Analysis of the Relationships in Jamaica Kincaid’s Novel Annie John

July 4, 2022 by Essay Writer

In Jamaica Kincaid’s novel Annie John, Annie, a growing young adult, is a complex figure who struggles with the idea of separating from her mother. Throughout her childhood and early adolescence, Annie has always been reliant on and inseparable from her mother. The mother-daughter relationship gradually changes as she enters puberty. As Annie starts to distance herself from her mother, she first forms a friendship that becomes a source of love and support that has diminished at home, and later moves to a relationship that fosters an active rebellion against her mother’s rules.

When Annie’s mother-daughter relationship suffers, Gwen becomes a surrogate for the love and intimacy she previously enjoyed with her mother. She transfers all her devotion to Gwen as they create new memories together, “Gwen and I were soon inseparable. If you saw one, you saw the other. For me, each day began as I waited for Gwen to come by and fetch me for school. My heartbeat fast as I stood in the front yard of our house waiting to see Gwen as she rounded the bend in our street” (47, Kincaid). Annie is no longer anxious about separating from her mother.

Gwen is now her new partner, who handles her fears and secrets in the way Annie’s mother used to, “I told her that when I was younger I had been afraid of my mother’s dying, but that since I had met Gwen this didn’t matter so much” (51, Kincaid). By sharing secrets and spending time together, Annie becomes emotionally attached to Gwen, who fills the void created by the loss of Annie’s love for her mother. However, Annie eventually distances herself from Gwen due to her new relationship with the Red Girl.

The Red Girl is everything Annie John wishes to be and acts as a catalyst in Annie John’s rebellion for her mother. Knowing that her mother would never approve, Annie befriends a girl of a lower class and starts to a forbidden game of marbles. The Red Girl is a not conformed to the societal norm as she acts free and wild, and is seen as an outcast of society. Annie secretly meets the Red Girl, knowing that her mother and Gwen would feel betrayed and disapprove of their friendship, “And now I started a new series of betrayals of people and things I would have sworn only minutes before to die for. There was Gwyneth, whom I loved so, and who was my dearest friend in spite of the fact that she met with my mother’s complete approval” (59, Kincaid).

Unlike the Red girl, Gwen is the perfect friend in her mother’s vision. Annie, on the other hand, finds Gwen’s fresh uniform and “neatness of her just combed plaits” dull and uninteresting. In addition, Annie uses Red Girl as a replacement for her mother and a temporary escape from the strict rules that have taken over her life. Annie, refusing to grow up, makes one last effort to return to the paradise of youth. The relationship between the two girls is a symbol of Annie John’s desire for a free Antiguan culture, where the Red girl represents Antigua and freedom. While the Red Girl enables Annie to challenge the norm and her mother’s rules, she eventually moves away, leaving Annie conflicted and in pain with her mother.

Annie’s relationships with Gwen and Red girl both serve as replacements for feeling neglected by her mother. However, Annie admires and envies Red Girl’s freedom and her rebellious nature, while she finds Gwen dull and unsatisfying. The red girl, unlike Gwen, constantly seeks to test her limits and helps her forge a new identity. These replacements also reveal Annie’s initial inability to accept that she is a separate self; she is engaged in a hurtful cycle that continues due to her failing relationship with her mother. As Annie ages, she finds herself caught between love and hatred, which drives her to be both a good student and a disobedient child. The order of the story serves as Annie’s personal progression of growth, which reflects her increasing independence and sense of self as a young adult in society.


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