Tai Harris's Reviews > Annie John

Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid
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Oct 04, 11

Read from September 15 to 25, 2011

Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid. Farrar, Straus and Girout, New York, 1985.

Jamaica Kincaid creates a touching yet provocative coming of age story about the complexities of a daughter’s relationship with her mother. Annie John is introduced to the reader as a cunning 10 year-old who lives for the approval of her parents and the loving connection to her mother until that relationship is challenged. Annie John’s rite of passage through adolescence is bitter sweet. She does not welcome the new expectations her mother has demanded of her in representing herself as a young lady. This demand is the first insight into Annie’s feelings of betrayal by her mother. “In the end I got my dress with the men playing their pianos and my hibiscus, but I was never able to wear my own dress or see my mother in hers without feeling bitterness and hatred, directed not so much toward my mother as toward, I, suppose, life in general”(Kincaid 26). Kincaid uses something as simple as a pattern on a dress to illustrate Annie’s need to remain childlike in her mother’s eyes.

Kincaid timelines Annie’s journey through adolescence with a series of events that changes her perception of life and love for her mother. Another significant event is the ritual of going through the contents of a truck that marked Annie’s life from birth. She lived for the stories her mother told of her as a baby and toddler with each garment removed from the truck. When she was told that they would no longer bond over the contents of the truck because she was at the age where she needed to transform into a young lady, her world shattered. She associated those stories and time spent with her mother as an act of love. “At times I would no longer hear what it was she was saying; I just liked to look at her mouth as it opened and closed over words, as she laughed. How terrible it must be for all the people who had no one to love them so and no one whom they loved so, I thought” ((Kincaid 23). The woman she admired, dressed liked and doted over was denying her of the things that comforted her as a child and represented love. Annie saw this act as her mother’s ultimate betrayal and no longer saw her mother in the same light. “

Her growth is also marked by the feelings of love for another person other than her parents. Kincaid displays through the character of Gwen, Annie’s longing for the closeness of another female since the damaged bond with her mother. She is the outlet Annie desires, for that time, to fill the void. As time goes on, she grew out of that longing. Gwen’s presence was no longer needed and yet another indication of her growth and change. “Gwen and I walked home from school in the usual way and did the usual things, but just the sight of her was no longer a thrill to me” (Kincaid 91).

Kincaid creates a well-rounded character which allows the reader to feel emotion for. As the reader, we sympathize with Annie throughout her journey of growing up. It is representative of our own journey and because of that fact the story of “Annie John” can be anyone’s story. Kincaid does an incredible job in capturing the inevitable transformation of a child into young adulthood. She creates a story everyone can relate to; the poignant moment when we realize we are not viewed as a child. Annie’s rebellion to change began the moment her mother acknowledged her growth.
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