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Stories of growth: Caribbean Women Writers (3). Individuation through Separation: Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid . Outline. Kincaid About colonialism and Antigua And her mother Annie John “ Circling Hand ” “ A Walk to the Jetty ”. Jamaica Kincaid: Bio (1).

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Stories of growth: Caribbean Women Writers (3)

Individuation through Separation: Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid

Outline l.jpg

  • Kincaid

    • About colonialism and Antigua

    • And her mother

  • Annie John

  • “Circling Hand”

  • “A Walk to the Jetty”

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Jamaica Kincaid: Bio (1)

  • Born Elaine Potter Richardson in St. Johns, Antigua in 1949; lived her step-father, mother, and three brothers

  • father: a carpenter and cabinetmaker

  • mother: a homemaker and political activist.

  • Completed her secondary education under the British system

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Jamaica Kincaid: Bio (2)

  • Left Antigua (before its Independence) when she was 17.

  • As the eldest of four, and the only girl, she was apprenticed to a seamstress, then plucked from school, where she was excelling, and sent to the US as an au pair ("really a servant")

  • changed her name to Jamaica Kincaid because her family disapproved of her writing.

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  • A lot more blacks than white people;

  • No experience of “freedom apprenticeship” after Emancipation in 1834. “Freedom was immediate but total.” (Murdoch 99)

  • A British colony till 1967.

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Kincaid on Colonialism & Antigua

  • Within the structure of the British educational system imposed upon Antiguans, Kincaid grew to "detest everything about England, except the literature" (Vorda 79).

  • A Small Place: rage at colonialism & the failure of Antigua independence

    • "But nothing can erase my rage . . . for this wrong can never be made right and only the impossible can make me still: can a way be found to make what happened not have happened?"

    • “You distorted or erased my history and glorified your own")

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Kincaid about her mother

  • She "should never have had children."

  • “She loves us when we‘re dying - not when we’re thriving because then we don‘t need her.”

  • She favors her sons over Kincaid.

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Annie John

  • One central question:

    What makes Annie change her views about her family and esp. her mother?

    e.g. pp. 18-19; 136

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“The Circling Hand”: Starting Questions

  • Mother-Daughter Relationship:

    • What kind of gender model does the mother offer Annie? e.g. p. 13-14; 25

    • What role does the father take in this part?

    • What's the significance of the trunk? P. 20

    • What do you think about the mother’s way of teaching Annie?

  • What does the title mean? What “finishes” her happy childhood and love for the family (p. 32).

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Mother-Daughter Relationship in Annie John

  • Major Factors:

  • Caribbean society: a male-dominated society in which the men are allowed to be irresponsible about housework, and enjoy sexual relationships outside marriage.

  • Mother as a social institution to teach her girl to be socialized (= Englishized; lady-like)

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The Circling Hand”

  • 1. The symbiotic stage: (pp. 13-25)

    Examples of the daughter’s complete identification with the mother. pp. 13- 19

    -- Physical intimacy (bathing); 14

    -- protective 14-15

    -- Mother’s gender role model: shopping; doing housework [cooking, washing clothes] p. 13-14; 25;

    -- admiring the mother 18-19; be like the mother p. 139

    -- sharing cloth

    -- continuation of identity -- the Trunk P. 20 (the mother’s past + Annie’s sourvenir + story-telling)

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The Circling Hand” 1-2

  • 1. The symbiotic stage: (pp. 13-25)

    -- the father’s role – outsider; has a lot of women;

    -- Someone to be sympathized with;

    -- Served and mothered by his wife p. 24

    “A Walk”

    -- builds and makes a lot of things in the house;

    -- p. 132 – 35 years older than his wife; sickly

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The Circling Hand” (2)

  • 2. Separation: the changes at age 12

  • in Annie’s body p. 25; p. 27

  • her schooling -- p. 29

  • The changes in the mother’s attitudes:

    • The mother’s distanciation: her dresses p. 26; trunk p. 27; differentiation 28-29

    • the mother’s expectations of her:

      • “young lady business” pp. 28-29

      • Housework 29-30

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The Circling Hand” (2)

  • Why does the mother do this? Is it necessary for the mother to be so stern?

  • Possible Reasons –

    • The mother’s preoccupation with housework;

    • Her failure to smooth the transition from Annie’s childhood to puberty;

    • Her being influenced by the dominant British values.

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The Circling Hand” (3)

  • 3. the primal scene

  • the importance of the circling hand? P. 30

  • What role does the father take after this scene?

  • Context: Annie’s wanting to “reconquer” her mother

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The mother’s hand

  • 1. Mother’s Hands

    -- taking care of Annie;

    -- doing housework;

     “white, bony, dead, left out in the elements”

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Mother-Daughter Relationship in Annie John: Examples

  • “The Circling Hand” -- Forced to separate herself from the mother; sent to be educated, witnessing the parents’ sexual intercourse (primal scene).

  • “Columbus in Chain”: mother turned into a crocodile p. 84

  • being called a slut by her mother after conversing with a boy -- “Well, …like mother like daughter” (p. 102)

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Annie’s independence process

  • Pre-occupation with death;

  • Pre-Oedipal symbiosis with the mother

  • Exploring her own sexuality; Girl friends (Gwen, Red Girl)

  • Resisting British education (“Columbus in Chain”)

  • Fascination for the father (112-13)

  • Illness; grandmother’s (Ma Chess) care-taking -- a substitute for the mother (pp. 125-26)

  • Leaving Antigua

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A Walk to the Jetty” –Starting Questions

  • Is Annie’s separation from her family and the past inevitable and absolute? e.g. 130-131 “never” 133-34 “for the last time”

    • Is it appropriate for Annie to criticize her parents? Are you sympathetic with her hatred of the mother? Pp. 133

    • What does she reject in leaving the place? Can you relate to her need to leave the place forever? pp. 144-148

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A Walk to the Jetty” --separation

  • A. From Mother

    (“Circling Hand” 1.different dresses—A’s bitterness and hatred

    2. Enforced “lady” education — mother’s disappointment

    3.stop kid’s talking---awareness

    4.after the turning point—“All that was finished” talk back.)

    5.complete separation--- “never to be fooled again” “hypocrite” 147

    6. Talk back 136 – mother’s image degraded

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A Walk to the Jetty” --separation

  • A. From Mother

  • 7. On guard against the mother’s love and expectations 147

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A Walk to the Jetty” –separation (2)

B. From the social norm(and oppression) be a lady  e.g. exploited by Ms Dulcie 138

2.marriage  sexual inequality

3.Gwen p. 137

C. From the past (childhood memory)


2. The community –does not even want to say good-bye 136-37

3. Childhood memory

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A Walk to the Jetty”

  • Contradictorysigns of independence + signs of nostalgia in this chapter?]

  • independence:

    • Name, address,

    • separation: her listing of what she “never wants to see”; joy at not having to see them. pp. 130-132.;

    • her attention at what’s “hers” and what’s on her p. 134-35.

  • Nostalgia and fear:

    • the moment of getting out of bed 133

    • remembering a lot;

  • contradictory feelings at the wharf: 144; 145, 147

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Walking away from the past (memories, education and transitional objects)

  • Ms. Dulcie the seamstress, p. 138

  • first experience of buying things 139

  • saving money

  • interests that she has outgrown: glasses, porcelain dog,

  • library

  •  cannot deny the mother’s good intention in educating her;

  •  do we need to reject things we are no longer interested in or people who are no longer on a par with us?

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Walking to Empty Oneself

  • Does not know why it is an absolute departure for her 134

  • Passing through the place as if she were in a dream 143

  • Emptied out at the end