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...