama in 1989. In the first case, the Reagan administration acted in reaction to a coup, the potential endangerment of U.S. medical students, and the fear of even closer ties between Grenada and Cuba. The leader of Panama, on the other hand, was accused of laundering drug money. He was arrested in the invasion and began serving a sentence of forty years in the United States.

The 1980s in the United States
The decade of the eighties was original only in the way that culture in the United States sought to blend its past into the now. It was marked by pastiche, superficiality, recreations of old movie serials, nostalgia for a golden age that only ever existed or television, and "culture wars." The economy hummed at the surface with any sort of lifestyle and time available for consumption. Meanwhile, corporate mergers, downsizing, and an abrupt shift toward service economy left industrial America partially unemployed and the labor movement—beginning with the air-traffic controllers's strike of 1981—drastically weakened. To offset this industrial downsizing, the government embarked on an awesome weapons program. The result was an incomprehensible debt and a huge pile of nuclear warheads that nobody wants to ever, ever, use. It seemed to be a decade of deciding what to do—no clear answer has yet emerged.

Race Relations
The Civil Rights movement encountered a backlash in the 1980s for which it was unprepared. Leaders of the movement knew the highpoint and victories of the 1960s were past, but they could hardly believe that the Miami riots of 1980 announced a decade of violence. Membership in neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan groups rose while racially motivated hate-crimes increased in frequency. Normally tolerant environments, like college campuses, reflected this trend. The climate of the nation had suddenly become conservative.

Elections in the 1980s reflected the drastic change. Reverend Jesse Jackson, considered by many to be the successor to Martin Luther King Jr., ran twice for president in 1984 and 1988 as a Democrat. But the 1980s instead saw Republican President Ronald Reagan complete two terms of office that were succeeded by George Bush. Reagan won in a landslide because the populace felt that change might have occurred too fast. The brakes were applied and civil rights victories began to be overturned. In 1987, legendary civil rights activist and the first black to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Thurgood Marshall, expressed his opinion that President Reagan was ranked at the bottom in terms of civil rights for all Americans, black or white. In a symbolic capping off of the decade, the elections of 1989 brought Republican David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard, to the Louisiana state legislature. Much to the relief of everyone, including the embarrassed Republican Party, Duke's bid for the U.S. Senate was unsuccessful.

Literary Style

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Point of View
The first person ("I") retrospective narrative is constructed with episodes. The prime person in Annie John is, of course, Annie. Therefore, the Antigua shown the reader is that which is filtered through Annie. There are eight episodes highlighted in the chapter headings. During each episode, more information is given about Annie. The timeline jumps, but there is a steady progression from Annie as a young girl to her departure from home as a young woman.

This narrative, however, is ironic because an adult Annie establishes the reality of the story as if it was the perspective of little Annie. In other words, Annie knows her own story's outcome but tries not to reveal this. The novel opens by literally noticing figures in a distance and also by placing the story at a distance, "during the year I was ten." Thus the effort on the part of the young Annie to show her mother as an Old Testament deity is offset by the adult attempt to reconcile. The mother remains beautiful and loved though the literal story might say she is simply left behind.

The most important symbol of the work is the trunk. Each of the characters has a trunk—a place where their identify formation blocks are kept. In the case of Uncle John, it is all that is left. For Annie, the trunk with all of her baby things is a fun thing to clean out because she then hears stories about herself. When she leaves Antigua, Annie— like her mother when she left Dominica—takes a new trunk to build a new life. Father has a trunk but it is not solid. Father's trunk is everywhere. It is made up of all the women and illegitimate children that Annie and her mother ran into. It is made up of the house and furniture he built. He adds to this trunk daily with stones about work because there is no one who wants to tell his story—Mother is busy with Annie's story.

Irony is akin to an "inside joke." It occurs when the intended meaning is the opposite of what is actually said. Kincaid offers many wonderful moments of irony. One example is in Chapter 5, when Annie says that colonialism is past and now "all of us celebrate Queen Victoria's birthday." It is a rather sudden cultural reference in the midst of a paragraph about the past. Many things happen in the phrase. Annie has been saying that the past is behind them, yet they still celebrate some queen's birthday. She is also noting that the personification of colonialism (the reign of Queen Victoria was the heyday of the Empire) remains as a national holiday.

More of these ironic moments involve works of literature. For example, on the desk of Miss Nelson, an Englishwoman, is an elaborate edition of Shakespeare's play The Tempest. She is reading this work while the girls are writing their autobiographical essays. The irony is that on the one hand, the teacher is simply reading one of the great plays of English literature. The deeper implication is very complex because that play has become a grand touchstone for all postcolonial writers, especially those of the Caribbean. The reason is this: many intellectuals of those islands read that play as the moment of conquest, as if Shakespeare was writing the reality of colonialism into effect with his play. Further, the figure of Caliban—a person brought to the island to labor—mixes his identity with the spirit of the island, Sycorax. Caliban is a slave who has learned English so that he can curse his master. The children writing their essays are a result of the same process—brought to the island and now expected to peacefully get along with their former masters. Particularly, Annie's narrative involves her being stranded on a little island—like the characters in the play—but unable to call to her mother. She, like Caliban, yells at her master, but there can be no understanding.

Dream Vision
Unlike the culture whose literature she adores (in Jane Eyre, for example, mythology has been banished from England), Annie does not divide the mythical from reality. Kincaid uses this in the narrative itself, so that dreams and myth are written in and make up her characters. The result of this is the legitimating of oral tradition. The first instance of this appears early in the novel and concerns the dead. Annie reports that "sometimes they showed up in a dream, but mat wasn't so bad, because they usually only brought a warning." Another example of this technique comes when Kincaid has Annie recite her autobiographical essay. This essay is atypical because in some sense it is a very mature psychological metaphor but it also mythologizes the mother-daughter relationship. A final example is the event of Annie's and Mother's "black things," subjective demons, wrestling on the lunch table only to return—never to grapple again—to their rightful owners. This blending of realities validates dreaming as a way of thinking; it carries on the traditions represented by the obeah woman and Ma Chess.

Media Adaptations

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

An audio cassette was made of Annie John m 1994 by Airplay Inc.

Bibliography and Further Reading

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin, The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-colonial Literatures London, Routledge, 1989.

Jacqueline Austin, "Up from Eden," in VLS, No. 34, April, 1985, pp. 6-7.

John Bemrose, "Growing Pains of Girlhood," in Macleans Magazine, Vol. 98, No. 20, May 20, 1985, p. 61.

Paula Bonnel, "'Annie' Travels to Second Childhood," in The Boston Herald, March 31, 1985, p. 126.

H. Adlai Murdoch, "Severing The (M)other Connection. The Representation of Cultural Identity in Jamaica Kincaid's Annie John," Callaloo, Vol. 13, No. 2, Spring, 1990, pp. 325-40.

James Nagel, "Desperate Hopes, Desperate Lives; Depression and Self-Realization in Jamaica Kincaid's Annie John and Lucy," Traditions, Voices, and Dreams' The American Novel since the 1960s, eds. Melvin J. Friedman and Ben Siegal. Newark, University of Delaware Press, 1995.

Ike Onwordi, "Wising up," in The Times Literary Supplement, No. 4313, November 29, 1985, p. 1374.

Allan Vorda, "Interview with Jamaica Kincaid," Mississippi Review Web Edition, http://sushi St usm edu/mrw/9604/ kincaid.html, 1996.

For Further Study
John Bemrose, "Growing Pains of Girlhood," Maclean's Magazine, Vol. 98, No. 20, May 20, 1985, p. 61.
In this complimentary review, Bemrose praises Kincaid's graceful style and her depiction of Annie John's resistance to the constraints of her environment.

Paula Bonnell,"'Annie' Travels to Second Childhood," The Boston Herald, March 31, 1985, p. 126.
Bonnell commends Kincaid's rich rendering of life in Antigua and her ability to communicate the emotional reality of Annie John's struggles.

Selwyn R. Cudjoe, "Jamaica Kincaid and the Modernist Project: An Interview," in Caribbean Women Writers Essays from the First International Conference, edited by Selwyn R. Cudjoe, Calaloux Publications, 1990, pp. 215-32.
In this interview, Kincaid discusses her career, her familial relationships, Caribbean culture, and critical responses to her work. She specifically addresses the ending of Annie John.

Wendy Dutton, "Merge and Separate Jamaica Kincaid's Fiction," World Literature Today, Vol. 63, No. 3, Summer, 1989, pp 406-10.
Dutton explores the connections between At the Bottom of the River and Annie John, seeing them as complementary texts that together develop one cohesive story.

Moira Ferguson, Colonialism and Gender Relations from Mary Wollstonecraft to Jamaica Kincaid- East Caribbean Connections, Columbia University Press, 1994.
Taking a grand historical view, Ferguson links Kincaid's work to the struggle over gender in English literature.

Moira Ferguson, Jamaica Kincaid: Where the Land Meets the Body, University Press of Virginia, 1994.
Ferguson's book-length study investigates Kincaid's connections between motherhood and colonialism, the harsh tone these connections produce, and her protagonists' struggles for self-determination.

David Barry Gaspar, Bondmen and Rebels: A Study of Master-Slave Relations in Antigua, Duke University Press, 1993.
Gaspar details the legacy of the colonial power dynamic in which Annie grows up.

Patricia Ismond, "Jamaica Kincaid: 'First They Must Be Children,'" in World Literature Written in English, Vol. 28, No. 2, Autumn, 1988, pp. 336-41.
Comparing Annie John to various stones in At the Bottom of the River, Ismond explores relationships between mothers and daughters in Kincaid's work, as well as Kincaid's reliance on childhood perception and fantasy.

Jamaica Kincaid, A Small Place, Plume, 1989.
Kincaid reflects on the place where she grew up and asks Western tourists to join her. In doing so, she reveals the Antigua tourists never see—the one without hospital and library.

H. Adlai Murdoch, "Severing the (M)other Connection: The Representation of Cultural Identity in Jamaica Kincaid's Annie John," Callaloo, Vol. 13, No. 2, Spring, 1990, pp. 325-40.
Murdoch employs psychoanalytic concepts and Antiguan cultural conflicts to illuminate Annie John's rebellion against authority and her search for identity.

Roni Natov, "Mothers and Daughters. Jamaica Kincaid's Pre-Oedipal Narrative," Children's Literature Annual of the Modern Language Association Division of Children's Literature and The Children's Literature Association, Vol. 18, 1990, pp 1-16.
Natov explores Kincaid's use of imagery, particularly associated with Annie John's mother and with water, to illustrate Annie's changing relationships and perceptions.

Donna Perry, "Initiation in Jamaica Kincaid's Annie John" in Caribbean Women Writers: Essays from the First International Conference, edited by Selwyn R. Cudjoe, Calaloux Publications, 1990, pp. 245-53.
Connecting Kincaid's novel with other works by women of color and Third World women, Perry relates the traditions of female storytelling, obeah, and intergenerational blood ties to Annie John's development.

Diane Simmons, Jamaica Kincaid, Twayne Publishers, 1994.
Simmons' book-length study focuses on Kincaid's treatment of loss and betrayal in her works, as well as her use of obeah (the magical power of transformation) and the rhythm and repetition in her prose.
Her chapter on Annie John includes a comparison to J. D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye.

Marilyn Snell, "Jamaica Kincaid hates happy endings," an interview in Mother Jones, September/October, 1997, pp. 28-31.
Kincaid explains to Snell that she feels it is her duty to bring people down a bit from their oblivious happiness.

Helen Pyne Timothy, "Adolescent Rebellion and Gender Relations in At the Bottom of the River and Annie John," in Caribbean Women Writers: Essays from the First International Conference, edited by Selwyn R. Cudjoe, Calaloux, 1990, pp. 233-42.
Timothy examines the links between Caribbean cultural practices and beliefs and Kincaid's treatment of mother-daughter conflicts.

Evelyn C. White, "Growing Up Black," The Women's Review of Books, Vol. III, No. 2, November, 1985, p. 11.
White praises Kincaid's ability to evoke both life in Antigua and the painful struggles of adolescence. She contends that while Kincaid addresses colonialism, she foregrounds her young protagonist's internal dilemmas.


Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Austin, Jacqueline. “Up from Eden.” Review of Annie John, by Jamaica Kincaid. Voice Literary Supplement, April, 1985, 6-7. An enthusiastic review that also tries to locate Kincaid’s work in the larger tradition of Caribbean writing.

Bouson, J. Brooks. Jamaica Kincaid: Writing Memory, Writing Back to the Mother. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2005. Study of the representation of motherhood and maternal relationships in Kincaid’s writing. Includes a chapter on Annie John that focuses on the role of the mother in enabling the daughter to become a writer.

Cudjoe, Selwyn R., ed. Caribbean Women Writers: Essays from the First International Conference. Wellesley, Mass.: Calaloux, 1990. Includes an informative interview in which Kincaid discusses her name change, her mother, and Caribbean writing, among other things. Helen Pyne Timothy’s essay provides a helpful reading of rebellion in At the Bottom of the River and Annie John.

Dutton, Wendy. “Merge and Separate: Jamaica Kincaid’s Fiction.” World Literature Today 63, no. 3 (Summer, 1989): 406-410. An excellent article, one of the best resources available for someone wishing to compare At the Bottom of the River and Annie John as complementary texts that explain and expand upon each other.

Edwards, Justin D. Understanding Jamaica Kincaid. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2007. Comprehensive study of Kincaid’s work, devoting a chapter to Annie John and Lucy.

Garis, Leslie. “Through West Indian Eyes.” The New York Times Magazine 140 (October 7, 1990): 42-44. A profile of Kincaid that appeared when her third novel, Lucy (1990), was published.

Ismond, Patricia. “Jamaica Kincaid: ’First They Must Be Children.’” World Literature Written in English 28, no. 2 (Autumn, 1988): 336-341. A consideration of Kincaid’s presentation of childhood in Annie John and At the Bottom of the River. Focuses on the Caribbean elements of Kincaid’s writing.

Murdoch, H. Adlai. “Severing the (M)Other Connection: The Representation of Cultural Identity in Jamaica Kincaid’s Annie John.Callaloo 13, no. 2 (Spring, 1990): 325-340. Psychologically informed reading of the mother/daughter conflict in Kincaid’s writing, focusing on Annie John.

Perry, Donna. “Initiation in Jamaica Kincaid’s Annie John.” In Caribbean Women Writers: Essays from the First International Conference, edited by Selwyn R. Cudjoe. Wellesley, Mass.: Calaloux Publications, 1990. Perry discusses storytelling traditions in the West Indies, seeing Annie’s narrative as participatory in the matrilineal relationships that are grounded in those traditions. She also explores the role of obeah in shaping Annie’s cure from her experience of dissociation.

Stanchich, Maritza. “Home Is Where the Heart Breaks: Identity Crisis in Annie John and Wide Sargasso Sea.” Caribbean Studies 27 (July-December, 1994): 454-458. Stanchich discusses identity crisis among women as thematic subjects in Kincaid’s Annie John and Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea. She compares the similarities in the experiences of the female protagonists, analyzes the unified self within Annie in Annie John, and explores the fragmented self within Antoinette in Wide Sargasso Sea.

Timothy, Helen Pyne. “Adolescent Rebellion and Gender Relations in At the Bottom of the River and Annie John.” In Caribbean Women Writers: Essays from the First International Conference, edited by Selwyn R. Cudjoe. Wellesley, Mass.: Calaloux Publications, 1990. A thorough close reading of the novel. Timothy’s analysis combines psychological, aesthetic, and cultural approaches in her assertion that Caribbean sexual repression elicits Annie’s rebellion.


Critical Essays


Teaching Guide