The Bond is Broken: Jamaica Kincaid accurately portrays how adolescence can strain mother- daughter The mother- daughter relationships are universal but “it is not clear why
we avoid the topic”(Gerd). The father- daughter relationships and the mother- sons
relationships are the issues mostly talked about. In Jamaica Kincaid’s novel, Annie John,
she explains and gives insight into mother- daughter relationships. In Annie John, there
are events that make people think about their relationship with their own mother.
Kincaid expresses this relationship through her main character Annie who tries to
find her own identity. The relationship between Annie and her mother (also called Annie)
was very strong and they do a lot of things together. By the time Annie turns twelve, she starts to go through some changes which many teenagers normally goes through. In order for Annie to mature and prepare for the world, Annie’s mother told her to find her own way of life. Due to these new changes, the relationship between Annie and her mother begins to degenerate. Annie now did things her mother disapproved of. At the end of the story, their relationship was okay but not as strong as it was before. After reading this book I saw that the main issue discussed in her novel, is all the stages mother- daughter relationships go through.
The mother- daughter relationships are intense relationships. This is a relationship most daughters have with their mother from birth. Both male and female children are attached to their mother from birth, but most male child quickly grows out of it. The daughter is so attached to the mother in a complex way in which the daughter does not have her own identity. The daughter experiences the world through her mother. In the novel, Annie did many things with her mother and look into the world through her mother.
With all this, Annie wouldn’t know what the world would be like with out her mother.
Frances A. Nadeau, who wrote an article on the mother- daughter relationship, said
“Understanding [this] relationship is critical to young adult girls because daughters
bond with their mothers in a complex, interdependent association that often inhibits
a daughter from establishing her own identity.” Different people might describe this relationship in different ways but one common theme they have is that the daughter cannot do any thing without the mother and she also has her mothers’ image. In the novel, Annie and her mother were almost the same. They wore dresses cut from the same cloth; they went shopping together; and they even took bath together. She did many things with her mother and even wears the same cloth. Annie was like a little mirror of her mother. As the relationship gets to different stage in life it changes. For instance, the relationship you have with your mother when you are a child is different from the one you have during adolescence and it’s also different when you are a mother yourself. But the most difficult stage is during adolescence.
Adolescence is a difficult stage for both the mothers and daughters. Recent studies
show that “adolescence [is] regarded as a time of “storm and stress”, and solely attributed
to the momentous physical and psychological changes that take place” (Marisela, Laura).
Adolescence is a period in which the daughter goes through many physical and emotional changes. It is an interesting but also painful stage for the daughter. When the daughter is between the age twelve and thirteen the daughter might want to be independent or
sometimes the mother tells the daughter it is time for her to find her own way of life. In the novel, Annie’s mother told her when it was time for her to become independent. Making this decision is very hard for the daughter because she didn’t know what the world would be like without her mother with her.
Annie and her mother did a lot of things together and have a very close relationship. On a particular day, Annie and her mother wanted to buy clothes. Then, Annie saw an outfit she liked so she told her mother to buy it with the intention that her mother was going to buy the same one for herself. Annie’s mother replied to her saying, “You can’t go around the rest of your life looking like a little me” (Kincaid 26). Annie was in shock hearing this and she “felt the earth swept away from under [her] …” (Kincaid 26). This responses shows how the daughters will feel when their mothers tell them it is time for them to change. Two studies, Flax in 1978 and Fisher in 1986, show that during this stage of adolescence daughters often have negative attitudes toward their mother (Frances). In the novel, Annie plays marbles and has a friend her mother disapproves of (Kincaid). In the real world, teenage daughters wouldn’t follow their mother’s rules, take drug or alcohol, and even have less concentration in school. With all these problems the relationship between the mother and daughter will not always be on a smooth terms as it was when they did things together.
Research shows that daughters have to let go and begin to do things in their own way and know what the world is like in order for them to gain their own identities (Chesapeake Health). Even though it is good for the daughter to separate from the mother, it still greatly affects her physically and psychologically. In a situation where the daughters do a lot of things with their mothers from birth, it will be a break down for her now that her mother told her she has to find her own way of life. Adolescence is a stage of depression for the daughter and she needs all the help she can for her to get through it. Many daughters are not ready to go through all the changes that occur during adolescence. Darren Felty pointed out that:
In the novel, Annie John, when Annie’s mother saw that Annie was growing
into adulthood [she] forced Annie to move beyond their close relationship,
[and] to begin the process of becoming independent. Yet Annie is not
prepared for such a sudden transition and what it implies about her future.
Confused over her bodily changes and in need of reassurance, [Annie]
instead finds betrayal in her mother’s eye.
Analyzing this quote tell us that Annie will be depressed with the new transition she is
going through and with the issue of finding her identity. Physically, when Annie sees
her mother, her feelings remain intense but they are twisted toward anger, hatred and
mistrust (Felty 35). “ Annie has not arrived at [the] stage of having any [separated] self
from her mother and therefore has difficulties taking on the task of acquiring social and
psychological know- how to help her deal with life and relationships, especially the relationship she has with her mother” (Horst 1). In Martha Horst’s article, she explained some psychological aspect on why parent initiated separation could be so difficult on the child:
In the phase ... labeled ‘latency’ - which is usually dated from ages seven- to-
ten- we leave the benevolent fortress of family life. Our job as a latency kid
is to acquire the social and psychological know- how without which we can
not manage this new separation, these new losses. ... But unless we have
arrived at latency having established a separate self ... we will have trouble
taking on these tasks.
The daughter being depressed begins to have desperate hopes in replacing the relationship she had with her mother. Some daughters might replace the relationship with a friend who listen to them and share their feelings and others might use just things that are precious to them. In Annie’s case she fine a friend (named Gwen) in her new school, which she substituted for the close bond she formerly shared with her mother (Nagel 3). As time goes on, the daughters will be able to deal with their problems and eventually start gaining their identity.
Based on researches and reading critics on the novel, I concluded that mother-
daughter relationship and how adolescence put a strain on it is accurately portrayed in the
novel. Generally speaking, this is a relationship most daughters have with their mothers
and it is known that it goes through difficulty during adolescence. Louis F. Caton stated
that, “ Even though reviewers differed in regard to the novel’s political, cultural, and ideogical themes, a clear majority of them agreed on the central importance of Kincaid’s conflictual presentation of the mother- daughter relationship.” Kincaid also wrote the novel in a psychological interpretation way. Roni Natov simple stated that Annie John is a fully developed psychological study (Louis 1). The novel did an excellent job in exploring the relationship between a mother and her rapidly maturing daughter (Phyllis). One more point I will like to point out is that the novel, is sort of an autobiography of Jamaica Kincaid. This simply means that the book is about something that apply to someone in the real world and it can also happen to anyone, any place by any time.
In conclusion, mother- daughter relationships are complex. All daughters have this
relationship with their mother. As the daughter starts growing into adolescence the
relationship begins to strain. The adolescent period is a difficult period for both the
mothers and daughter, and there will be some changes that will occur. Studies show that
it will have to take separation for the daughter to get her own identity. In the novel, Annie
John, Jamaica Kincaid accurately depicts how adolescence put a strain on mother-
daughter relationship. One more thing is that no matter how the relationship might be
between the mother and daughter, they will still be attach to each other somehow.
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