Jamaica Kincaid’s Main Female Protagonists, Their Personalities and Relationships in Novels Lucy and Annie John
Every person’s character is created and formed in background the person grows up in, and is influenced by everything that surrounds him or her, like friends, teachers, television and other media, and of course, family. And if our person is a female, the strongest influence always comes from her mother and their relationship, and this is clearly visible in Jamaica Kincaid’s novels, where mother daughter relationships are fundamental in heroines’ character development, their view of the world, and their life style. The mother operates not only as an embodiment of the personal sphere but also as a mediator of the political and ideological values present in childhood. Motherhood as an institution is universally major theme in writings by black women writers, and Kincaid’s novels are mainly personal narratives about the construction of one’s identity marked by colonial and family oppression. The mother-daughter relationships in her novels reflect the tension between colonialism and nativeness. Kincaid herself experienced cultural and familial displacement, and now neither can she identify with her mother, nor her country (Sklenkova, 6). And as Kincaid states "I write about myself for the most part, and about things that have happened to me. In my writing I suppose I am trying to understand how I got to be the person I am" (Kincaid, interview with Kay Bonnetti) her work Annie John is labeled a fictionalized autobiographical work (LeSeur, 154).
Both Annie and Lucy are described very well and developed naturally, mature, and both experience a change in relationships with their mothers, which take place when the girls see and experience other world than their mother country. Both of them grew up on the Caribbean island of Antigua during the British colonial rule. Both of them correspond to Kincaid’s real life path. And as she narrates them in the first person, the line between the author and the characters blurs, and they seem to be multiple identities of Jamaica Kincaid.
Characters of Annie and Lucy have few similar traits, and similar destinies. Both loved and adored their mothers and have ideal relationships with them, but only till some time, till Lucy’s ninth year of life and twelfth in Annie’s case. Then suddenly both girls claim that their mothers betrayed them, by which they mean that they do not love them as much as they should and the girls wish, so the girls start to, in their own words “hate” the mothers, but it is obviously just a dislike that is common in this age in girls. Another trait is their attitude towards education, both are very clever, but school seems to be a complicated issue for them. Education is very important for everybody, but was perhaps even more for the youth of this time in colonies. They got their chance to lead a “European” way of life, but needed to have proper education, which was not seen very positively by them. They were brought up to understand that English traditions were right and their traditions were wrong. This antagonism between the official traditions and the native elements; and the subordination of their people which put this system to work made Kincaid (and her characters) resent the colonial system. Annie once hears her mother saying about her father “the great man can no longer just get up and go” (Annie John, 78) and remembers the sentence. When she goes through her history book, she finds a picture illustrating a chapter about colonization. There is Columbus on the picture and he is in chains, taken back to Europe, his luck is gone after his great successes in overseas. As all of the colonized perceived Columbus as the one who “started” the slave trade and other horrors of the time, Annie did so, and commented the picture by writing the overheard sentence under it. Of course that was against the way of Empire’s education system, and Annie was punished,...
Cited: and Consulted
Kincaid, Jamaica. Annie John. New York: Penguin, 1991.
Kincaid, Jamaica. Lucy. New York: Penguin, 1986.
LeSeur, Geta. Review: Mother Imagery in the Novels of Afro-Caribbean Women by Simone A. James Alexander. JSTOR Online Database: African-American Review, 2002.
Bonneti, Kay. Interview with Jamaica Kincaid. Missouri Review, 2002. .
Sklenkova, Zuzana. Diploma Thesis: Politicizing the Personal: Mother-Daughter Relationship in Jamaica Kincaid’s Writing. FF MU Brno, 2003.
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