Analysis: What Have I Been Doing Lately
The story What I Have Been Doing Lately, which was written and narrated by Jamaica Kincaid, reflects all her ideas, thoughts, and possibly, experiences. Although the author never gave information regarding the age, name, gender, and race of the main character, it was relatively clear that she was referring to a woman or even herself. Probably the best evidence that shows that the character is a female, is the author’s description of her small shadow, which is the normal characteristic height of a female. However, this lack of description of the identity of the main character leaves a lot of interpretations to readers.
Basically, the author used a writing style or narration style that can be attributed to an endless river flow as her ideas and thoughts were uninterrupted. There was no outside intervention in the story, only her pure thoughts. Moreover, she conveyed her messages without using any dialogue or observation. All her word associations, feelings, possible experiences, and even memories, were combined into one endless and uninterrupted narration.
The repetition of the actual events of the story can be attributed to a transformation. At first glance, from the reader’s point of view, the story actually begins after the author gets up from bed and answers the door bell the second time. This can also mean that the author merely repeated the events of the story. However, the fact that she went back to bed twice even after being there at the start of the story suggests that she is trying to repeat certain events to form one single reality or idea. The repetition also conveys that the author is gathering all the pieces that she has or reviewing every detail so she can come up with one solid idea, solution, or answer to the question, “what have been doing lately,” which the other character asked and eventually led to her narration of the series of events that took place. In recalling every detail about what she has done lately, the author or character comes up with a new form, although still consisting of the components from her previous recollection. This new form can be attributed to what the author perceives is real.
In this connection, the character’s repetition of actions and events or recollection of detail also shows a transition from a dream or a fantasy to reality. In her first narration, the author did not know nor explain what was really happening. First she saw the planet Venus and wondered whether or not it was morning already. Next, she saw a monkey but did not interact with it directly. She also wanted to cross river but she doesn’t have a boat to use. However, after several years, she mysteriously possesses a boat and is able to cross the river. The things she saw on the other side of the river were blurred and she recalls that when she turned around to see what she left behind “nothing was familiar.” Moreover, she narrated that she could touch the clouds. Finally, she went down a hole which she didn’t know where it would lead to but decided to reverse her fall and went back to bed. The events that took place in the first narration were things that could only happen in a dream.
However, on the author’s second narration, she perceived things more clearly and more real. When she saw the planet Venus, she had a more concrete idea about time it was. Similarly, she threw a stone at a monkey, who threw the stone back, leaving a wound on her forehead. Furthermore, she paid for a fare to use a boat, which previously appeared out of nowhere in her first narration. On the other side of the river, she initially thought there were people there, but when she got closer, all she saw and felt was mud. Clearly, the events that took place in the second narration were in fact, realities. In the second narration, everything was generally more conceivable than in the first. Moreover, the black hole which she willingly fell into was another evidence of a transformation. Although she didn’t know where the hole lead to, she still jumped in, which is a sign that she was innocent and still not knowledgeable of the realities in life. After some time however, she decided to go back and reverse her fall, which basically meant that she already knew and was ready to face reality.