Sample Literature Essays on Girl by Jamaica Kincaid

“This is how you sweep the yard; this is how you sweep the whole house” (Bauer-maglin, 6). These are words from a mother to her daughter in a story that brings out a yielding relationship between a girl and her mother. Girl is a story written by Jamaica Kincaid which only involves two characters whereby one overpowers the other with words and instructions on how she should conduct herself and how she should live her life to avoid becoming a slut. The mother does not give her daughter a chance to interject and give her own opinion about things and the girl seems to be alright with the situation thus does not resist her mother’s suggestions. This is a portrayal of how society stereotypes on women in an effort to define how they should behave thus defining their expectation of women without giving them a chance to explore who they are and what they want.

Kincaid describes an overbearing mother who tries to tell her daughter what is expected of her including the way to smile at people that she does not like. This shows how the society including mothers try to push women or rather girls towards their version of what is expected of them (Jayasree, 23). Anything less than what the mother describes would be translated into indiscipline and the woman would be viewed as a rebellious individual. This means that the woman is left powerless and can only look up to the society for guidance. In the story, the girl is not allowed to have her own opinion and this is portrayed by the way the mother overpowers her words by ignoring her during the entire conversation. This shows that her views are not considered important thus she is supposed to sit back and wait for the society to define for her what is right and what is wrong.

During the time when the story was written, women were expected to live by the traditions even when it was not beneficial to them. She is being taught to live a domesticated life where all her roles are spelled out for her including how to spit and how to jump aside to avoid getting splashed by the spit (Bauer-maglin, 4). The girl is not in a position to defend herself from her overbearing mother which shows how women during that time had no say and could not rebel. The Girl only makes an effort to speak up twice during the conversation and gives up after realizing that the mother will not listen to her. This was the plight that women had to bear.

In addition, women were not expected to explore their sexuality. Any effort of this was viewed as prostitution which the mother much refers to as being a slut. In many instances, the mother is sure that the daughter is bent on becoming a slut. This is because she does not behave like the society dictates. She tells her daughter to try and walk like a lady instead of moving like the slut she is bound on becoming (James & Simone, 24). This simply shows that in order for a woman to avoid societal judgement, there is a stipulated way in which they are expected to walk, dress, behave, cook sing, and shop at the market. Failure will lead to harsh words and even punishment in some societies.

Mothers were also caught up in this web which means instead of defending their daughters and shielding them from the judgement, they handed them out to the society to be judged (James & Simone, 45). Mothers worked hard to ensure that their daughters appeased the society and in doing so, they denied them a chance to explore their potentials and their futures. The mother went to an extent of telling her daughter how to act in the presence of men so that she would be acceptable in their eyes. This shows a society that raised women to look at men as the dominant species and it was the place of a woman to seek favor and acceptance from the opposite gender. Contrary behavior would lead to one being referred to a slut regardless of whether or not their intentions were genuine.

Kincaid also brings out a society where women had no freedom whatsoever. The world had already laid out its expectations of woman and mothers were used as tools to reinforce it. In the story, the daughter seems to have no choice but to listen to her mother (Jayasree, 34(. At some point she tries to deny the fact that her mother had a misconception of what she sang in Sunday school which was viewed as inappropriate. This is ignored and her mother continues ranting in an effort to bring out the best woman in her daughter as expected by the society. Mothers tend to forget that their children are not yet women and get lost in an effort to force them into conforming into a reflection of their self (Jayasree, 37). This is seen in the story where the author refers to the daughter as a girl yet the roles and expectations outlined by her mother are those of a woman.

In conclusion, the Girl is a story that successfully bring out the role of women in the society before campaigns of empowerment. Kincaid successfully portrays a picture of how women struggled to fit in the society and how a step in the opposite direction however innocent it was would earn them scorn. This was a time when men remained dominant and women were entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring that their daughters conformed. The story could be viewed as the author trying to give her experience of growing up under an over bearing mother under pressure from the society.





Works cited

Bauer-Maglin, Nan. “Mentoring at Girls Write Now.” Radical Teacher 109.1 (2017): 12-20.

James Alexander, Simone A. “Kincaid, Jamaica.” The Encyclopedia of Postcolonial Studies (2016): 1-2.

Jayasree, K. “Linguistic-Literary Camouflage in Jamaica Kincaid’s” Girl”.” IUP Journal of English Studies 13.2 (2018).