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Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid

The texts, Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid and Harriet’s Daughter by Marlene Philip, focus on the changing roles of women in society in a traditionally male-dominated society, and how each generation reacts differently to these changes. In both texts, both Annie John senior and Tina Cruickshank play the traditional, lady-wife-mother-housewife role, in that they organize their lives around the home and family.In Annie John, mother and daughter have undertaken different approaches to the expectations of women. Annie senior has continued in the tradition in which she was raised, in that she is subject to the male head of the family. Unlike Carol Clarke in Harriet’s Daughter, she is not subservient to her husband, but there is an unquestioning reference to her husband in all of her activities and never shows any inclination or wish to change or desire for independence from her husband. Here, the husband is the sole breadwinner and provider for the family and the mother is a happy home-maker.From an early age, Annie is prepared for her role as housewife by being sent on errands and going shopping with her mother. However, Kincaid prepares us for the independence of thought and for the different attitudes in the young Annie through her interest in books and her determination to choose friends who she knows do not conform to her mother’s rules.Annie represents a younger generation who will change the conventional attitude to the roles accepted by and given to women, but Kincaid makes it clear that not all women will make this change. Gwen, Annie’s age-mate, finds no problem in continuing the traditional roles. She accepts her father’s rulings, believes that Rowan’s attention is the best compliment Annie could receive and is eager to get married and assume the responsibilities of wife and mother.However, there are also some women of the older generation who do not meet the approval of the community because they break the laws of social acceptability. There are women like Nalda’s mother who dresses ‘unbecoming’, the Red girl’s mother who keeps her daughter ‘so dirty’ and Miss Catherine who is disliked because she is childless and keeps house for two men.To an even greater extent, there is Ma Chess who is a determined, eccentric and unconventional woman who never bathes in plain water and soap, refuses to speak to her husband since her son’s death.Like Annie John, in the novel Harriet’s Daughter, both Tina Cruickshank and Carol Clarke have married men of the Caribbean. Like the previous novel, these men’s attitudes towards their wives reflect a traditional pattern of male-dominated households, for example, when Mr. Clarke says, “women have to know their place.” In such households, women must stay at home and look after the children but, should they work, their money is given to their husbands. The is similar to Annie John which suggests that the world of marriage and career do not go together, for example all of Annie’s female teachers are unmarried.In both households, both husbands believe that they have the right to control their wives’ lives and behaviors; whereas Cuthbert Cruickshank uses bullying tactics, Mr. Clarke uses violence as a means of control. Whereas Carol Clarke exemplifies the stereotypical female who returns to an abusive household because of fear or that she has nowhere else to go, Tina appears to be a more independent woman and resists her husbands domination in several ways for example, ironing in the kitchen and getting a part-time job.Her own ideas and expectations of a woman’s behaviour are traditional, e.g., her treatment of Jo-Ann, however, Margaret’s actions and behaviour are different and force Tina to question her role as a wife and mother and her rights as a woman. However, unlike Annie’s mother who maintains her character throughout the novel, it is Tina’s increased understanding of her daughter’s needs and her own needs that brings about a confrontation with her husband and a change in her attitude.To an even greater extreme than Tina Cruickshank, Mr. Billings offers a contrasting picture of a marriage where the woman has retained her independence and, although she calls her husband, “one big child”, she also recognizes that “he is a gem”. It is a marriage which appears to allow greater freedom for the two people in it to enjoy their lives independently.In conclusion, both Margaret and Annie reject their mothers as role models. Harriet’s interest in Harriet Blewchamp, Mata Hari and Angela Davis and her attempt to recreate herself as Harriet Tubman as well as Annie’s interest in Charlotte Bront�, her desire to become an author and he need to move as far away from her family as possible all show them searching for roles that will challenge the constraints and conventional expectations. Mrs. Billings, Zulma’s gran and Ma Chess offer them some alternative, but they need to find their own identity. Highly intelligent, they are determined to be recognized for what they do and not be defined in term of their relationship to a family.*NB* = Both girls emasculate themselves by dressing in eccentric fashion in an even further attempt to separate themselves from the traditional expectations of how a woman should be attired.

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