Girl Characters

(Literature of Developing Nations for Students)

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The daughter is an adolescent or pre-adolescent girl in Antigua, learning from her mother how to be a proper woman. She speaks only twice in the story, voicing impulsive objections to her mother's accusations and warnings.


The mother is a woman in Antigua who understands a woman's "place." She lives in a culture that looks to both Christianity and obeah, an African-based religion, and that holds women in a position of subservience to men. She recites a catalog of advice and warnings to help her daughter learn all a woman should know. Many of her lines are practical pieces of advice about laundry, sewing, ironing, sweeping, and setting a table for different occasions. Other harsher admonitions warn the daughter against being careless with her sexuality, ‘‘so to prevent yourself from looking like the slut I know you are so bent on becoming.''

Character Development

"Girl" begins abruptly with words spoken by an unidentified voice. "Wash the white clothes on Monday and put them on the stone heap; wash the color clothes on Tuesday and put them on the clothesline to dry; don't walk barehead in the hot sun...." The voice continues offering instructions about how a woman should do her chores, and then about how she should behave: "on Sundays try to walk like a lady and not like the slut you are bent on becoming." At the end of the first third of the story, another voice, signaled by italics, responds, "but I don't sing benna on Sundays at all and never in Sunday school." This speaker is presumably the daughter. Without any reply to the daughter, and without missing a beat, the mother continues with her litany, suggesting how to hem a dress.

As the story progresses, the mother's tone becomes more insistent and more critical. The chores and behaviors are more directly related to a woman's duties to men, such as ironing a man's clothes. The mother again...

(The entire section is 501 words.)