25 Feb 2014
What makes a woman? Femininity and masculinity have long been defined and divided along gender lines that were never meant to be crossed; a man or woman who does not fit the archetypical picture of their strict gender-biased boundaries is shunned and stereotyped. A woman who does not embody the perception of the perfect wife and mother, especially in the 1950s-60s, would have been considered unladylike. In Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl”, the matters of womanhood and femininity are expressed as a mother teaches her daughter the rules and restrictions that come along with being a lady, especially those that will help her to be accepted in society. Though this story came out in 1978, it is very likely that Kincaid intended it to harken back to the 1950s and 60s, when it was big for women to be very feminine, so the mother is teaching the daughter how to uphold this societal demand. The mother tells her daughter how to clean a house and mend clothing because that is what society expects her to be able to do. It is also important to note that while this story does not seem to take place in the United States, but rather in Kincaid’s childhood home of Antigua, the same subjective roles of womanhood were widely spread through the western world. During the 1970s, especially in America, women were more acceptably unrestricted in the sense that, for the first time, there were two clear categories: rebellious women, those who enjoyed calypso and disco dancing in night clubs, and the original ideal housewives. As time progressed, less and less was said for the housewives and in our modern culture, it is very uncommon to find that stay-at-home mother figure, as most women today have their own careers and activities, and the traditional values and idealities of femininity are lost to history. There are many instances in the story where the restrictions of femininity, as defined by the culture of the time, are clear. The mother instructs...
Cited: Kincaid, Jamaica. “Girl.” Making Literature Matter: An Anthology for Readers and Writers. Ed. Bedford/St. Martin’s. 2012. 55-56. Print.
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