Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid
After reading this novel . . . . I was left wondering who was more at fault, Annie's mom or Annie, in their constant fighting. Annie's mom seemed to start most of the arguments, but Annie would further anger her mom by lying, stealing and sneaking around. Was the fighting completely initiated by her mom or was some of it Annie's fault as well? I felt that Annie's mom had trouble dealing with Annie growing up and that is why the separation between them developed. Maybe if Annie's mom hadn't distanced herself from Annie, adolescence would have been an easier time for Annie.
I think that in the story, Annie John, and in real life, Jamaica Kincaid, were forced to grow up to be stronger women as a result of the way they were brought up.
Jamaica Kincaid describes many graphic and often disturbing images. For example, the awkward image of her parents in bed together, the harmful treatment of the Red Girl, the wonder[ing if she had enough] courage to kill her mother, the description of her reaching puberty, the degradation of her mother calling her a "slut," are all sharp and stinging descriptions.
When her mother tells her she needs to become her own person, Annie is both helped and hurt. Annie does not want to let go of her mother so change is very difficult. She, however, grows as a person and becomes independent because of the push that her mother gives her. Her success in school is likely to be the result of this action.
Annie, even in her dreams, has a huge fear of losing her mother. When she first tells her mother about the feelings she had while on the rock her mother hugs her and promises her they will never be apart. But as time goes on, her mother's reaction changes. When Annie tells her mother of her dream, her mother turns her back on her as if she does not care. Throughout the rest of the story we see Annie turn to writing to make up for her loss.
The first chapter of Annie John opens with Annie's obsession with the death of others, and now, at the end, she writes of her "death" as she prepares to leave to England.
As I read throught the last chapter of Annie John, I realized the striking similarity between my life and hers. "'My name is Annie John.' These were the first words that came into my mind as I woke up on the morning of the last day I spent in Antigua, and they stayed there, lined up one behind the other, marching up and down, for I don't know how long" (p. 130). These words from Annie parallel words that I mentioned to myself on the day that I woke up and had to come to Brandeis University. I believe that it is a safety mechanism that she and I used to make ourselves sure that we are still who we always were; the only change is that we are moving on to the next stage of our lives.
Her mother now sees Annie John as a peer, and thus threatening to her as another woman. Her mother is [also] the focal point of the natural rebellion and teen angst that each adolescent goes through.
Writing is a release in many ways. Some write to understand their thoughts and emotions, while others write because of a need to express those thoughts and emotions. I write to voice what I can't say out loud. Jamaica Kincaid's novel Annie John is a combination of all of these.