This Is How You Turn A Girl Into A Woman

1160 words - 5 pages

Stories have a beginning, middle, and an end. This is not your typical short story piece. Girl by

Jamaica Kincaid is an expressive, one-page portrait of womanhood. This methodical monologue is

narrated by a strict and caring mother. Kincaid writes a “how-to guide” on the transformation from a

little girl into a woman, by means of exposing gender roles. Most sentences start with “This is how

you...” which directly informs the reader of what, or what not, to do to be a respectable woman. Girl is

written in a very poetic style that is reminiscent of modern slam poetry. The words on the page beg to

be read aloud. Coming in at under 700 words, the message of this story packs a punch.

Though written as one block of text, Kincaid has direct topics that develop depth as one reads

further. The opening lines describe simple chores a woman is assumed to complete in a household.

“Wash the white clothes on Monday and put them on the stone heap;wash the color clothes on Tuesday

and put them on the clothesline to dry;” From cooking, to cleaning, to light farming labor, the narrator

describes “woman's” work. Though this short story was written in the late 1970's, the gender role of

women is true today. Many women are the caretakers of the households. They are typically required to

maintain the home, care for children, and hold a job in contribution to the family. The number of men

taking on “motherly” roles families have been increasing, but the majority of women typically take on

this role. Just as her mother taught her, and her mother's mother was taught, the narrator informs her

daughter of the roles of a woman.

“This is how to bully a man; this is how a man bullies you; this is how to love a man, and if this

doesn't work there are other ways, and if they don't work don't feel too bad about giving up.” This

reiterates the strength of a real woman. Women are able to bully, and be bullied, but strong women

know the difference and learn from mistakes. The progression from bullying to being bullied, to loving,

being loved, and, sometimes, giving up is defined by strength. The author is telling the reader that one

is allowed to make mistakes. Learning from one's mistakes takes the most courage and strength.

Sometimes, one may need to give up, dust themselves off, and try again.

One issue this story touches on is that of abortion. “This is how to make a good medicine to

throw away a child before it even becomes a child; this is how to catch a fish; this is how to throw back

a fish you don't like and that way something bad won't fall on you;” These lines are so powerful in

representing woman's choice. Catching a fish, then throwing it back out when do you don't like it is

much like the decision to, or to not, have an abortion. It is a choice to be made when you decide if you

are capable. This passage tells the daughter that only she, herself, is the one who decides what to do- to

throw the fish out to avoid...

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