Intro to Green Canes and Juicy Flotsam and “Girl”
In the Introduction to Green Cane and Juicy Flotsam, we learnt he context of the stories to which we will soon be exposed regarding the women of the Caribbean. Generally speaking, these women have experienced both social oppression and suppression of their identities and voices. The stories of this Unit are intended to focus largely on the theme of “the problem of voicelessness of marginalized groups in Caribbean societies” (p. 121).
Opening with Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl,” we immediately see the contrast between the expectations of women in Africa and those of the women in the Caribbean. Kincaid depicts the relationship between a mother and daughter, in which the mother advises her daughter as to her responsibilities to her family, her community, and herself. She cautions against a life of promiscuity while emphasizing the importance of a balanced, productive domestic life. While the mother’s words appear to have good intentions, the tone Kincaid communicates is one of resentment or lack of sympathy. In some cases, the mother comes off as deliberately cruel, as is the case when she tells her daughter, “Walk like a lady and not like the slut you are so bent on becoming” (p.129) I think the bitter tone of the mother reflects her views on the importance of a woman’s reputation and respectability in the community. She fears that if that reputation is not upheld, her daughter’s quality of life may suffer, and she will become a social outcast. This is a stark difference from the social expectations of women in Africa, and they were seen as sexual objects rather than respectable, productive members of society. Here in the Caribbean, however, the sexuality of a women is seen as something to cherish and guard. At the same time, we are able to see the similarities of the pressures faced by young females coming of age in poor countries, despite those countries being so far apart. Some things to consider regarding the themes and intentions of this story:
What do you think the “benna” songs represent in the context of Kincaid’s story?
What could the mother is implying about her daughter regarding the bread?
What can we infer from the mother’s advice about her ideas of female responsibility/domesticity in their community?