Literature of the Carribean

Jamaica Kincaid: Annie John

Elin Raun, undergraduate student, DePauw University

Annie John, by Jamaica Kincaid, is a novel about the struggles of a young, strong-willed Antiguan girl who faces issues in conjunction with coming to age in a British colonized nation and dealing with the adolescent struggle of mother/daughter relationships.

The main issue in this novel is the progression from a nurturing and loving relationship between Annie and her mother to one that is distant and abrasive. The big change occurs when Annie's mother begins to think of her as a young lady and quickly dismisses any young-girl inklings Annie may have (25). The problem escalates because of the lack of communication concerning this switch that created the divide wherein Annie was so hurt that she began to apply this hurt to all of her school relationships. We should examine the volatile and changing emotions Annie experiences in her relations with Gwen and then the Red Girl. She admires the Red Girl's freedom and is able to manipulate their friendship into a "rescue" mission on her part and this justifies her dumping Gwen (57). Annie seems to be always wanting more, "Oh...and what a heaven she lived in," and this is very destructive for she never finds satisfaction (58). Annie sways so much in her feelings and emotions, that it is difficult to follow and the use of definitives is disconcerting (the lifelong devotion to Gwen that turns to lifelong devotion to the Red Girl in an instant, for example). It seems that Annie is engaged in a hurtful cycle that will continue if she does not come to terms with her maturation and her failing relationship with her mother.

The conflict between Annie and her mother reaches a breaking point when Annie's mother confronts her about her interaction with a group of boys on the street. She calls Annie a "slut", using the Patois version, and then Annie fires back with, "Like mother, like daughter" (102). At this point the divide is too much for each woman to handle and Annie slips into a devastating illness, but the gap can never be bridged. The problem is that the mother and daughter are too much alike, they both do not really know what they want and both want to escape their lives for a better one. The interesting thing is that Annie's mother does escape her life in Dominica to find contentment in Antigua. However, we have yet to see any evidence of Annie finding contentment in her future endeavors, we are left to simply wonder.

In the end, we see Annie traveling the same path of her mother, leaving her homeland, but on better terms with her parents than Annie's mother had been. I believe that everyone realized that his was the necessary thing to do for Annie, just like her mother, is too much of a wild spirit to be tied down by anyone. Maybe she will sow her wild oats abroad and come to peace, much like her mother, or maybe she will continue in the vicious and hurtful cycle of her adolescence. We need to read Lucy or The Autobiography of my Mother to find out.

Postcolonial Web Literature of the Caribbean Jamaica Kincaid

Last Modified: 9 July, 2002