Jamaica Kincaid

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Bread Symbol Analysis

Bread Symbol Icon

Bread is a cheap, wholesome food that is integrated into the routines and comforts of family life. In this story, the girl’s ability or inability to “feel the bread” symbolizes her perceived fitness or unfitness for wholesome family life. As her last bit of advice, Mother tells the girl that she should always feel bread to ensure that it is fresh. The girl, still uncertain about the rules of propriety that Mother seeks to instill, asks what she ought to do “if the baker won’t let [her] feel the bread.” The question brings about a rebuke from Mother, who believes that her worst suspicion (that the girl will be a slut) has been confirmed by the girl’s uncertainty about her worthiness to feel bread. Mother implies that she will lose social value if she becomes a slut, just as bread loses value when it is no longer fresh.

Bread Quotes in Girl

The Girl quotes below all refer to the symbol of Bread. 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

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:
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Bread Symbol Timeline in Girl

The timeline below shows where the symbol Bread appears in Girl. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Gender and Domesticity Theme Icon
Authenticity and Femininity Theme Icon
Sexuality Theme Icon
...showing her “how to make ends meet,” and also by advising her to “always squeeze bread to make sure it’s fresh.” This latter advice prompts the girl to ask what she... (full context)