Girl

by

Jamaica Kincaid

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Mother Character Analysis

The girl’s mother is the main speaker in the story. Her authoritative voice, which offers the girl a list of guidelines on how to conduct herself, makes up the bulk of the story, with very few interruptions or protests coming from the girl. Mother tells the girl how to perform chores, how to cook and garden, what she ought to cook and garden, how to entertain, how to behave on Sundays, and how to love. Though readers are to understand that she is a Caribbean woman, her voice is not inflected by any particular dialect. Her tone is distant and impersonal, but grows more insistent when advising the girl against behaviors that could lead to her being viewed as a slut.

Mother Quotes in Girl

The Girl quotes below are all either spoken by Mother or refer to Mother. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Gender and Domesticity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Farrar, Straus and Giroux edition of Girl published in 1983.
Girl Quotes

Don’t walk bare-head in the hot sun.

Related Characters: Mother (speaker), Girl
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

Is it true that you sing benna in Sunday school?

Related Characters: Mother (speaker), Girl
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

On Sundays try to walk like a lady and not like the slut you are so bent on becoming.

Related Characters: Mother (speaker), Girl
Related Symbols: Slut
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

You mustn’t speak to wharf-rat boys, not even to give directions.

Related Characters: Mother (speaker), Girl
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

But I don’t sing benna on Sundays at all and never in Sunday school.

Related Characters: Mother (speaker), Girl
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

This is how to hem a dress when you see the hem coming down and so to prevent yourself from looking like the slut I know you are so bent on becoming.

Related Characters: Mother (speaker), Girl
Related Symbols: Slut
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

This is how you smile to someone you don’t like too much; this is how you smile to someone you don’t like at all; this is how you smile to someone you like completely; this is how you set a table for tea; this is how you set a table for dinner; this is how you set a table for dinner with an important guest; this is how you set a table for lunch; this is how you set a table for breakfast; this is how to behave in the presence of men who don’t know you very well, and this way they won’t recognize immediately the slut I have warned you against becoming.

Related Characters: Mother (speaker), Girl
Related Symbols: Slut
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

This is how to make a bread pudding; this is how to make doukona; this is how to make pepper pot; this is how to make a good medicine for a cold; this is how to make a good medicine to throw away a child before it even becomes a child.

Related Characters: Mother (speaker), Girl
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

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.

Related Characters: Mother (speaker), Girl, Father
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

Always squeeze bread to make sure it’s fresh; but what if the baker won’t let me feel the bread?; you mean to say that after all you are really going to be the kind of woman who the baker won’t let near the bread?

Related Characters: Mother (speaker), Girl (speaker)
Related Symbols: Bread
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Girl LitChart as a printable PDF.
Girl PDF

Mother Character Timeline in Girl

The timeline below shows where the character Mother appears in Girl. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Girl
Gender and Domesticity Theme Icon
The speaker, a mother, tells a girl, her daughter, how to do the laundry, specifying that whites should be... (full context)
Authenticity and Femininity Theme Icon
Caribbean Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
Mother tells the girl not to walk bare-head in the hot sun. (full context)
Gender and Domesticity Theme Icon
Caribbean Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
Mother gives the girl a list of tips, including how best to fry pumpkin fritters and... (full context)
Authenticity and Femininity Theme Icon
Mother tells the girl how to behave in Sunday school. Not only should she not sing... (full context)
Authenticity and Femininity Theme Icon
Sexuality Theme Icon
Class Theme Icon
Mother tells the girl that she must not speak to wharf-rat boys for any reason at... (full context)
Authenticity and Femininity Theme Icon
Caribbean Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
The girl interrupts her Mother’s instruction not to eat fruit outside to assure her that she does not “sing benna... (full context)
Gender and Domesticity Theme Icon
Authenticity and Femininity Theme Icon
Sexuality Theme Icon
Mother tells the girl how to maintain clothes by sewing and ironing. Mother also encourages her... (full context)
Gender and Domesticity Theme Icon
Caribbean Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
Mother tells the girl how to grow traditional crops, such as okra and dasheen, being sure... (full context)
Gender and Domesticity Theme Icon
Authenticity and Femininity Theme Icon
Sexuality Theme Icon
Class Theme Icon
Mother gives the girl instructions on how to socialize, including how to give a particular smile... (full context)
Authenticity and Femininity Theme Icon
Sexuality Theme Icon
Mother tells the girl how to manage her body, including the importance of always looking after... (full context)
Gender and Domesticity Theme Icon
Caribbean Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
Mother proceeds with advice, such as “don’t throw stones at blackbirds, because it might not be... (full context)
Authenticity and Femininity Theme Icon
Sexuality Theme Icon
Mother instructs the girl on how to bully a man, then shows her how he will... (full context)
Gender and Domesticity Theme Icon
Authenticity and Femininity Theme Icon
Sexuality Theme Icon
Mother completes her instruction to the girl by showing her “how to make ends meet,” and... (full context)