Jamaica Kincaid is the author of "Annie John."
The photograph on the book cover portrays an old school or church, with a little girl sitting as she peers out the window. I interpret this character in the photograph as an inquisitive child, determined to shine her own unique voice.
After reading a couple of excerpts, I expect a creative non-fiction story; Jamaica Kincaid does a very good job of convincing me this is truth when in fact, the story is fiction in short story form.
Annie John, the protagonist, narrates from a child’s voice chronologically, by events and age. For instance, the story begins with Annie John between the ages of ten and eleven. By the end, upon the departure by way of the “jetty”, Annie is seventeen years old. The order of events is depicted through the child’s discoveries and explorations, revealing purpose and resolve.
Time shifts illustrate through flashbacks, to give vital information, leading the reader towards present tense dialogue.
A couple of examples:
1. Annie John shares the significance of the chest under her bed, “When my mother, at sixteen, after quarreling with her father, left his house on Dominica and came to Antigua, she packed all her things in an enormous wooden trunk that she had about in Roseau for almost six shillings."
2. Annie John shares the death of her grandmother, “One morning, though, he overslept, because his grandmother didn’t wake him up. When he awoke, she was still lying next to him. When he tried to wake her, he couldn’t. She had died lying next to him...”
3. The introduction of Mineu, a boy Annie John plays with, “A long time ago, when we were little children, our mothers’ were best friends, and he and I use to play together.”
The story weaves developing stages of her life impacted by those she is closest to and in harmony with, including the community she calls home, Antigua. Those intimate relationships and experiences include family, events portrayed through exploratory and relational patterns, and a departure which becomes the complete ceremonious disconnection from her mother and Antigua; an almost complete cut of the umbilical cord (the lifeline, so she thinks, of her existence).
Annie John, in her anger, shows a radical attitude that the “going away” from her mother will be forever, “…unbeknownst to her, I have arranged to be permanent?”
Annie John always takes the reader back to her own reflection; the introspective girl who, in character, is depicted as an extrovert telling all the secrets and mysteries of her minds inner workings as it collides with the external world.
I like the book because it is an intimate portrait of a girl seemingly true and yet, the book is fiction. The pivotal moment for me is on page 132 – 133 when Annie John provides concretes of who she is, who her mother and father are, and her resolve to a maddening coming of age.
“My name is Annie John. I was born on the fifteenth of September, seventeen years ago, at Holberton Hospital, at five o’clock in the morning. My mother’s name is Annie also. My father’s name is Alexander, and he is thirty-five years older than my mother. Two of his children are four and six years older than she is. Looking at how sickly he has become and looking at the way my mother now has to run up and down for him, gathering the herbs and backs that he boils in water, which he drinks instead of the medicine the doctor has ordered for him, I plan not only never to marry an old man but certainly never to marry at all...”
As indicated in the above passage, Annie John finally finds her own independent identity. By letting go of the “little-girl” desires (interconnected to her mother), she becomes aware of who she wants to be that is different than the "little girl" she was.
There is a clear pattern of interest in females throughout the story, revealed through Annie’s three “girl” love interests: Sonia , Gweneth , and the Red Girl; a pattern that persuades me to believe Annie John felt safer with girl relationships.
Jamaica Kincaid supports this “love interest” by describing an incident (where Annie John shifts back in time), about a boy named, Mineu . In the end, Annie John discovers her own power of self respect and makes decision that Mineu is not a boy she would like to build a relationship with. Annie acknowledges her worth in this act. (There is a series of encounters in which Mineu places her in roles that are inferior to her potential, as they play.) Secondly, there is substantial evidence of Annie John telling the reader she has feelings for each girl, I mentioned above.
The book depicts the protagonist in great strife, showing the desires she carries in revelation to her struggles. These struggles are represented by innate resistance to womanhood, a self-defying resistance. There is an oddity of transformation happening which Annie John details in character as witness to the strangeness.
The point of view of the story is in first person, as a central narrator. The degree of distance seems to be a narrator as child, speaking to the reader through the internal discoveries she has in conversation with herself. The shape of the story patterns as an exposition; the internal conflict of young girl to puberty “undergoes complications involving force, blame, submission, and anger.”
Overall, Jamaica Kincaid uses indirect dialogue with an occasional direct dialogue. I felt a sense of completion with the story. (c) 2008, Madeline Gouin...Continua