Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl”: A Marxist Reading

1003 words - 5 pages

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: ...view middle of the document...

This prescription for production does not permit deviation. Deviation, as the mother’s warnings suggest, would result in the girl being branded a “slut” or “the kind of woman who the baker won’t let near the bread.” She would have no place in the text her mother (re)produces–– thesocial text of working-class domesticity. Neither mother nor daughter can escape the existing

social order. Whenever the possibility of deviance interrupts the production of the narrative, as when the girl interrupts her mother––twice––it is silenced and almost seamlessly incorporated into the text. Witness the mother’s references to her daughter’s supposed determination to be a slut, or her response, reestablishing the position of the wife/domestic, when the girl asks, “But what if the baker won’t let me feel the bread?” Consider, moreover, the use of italics to denote the girl’s interjections: Her mother steadfastly proceeds with her diatribe––one that will surely straighten out the girl. That the functionality and productivity of the mother’s lessons are not to be questioned is further demonstrated by the mother’s advice concerning men. Just as the mother teaches her daughter “how to catch a fish” and then “how to throw back a fish you don’t like,” she informs the girl about “how to love a man” as well as “how to make a good medicine to throw away a child before it even becomes a child.” Every lesson the mother teaches is efficacious (the possibility that the girl does not catch a fish is inadmissible). In addition, the means of (re)production presented by the mother take into account undesirable contingencies (as when the machines in a factory produce defective goods). Hence, the mother also tells her daughter “if this doesn’t work there are other ways [to love a man], and if they don’t work don’t feel too bad about giving up”; such an outcome does not imply that the girl has not...

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