Jamaica Kincaid’s Girl and Boys and Girls by Alice Munro Analysis

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            Perspective in telling a story is important since the story, as a whole, will be read and understood by the readers according to the perspective of the person narrating it. Jamaica Kincaid’s Girl and Alice Munro’s Boys and Girls are two stories about a girl experiencing a conflict as she leaves her childhood and enters her adulthood. However, these two stories were presented in different plots and at the same time, narrated differently.

            Girl, on one hand, is all about a conversation between a mother and her daughter illustrated in a long narrative with only one sentence from the beginning until the end. It was clearly presented that the narrator of the story is the mother herself since she does all the talking. The story started with the words of the mother saying, “Wash the white clothes on Monday and put them on the stone heap; wash the color clothes on Tuesday and put them on the clothesline to dry…” The mother continues in telling her daughter her different orders as the story progressed until the story reached its ending. The story ended with the mother still talking and telling her daughter, “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?”

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            In the story, Girl, only the perspective of the mother is being presented since she is the one narrating the story. The perspective of the daughter is then unknown to the readers. Considering the fact that if the story was narrated by the daughter herself, then a different point of view and a different story angle may be presented to the readers. The story may have revolved around how the daughter feels about the different orders and instructions that her mother constantly reminds her, as well as, how she feels whenever her mother tells her, “prevent yourself from looking like the slut I know you are so bent on becoming.” Moreover, Girl may be presented in a different perspective if the story was narrated by someone else, like a relative or family member of the mother and the daughter, a friend of the mother or the daughter, a neighbor, or an unidentified narrator who is not present inside the story.

            The story, Girl, however lacks plot since plot is defined as a series of incidents or events connected together by causality. According to the article Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl”: A Marxist Reading, “By paying close attention to the various fields in the mother’s monologue in “Girl,” we

discover that, instead of developing a plot, her dictums develop an ideology that prescribes and

originates from labor (laundry, cooking, sewing, light farming, etc.).” Since the story is composed only of only one long sentence from start to finish, the absence of plot in Girl makes it a narrative without direction. The story, as a whole, consists only of the series of instructions and reminders that the mother is telling her daughter.

            Girl did not present anything about the description of the setting where the story took place. Moreover, the narrator did not also introduce other characters who may be included in the story aside from the mother and her daughter. Having this considered, it is apparent that the narrator’s perspective and the plot of the story are related to one another and they both influence the story. If Girl was narrated by a different person then this person may have described the setting of the story and the other characters involved in the story based on his/her perspective.

            Furthermore, the attitude that the narrator possesses also influences the story as a whole. Upon hearing the mother’s orders like, “don’t sing benna in Sunday school; you mustn’t speak to wharbfflies will follow you.” it is obvious that the mother is a strict and demanding mother. And when the mother said, “this is how to make a good medicine to throw away a child before it even becomes a child; this is how to catch a fish; this is how to throw back a fish you don’t like,” it is also clear that the mother is actually teaching her daughter how to have sexual relationships with different men without getting pregnant. Andrea Provost mentioned in her article, Traditionally Better?, “The mother’s reluctance to speak gently or even use the word “please” strongly suggests that the mother is in full and overwhelming control of her daughter.” It is then evident that the presentation of the story is influenced by the attitude that the narrator of the story holds.

            On the other hand, the narrator in the story Boys and Girls is the main character herself. Boys and Girls is a short story about a girl dealing with a society dictating her how to behave like a girl while she enjoys more being with her father and doing the things that her father does. This is evident with her lines at the start of the story. She says, “It seemed to me that work in the house was endless, dreary, and peculiarly depressing; work done out of doors, and in my father’s service, was ritualistically important.” The story then revolved on how the narrator experienced transformation in her life and how she finally accepted that she was destined to be a girl. Moreover, it was also described how the girl was exposed to the conflicts between femininity and masculinity.

            In Boys and Girls, the story was narrated in line with the perspective of the girl, who is the protagonist of the story. In short, the readers view the story more on the personal side of the girl such as her activities, her ideas, and her feelings. Only few lines in the story describes the personal feelings of the other characters like when the mother said, “I just get my back turned and she runs off. It’s not like I had a girl in the family at all.” This line shows the disappointment that the mother feels towards her daughter. However, this line was also delivered in the story through the narration and perspective of the narrator. And it is evident with the lines that the narrator mentioned after her mother’s words. While referring to her mother, she uttered, “She loved me, and she sat up late at night making a dress of the difficult style I wanted, for me to wear when school started, but she was also my enemy. She was always plotting. She was plotting now to get me to stay in the house more, although she knew I hated it (because she knew I hated it) and keep me from working for my father.” The girl’s perspective is obviously presented in these lines.

            Considering that if the narrator of the story is not the girl- perhaps her brother Laird, her mother, her father or someone else, the presentation of the story may have changed based on the perspective of the person narrating it, like if her brother, Laird, narrated the story, the story may be illustrated more about him such as his activities, his dreams, etc. Or if the story was narrated by the mother or the father, the story may have focused on the everyday life of the parent himsef/herself, his/her feelings towards how his/her daughter behaves and his/her dreams about their family. Same thing if some else made the narration of the story; it will be more sided and biased on the perspective of the one narrating it.

            Moreover, the plot of the story may have changed if someone else narrated the story since it will be influenced by the person narrating it. The beginning and ending, as well as the presentation of events in the story, may have changed. This proves that the perspective of the narrator influences the plot of the story.

The girl in the story narrated how she experienced realization and how she undergone transformation. However, according to Marlene Goldman in her article, Penning in the bodies: The Construction of gendered subjects in Alice Munro’s Boys and Girls, “like the hostile foxes, who even after death continue to exude a strong primitive odour “of the fox itself”, the narrator’s identity has not been completely fixed by an ideology which accords her a role and set of behaviour on the basis of her sex.”

“Instead of shutting the gate, I opened it as wide as I could. I did not make any decision to do this, it was just what I did. Flora never slowed down; she galloped straight past me” With these lines of the girl, it is apparent that the story’s narrator affects the description of places and characters in the story. Moreover, the attitude and perspective of the narrator influence the whole story. Since the story was narrated by the girl, she describes everything in the story according to her personal perspective and her attitude. Nevertheless, the readers understand the story based on the description of the narrator.

The two stories, Girl and Boys and Girls, are clear examples that show the significance of perspective in narrating a story. Both stories also prove that the narrator’s perspective and the story’s plot influence each other. A story will have different plot if it was narrated by a different person since every person has different perspectives. Moreover, aside from the narrator’s perspective, the attitude the that narrator possesses also affects the story since both factors influences how the elements inside the story will be described such as the characters, the settings, the events, and many others.
Works Cited

Girl. April 9, 2008. Turk’s Head Review. 16 April 2008.             <http://www.turksheadreview.com/library/texts/kincaid-girl.html>

Papers on Jamaica Kincaid’s Girl and similar term paper topics. 2008. AcaDemon Term Papers & Essays. 16 April 2008. <http://www.academon.com/lib/paper/1694.html>
Girl Summary / Detailed Summary. 2006. Lit Sum Literature Summaries. 16 April 2008.             <http://litsum.com/girl/>

Traditionally Better?. Provost, Andrea. 2008. Faculty Staff. 16 April 2008.             <http://facultystaff.vwc.edu/~cbellamy/Dream%20Child/Kincaid-%20Provost.htm>

Boys and Girls. 5 June 1998. Women in Literature. 16 April 2008.             <http://members.tripod.com/~womeninlit/alicemunro.htm>

Everything2. 16 April 2008. Everything Development Company. 16 April 2008.             <http://everything2.com/title/boys%2520and%2520girls>

Boys and Girls. 2004. Wow Essays. 16 April 2008. <http://www.wowessays.com/dbase/aa5/mts156.shtml>

Hardships in Boys and Girls. 2007. 123HelpMe.com. 16 April 2008. <http://www.            123helpme.com/view.asp?id=5650>

Boys and Girls. 2008. eNotes.com. 16 April 2008. <http://www.enotes.com/boys-girls>

Penning in the Bodies: The Construction of Gendered Subjects in Alice Munro’s Boys and Girls. 2006. Studies in Canadian Literature. 16 April 2008. <http://www.lib.unb.ca/Texts/SCL/bin/get.cgi?directory=vol15_1/&filename=Goldman.htm>

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