The Cultural Rhythm of Jamaica Kincaid

2 February 2017

Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl” is about a traditional mother who is trying to teach her young daughter the traditional way of growing up to be a woman. Simmons, Diane discuses: “The story begins with the mother’s voice giving such simple, benevolent, and appropriately maternal advice” (1); And “In “Girl” the mother’s chant of information and advice enfolds and ensnares the daughter, rendering the girl nearly helpless before the mother’s transforming will” (2). Furthermore, the title of the story signifies that the daughter is still young and is living dependently on her mother.

She still has many things to learn from her experienced mother. In her culture, there is a sign of family love and care for the young one. The mother in “Girl” gives lectures to ensure that her daughter learns basic skills to be self-sufficient, as well as basic principle of the culture and human being. First, the mother takes an opportunity to educate “Girl” about tradition role of a woman in their society. In their culture, women take full responsibility for domestic activities such as cooking, house chores, and sewing. To comply with the culture, she needs to be able to take on the tasks of a woman.

The Cultural Rhythm of Jamaica Kincaid Essay Example

Girl” needs to know and practice of house keeping like doing laundry, sweeping house, doing different stuff of cooking, and preparing the table meals. The mother instructs her sensually, with the rhythm of a song as music: 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; soak your little cloths right after you take them off; when buying cotton to make yourself a nice blouse, be sure that it doesn’t have gum on it, because that way it won’t hold up well after a wash; (719) There are so many things to learn growing up to be a domestic young lady.

The mother continues educating her daughter how to cook different dishes. The mother is very particular about domestic order: ;cook pumpkin fritters in very hot sweet oil; soak salt fish overnight before you cook it; and this is how to make pepper pot; (719) She even gives instruction on how to “set a table for tea, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and for dinner with an important guest. ” House keeping is a concern of heath, so she teaches her daughter, “this is how you sweep a corner; this is how you sweep a whole house; this is how to sweep a yard” (719).

The mother’s rhythm of chanting speech goes on as she lists both small details and much more important issues. She tell her daughter “not to walk bareheaded in the hot sun or eat fruits on the street to avoid flies from following her. ” She specially warns about growing an okra tree and taro roots. It is not wise to learn the hard way from our own mistakes when there is the easy way around simple problems.

So the mother expects her daughter to have a little knowledge of cultivation: ; this is how you grow okra far from the house, because okra tree harbors red ants; when you are growing dasheen, make sure it gets plenty of water or else it makes your throat itch when you are eating it; (719) From the smallest details, we go to one of the most important knowledge that the mother is passing to the daughter: ; this is how to make a good medicine for a cold; this is how to make a good medicine to throw away a child before it even becomes a child; (720) It is a critical knowledge for the daughter to have in case it is very necessary.

The continued tone of motherly advice at first works to lighten the sinister nature of the information imparted and then, paradoxically, seems to make these disclosures even more frightening; eventually we see that, in a world in which a recipe for stew slides into a recipe for the death of a child, nothing is safe” (Simmons 3). With all the knowledge of house hold chores and practical survival skills, hopefully, the daughter is ready to be a self-reliant member of her culture. The mother continues help the young daughter to keep her traditional feminine values, and to be respected in her society.

In their society, women are expected to behave and conduct activity in the public in a certain way. Women need to pay attention to the social norm and be aware they way they act in public. They may need to behave in a way that traditional defines the feminine member should be. In this story, the mother makes sure that her daughter is taught the basic principles of their tradition and inherited cultural values. “Not only manipulates the girl into receptivity to the mother’s condemning view, but also teaches the art of manipulation” (Simmons 3).

She teaches what it is feminine, and that there is certain appropriate way to do and not to do thing—the language seems to become even more rhythmic. ; this is how you smile to someone you don’t like too much; this is how you smile to someone you don’t like at all; this is how you smile to someone you like completely; (719) She also warns the daughter not to speak to or associate with “wharf-rat boy” in anyway. It might be that it is inappropriate for a gentle lady to talk to bad boy randomly.

Her mother seems to seriously restrict her from any involvement with this kind of boy. It seems to be fine with her mother for her to play marbles, as long as she does not “squat down to play, because she is not a boy. ” It might be again their cultural principle: ; don’t pick people’s flowers because you might catch something; don’t throw stones at blackbirds, because it might not be a blackbird at all; (719) Finally, the mother’s awareness of her young daughter, naive daughter is growing into adulthood; she needs to pass down to her some traditional knowledge of experiences.

This is a sign of family love and maternal care for the young one. “Spoken almost entirely by the mother, with only occasional interjections by the daughter, “Girl” offers a catalogue of instructions for becoming the good Antiguan woman. Much of it is devoted to practical matters, such as how to select and prepare certain foods, how to choose fabrics for clothes, how to perform various domestic chores, and how to behave in public. The rhythm of repetition in the instruction has the quality of a litany.

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