From what appears to be relaxed lessons on blouse making and cooking, the girl’s initiation to “womanhood” escalates to more serious matters of etiquette and female respectability (“you mustn’t speak to wharf-rat boys”).These matters include practical abortion instructions (“to throw away a child before it even becomes a child”) and ominous chants.
To an earlier interrogation (“is it true that you sing benna at Sunday school?
”) and its accompanying admonition (“don’t sing benna at Sunday school”), the daughter intimates inaudibly, as she only can (“but I don’t sing benna on Sundays at all and never in Sunday school”).
It concludes abruptly with a rhetorical question from the mother wondering if her daughter didn't understand how to behave based on everything she was told.
There are three central themes to the story: sexual reputation, domesticity, and mother/daughter relationships.
In the absence of conventional dialogue, only two lines in the story reveal the daughter’s response to her mother’s sometimes gentle, sometimes harsh, sometimes distant, sometimes accusatory, “do’s,” “don’t’s” and “how to’s.” However, there is nothing against which the daughter can protest in the female initiation process circumscribed by her mother’s list—particularly not its prohibitions.
False assumptions that all-knowing adults make too quickly about youthful behavior and blatant accusations by one’s own (domineering), too often suspicious mother are difficult to accept or even comprehend.Kincaid is from Antigua, and most of her work contains stories of Antiguan life as a colony of Great Britain and as an independent nation dealing with the aftermath of colonial rule.As a woman of African descent, Kincaid explores gender, race and class issues in her work.'Girl' is a somewhat of a stream-of-consciousness narrative of a mother giving her young daughter advice on important life issues and concerns.The poem is one long sentence of various commands separated by semi-colons.Throughout the story, many of the mother’s directions are aimed at preventing the girl from becoming the “slut” her mother obviously thinks she longs to be.She directs her not to sing popular music in Sunday school, not to talk to wharf-rat boys for any reason, and not to eat fruit on the street, because it will make flies follow her.The mother’s sexual advice is intermingled with social advice.She tells the girl how to smile at someone she does not like, as well as how to smile at someone she likes very much, and tells her how to avoid evil spirits (what looks like a blackbird, the mother says, may be something else entirely).The two-and-a-half-page monologue does not actually include the instructions for all these activities; instead, the parallel clauses introduced with “this is how . .” suggest the ways that adults model behavior for children. At the same time, the mother’s negative tone indicates that she has little hope of her daughter’s growing into decent adulthood, so that the daughter’s two protests create the story’s tension. When the girl asks what to do if the baker will not let her test the bread’s freshness by squeezing it, the mother wonders if her daughter will become the “kind of woman the baker won’t let near the bread.” A West Indian mother orders her daughter to learn how to perform mundane domestic chores (such as washing white clothes and putting them on the stone heap on Monday and washing the colored clothes and putting them on a clothesline to dry on Tuesday).She also offers her daughter advice ranging from commonsensical health precautions about walking bareheaded in the hot sun and practical tips on cooking pumpkin fritters and soaking salt fish overnight to more intimate advice on personal hygiene.