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The IUP Journal of English Studies :
Linguistic-Literary Camouflage in Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl”
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Oral tradition has been a very effective tool in the propagation of patriarchal ideology. Jamaica Kincaid turns this on its head when she shows in her “Girl” that the very same method can be used to instill ideas of subversion in girls who have traditionally been taught only subservience. The writer herself does this with her writing style as the narrative does not fit into any clear definitions. It is a text marked by deviations of style, language, and ideas. It shows how a woman staying in the private sphere that has been allocated to her by a misogynist society can still learn to fulfill her aspirations. What is important in this text is that the author does not call for outright rebellion but enunciates ways in which the hegemony of society can be thwarted while still living within its ambit, covertly. While doing so Kincaid seems to suggest that it is imperative that the same be taught to coming generations of women. A structural analysis of the text shows that the seemingly disjointed sentences and phrases are actually a well-thought-out narrative working as a call to arms.

 
 
 

A preliminary reading of “Girl” (Kincaid 1978) leaves the reader a little confused. Not only is it just a page long, but it is made up of a stream of instructions, unpunctuated, seemingly about innocuous activities of the routine life of a middle-class woman. Therein lies the genius of Kincaid. The simplicity of language, premise, and structure acts like a trick question. It demands a closer look and a deeper analysis of the text. The mother in this text epitomizes what Kristeva (1981) has to say about the term “woman”: “I think that the apparent coherence which the term ‘woman’ assumes in contemporary ideology, apart from its mass or shock effect for activist purposes, essentially has the negative effect of effacing the differences among the diverse functions or structures which operate beneath this word.” Kincaid creates a character who is not only a mother and a wife but also a rebel with a strong will to survive.

 
 

Journal of English Studies