Literature in English
Jamaica Kincaid beautifully delineates hatred and fear, because
she knows they are often a step away from love and obsession. At the start
of Annie John, her 10-year-old heroine is engulfed in family happiness
and safety. Though Annie loves her father, she is all eyes for her
mother. When she is almost 12, however, the idyll ends and she falls into
deep disfavor. This inexplicable loss mars both lives, as each grows adept
at public falsity and silent betrayal. The pattern is set, and extended:
"And now I started a new series of betrayals of people and things I would
have sworn only minutes before to die for." In front of Annie's father
and the world, "We were politeness and kindness and love and laughter."
Alone they are linked in loathing. Annie tries to imagine herself as someone
in a book--an orphan or a girl with a wicked stepmother. The trouble
is, she finds, those characters' lives always end happily. Luckily for
us, though not perhaps for her alter ego, Kincaid is too truthful a writer
to provide such a finale. (from Reviews
and Commentary for Annie John, Amazon)
born in 1949 as Elaine Potter Richardson on the island of Antigua.
Her stepfather, a carpenter, and her mother
Received British education in Antigua.
1965: sent to Westchester, New York to work as an au pair. ("As the eldest
of four, and the only girl, she was apprenticed to a seamstress, then plucked
from school, where she was excelling, and sent to the US as an au pair
["really a servant"] from "Kincaid
in Revolt". )
1967: studied photography at the New York School for Social Research after
leaving the family for which she worked, and also attended Franconia College
in New Hampshire for a year.
Her first writing experience involved a series of articles for Ingenue
In 1973, she changed her name to Jamaica Kincaid because her family disapproved
of her writing. (About her name: "'Jamaica is an English corruption of
what Columbus called Xaymaca.'" This renaming is a theme in Kincaid's works
both fiction and non-fiction. According to Kincaid, renaming is
a metaphor for conquest and colonial domination. )
Kincaid and Angigue's English education/system
"I was always being told I should be something, and then my whole
upbringing was something I was not: it was English." (Cudjoe
219. Cudjoe, Selwyn R., ed. Caribbean Women Writers: Essays from
the First International
Conference. Wellesley: Calaloux Publications, 1990.)
Antigua became self-governing in 1967, but did not achieve the
status of an independent nation within the Commonwealth until 1981. Within
the structure of the British educational system imposed upon Antiguans,
Kincaid grew to "detest everything about England, except the literature."
(Vorda 79). She felt first-hand the negative effects of British colonialism
as the colonists attempted to turn Antigua "into England" and the natives
"into English" without regard for the native culture or homeland (Kincaid
24). The effects of colonialism serve as the major theme for A
Small Place in which Kincaid expresses her anger both at the colonists
and at the Antiguans for failing to fully achieve their independence.
Mother-Daughter relationship and a daugher's socialization
Kincaid about her mother: She "should never have had children."
"She loves us when we're dying - not when we're thriving because then
we don't need her." (from Kincaid
in Revolt )
Mother-Daughter Relationship in Annie John
Mother-Daughter Relationship in Annie John: Examples
Caribbean society: a male-dominated society in which the men are
allowed to be irresponsible about housework, and enjoy sexual relationships
Mother as a social institution
A young girl's socialization: feminie Oedipus complex
-- "The Circling Hand" -- Forced to separate herself from the
mother; sent to be educated, witnessing the parents¡¦ sexual
intercourse (primal scene).
-- "Columbus in Chain": mother turned into a crocodile p. 84
-- being called a slut by her mother after conversing with a
boy -- "Well, . . . like mother like daughter" (p. 102)
Annie's independence process
"The Circling Hand" 'Columbus in Chains' "A
Walk to the Jetty"
"The Circling Hand"
Pre-occupation with death;
Pre-Oedipal symbiosis with the mother
Girl friends (Gwen, Red Girl)
Resisting British education (Columbus in Chain)
Exploring her own sexuality
fascination for the father (112-13)
Illness; grandmother's (Ma Chess) care-taking -- a substitute
for the mother (pp. 125-26)
1. The symbiotic state: (pp. 13-25)
Examples of the daughter's complete identification with the mother.
pp. 13- 19
What kind of gender model does the mother offer Annie? What
role does the father take in this part? e.g. p. 13-14; 25
What's the significance of the trunk? P. 20
2. Separation: the changes
in Annie's body p. 25; p. 27
her dresses p. 26
her schooling -- p. 29
the mother's expectations of her: pp. 28-29
3. the primal scene
'Columbus in Chains' from Annie John
the importance of the circling hand? P. 30
What role does the father take after this scene?
Remember "Dan in the Man in the Van" when reading this excerpt.
Here our discussion of colonial education and postcolonial resistance will
"A Walk to the Jetty"
How is the narrator related to the pupils (Ruth and Hilarene) and the teachers
(esp. Ms. Edward)?
How do you characterize Ms. Edward's way of education? e.g. pp. 400,
401 of our Reader.
Where do we see the narrator's postcolonial thinking? Why is Columbus
Another interesting issue here is family relationships. Why is Columbus
related to the narrator's grandfather? How is the narrator related
to her own mother?
1. Contradictory signs of independence + signs of nostalgia
in this chapter?
2. Annie's views of her parents & marriage
Name, address, her listing of what she "never wants to see"; joy
at not having to see them. pp. 130-132.; her attention at what's
"hers" and what's on her p. 134-35.
remembering a lot; the moment of getting out of bed 133
contradictory feelings at the wharf: 144; 145, 147
4. Walking away from the past (memories, education and transitional
What kind of family does Annie have? P. 132
How do they look at her day of departure? pp. 134-36
Their interaction: p. 136
Can you relate to her need to leave the place forever? pp. 144-148
Ms. Dulcie the seamstress, p. 138
first experience of buying things 139
interests that she has outgrown: glasses, porcelain dog,
Indivuation through complete separation
Are you sympathetic with her hatred of the mother? Pp. 133
Please read the following two introduction to Kincaid.
They will help you understand her position and her views of motherhood.