Girl

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Girl by Jamaica Kincaid
Jamaica Kincaid relates the relationship between a mother and daughter in her poem, “Girl”. The poem is about how a mother prepares her daughter to become a woman. She gives her a litany of valuable lessons to shape her behavior and character according to what is acceptable to their culture. Kincaid cleverly dropped hints throughout her poem suggesting that the culture being referred to is the Afro-Carribean culture. The Afro-Carribean culture is a blend of music, dance and cuisine mostly conducted in traditional lifestyle; and all these elements are represented in the poem. One of the most lucid hints is the fact that the mother teaches her daughter how to catch a fish, which describes their primary industry: fishing. Essentially, the mother is teaching her daughter a livelihood practiced in their community. The entire poem is both advice and reprimand to prepare a girl become a woman defined by her ability to perform all the household chores, behavior, and values.

The poem defines a woman by how she manages all the household chores that she is expected to carry out. This is evidenced by the first line of the poem. Kincaid starts with the mother’s teaching on how to do laundry, “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;” (Lines 1-2). This first two lines already emphasize the basic role of women as the caretaker of the house. The beginning lines of the poem seem to summarize the poem’s perspective of what defines a woman: doing the household chores, which start with laundry. The mother teaches the girl all the chores that women do from the simple task of setting the table, to cooking, laundry, ironing, sewing and everything else in between. Essentially, to embrace womanhood, the poem suggests learning all the household chores because it is the essence of a woman – this message was clear right at the start of the poem.

A woman needs to...
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