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Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl”: a Marxist Reading

  • Date Submitted: 09/15/2011 09:36 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 48.8 
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Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl”: A Marxist Reading

Something is missing from Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl”—something very important for a short story, or any text wishing to call itself “fiction.” “Girl” lacks plot. Plot can be defined as a series of events linked by causality. E. M. Forster came up with perhaps the simplest example: The king died and then the queen died versus The king died and then the queen died out of grief. The first sentence relates two events. There is no causal relationship between them given the language used (the word and is not a causal conjunction). The second sentence has the rudiments of plot. There is a causal relationship, as can be seen if the sentence is reworded: The queen died because the king had died. By paying close attention to the various fields in the mother’s monologue in “Girl,” we discover that, instead of developing a plot, her dictums develop an ideology that prescribes and originates from labor (laundry, cooking, sewing, light farming, etc.). Her “how-to” formulations are interspersed with what can be termed moral precepts (appearing virtuous and behaving in a ladylike manner). In order to assume her place in society, the girl must learn how to perpetuate that societal role. The lessons and precepts the mother expounds, once absorbed, will increase her daughter’s market value in the subsequent exchange of her body and labor for an acceptable place in society as wife/domestic. The girl’s story, as the progression of the narrative evinces, will consist of nothing other than the series of activities in which her mother instructs her. In this way, the mother reproduces herself both biologically and socially in her daughter, thereby fulfilling her labor as a mother, just as she was produced by her mother. The reduction of both roles to the labor involved in the reproduction of one’s position is made apparent in the lack of names; neither the mother nor her daughter (her replacement) are individualized in any way. This prescription...

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