Girl

by

Jamaica Kincaid

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Slut Symbol Icon

“Slut” and “lady” are the narrative’s two descriptors of the kind of woman the girl could become. This contrast suggests that there are only two modes of being a woman, and though Mother’s instructions are designed to help the girl become a “lady,” it’s clear that she believes that the smallest social error can transform the girl into a “slut.” Traditionally, a “slut” is a promiscuous woman, but Mother, whose voice dominates the narrative, never mentions sex. Instead, “slut” is a catch-all term that describes a woman who does not know how to behave in social settings. Mother invokes the threat of becoming a slut when telling the girl how to walk, how to tend to the hemlines on her dresses, and how to behave around strange men. Thus, it seems that every aspect of a woman’s life—her presence in public space, her clothing choices, and her speech—is touched by sexuality, even if she has no intention of being sexy.

Slut Quotes in Girl

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

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:

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:
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Slut Symbol Timeline in Girl

The timeline below shows where the symbol Slut appears in Girl. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Girl
Authenticity and Femininity Theme Icon
...to walk like a lady so that people will not think that she is the slut that Mother is certain she will become. (full context)
Gender and Domesticity Theme Icon
Authenticity and Femininity Theme Icon
Sexuality Theme Icon
...to her hemlines because, if they come down too far, she will “[look] like the slut” Mother is certain she will become. (full context)