Jamaica Kincaid Essay

2317 words - 9 pages

In the novel Annie John, Jamaica Kincaid analyses the adolescence of a girl and her difficulties in separating from her mother. Although it is common for the teen years to be painful ones on both mothers and daughters, the separation of the child from the family is usually initiated by the child, while the parent is reluctant to give up control. The choice that an adolescent makes in deciding when and how one will distance oneself from a parent can be empowering to the child, to take this choice away from the child can be equally devastating. Kincaid's book is the story of a mother who clearly decides for the daughter when this change will happen in their lives. Because the daughter has no choice about the timing of the separation, it is very difficult for her. While the daughter is lost without the mother at her side, the mother appears to be enjoying her new freedom. Based on the viewpoint of the angry daughter, the mother, who has no voice in the book, is portrayed as a bad parent. Their ruined relationship is a statement about the powerlessness of being a child as well as the nature of motherhood as an agent in driving this mother to action.Judith Viorst in Necessary Losses gives some explanation as to why this parent initiated separation can be so difficult on the child."In the phase that Freud labeled 'latency' - which is usually dated from ages seven to ten - we leave the benevolent fortress of family life. Our job as a latency kid is to acquire the social and psychological know-how without which we can not manage this new separation, these new losses. ... But unless we have arrived at latency having established a separate self...we will have trouble taking on these tasks."(p.143) The developmental stages that are described above are ones on which Kincaid focuses in her book. As this mother forces the birth of her adult child, it is as traumatic as the birth of a newborn with the added dimension of rejection and anger. Annie has no choice in the matter; she is unable to make this transition into adolescence smoothly given her abrupt launching into this developmental phase. Annie has not arrived at this stage having any separate self from her mother and therefore has difficulties taking on the tasks of acquiring social and psychological know-how to help her deal with life and relationships, especially the relationship she has with her mother.Using the daughter perspective forces the reader to think about the vulnerabilities of the child within the family. As the mother's power is wielded, the daughter is subject to her decisions. The main difficulty for Annie is the difference between feeling rejected verses choosing distance. The mother's decision to separate herself from her daughter so abruptly takes control away from Annie, control necessary for her development. For Annie, this separation seems more devastating than even a death might have been, because her faith in her one true love, her mother, dissolves. Prior to this mother daughter...

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