Sunday, September 28, 2008

How Might This Girl Feel?

“Girl,” by Jamaica Kincaid, is a single sentence story in the shape of a monologue. The speaker is a mother addressing a daughter of roughly adolescent age. The mother seems to be dealing out tough love to her daughter in a manner that seems quite condescending and even mean-spirited. My reaction to this story was to wonder: if “Girl was written about the relationship between a real mother and daughter, how would the daughter feel about her mother—that is was “Girl” a work of thanks, or indictment?

The language in this short story is obviously quite harsh, especially when directed at a young woman; however, I prefer to think that her mothers nagging is her way of passing her years of wisdom down to her daughter, whom she loves. Although there is an angry tone, the content of the rant seems to be information that is necessary to make the transition from adolescence to adulthood as a woman in this particular culture. I doubt that the mother’s rant would be well taken by the daughter at the time as it is rather insulting, though I do feel that the daughter would be grateful to have a mother who cared enough to provide worthwhile guidance in any form.

In every healthy parent-child relationship, there are many life lessons passed from parent to child. The trick of “Girl” is that the monologue make the relationship seem unhealthy, even destructive, at first glance, but is actually evidence of a strong, albeit odd, relationship between mother and daughter. If the girl, at which the monologue was aimed, were ever to have a daughter, I am sure she would pass down the same lessons contained in this short story.

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