, Research Paper
Jamaica Kincaid: the Picasso of Literature
“Far out, to the horizon, the colour of the water is navy-blue; nearer, the water is the colour of the North American sky . . . the water is pale, silvery, clear, so clear . . .” Kincaid, A Small Place
This tropical heaven of the Carribean island Antigua serves as a physical and symbolic backdrop for the “paradise turned hell.” Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid. is not a book which will appeal to younger reader’s. They will not be able to sort through the layers, and see through the simplicity of the text. An advanced reader will appreciate this rich and deep novel, accented by the element of subtlety imposed by Kincaid.
The novel unfolds as Annie comes to the realization that she and her mother are growing apart. The crumbling relationship unfolds in eight distinctive episodes, leading to Annie’s departure from Antigua. In its distinct setting, and accurate portrayal of the tribulations of adolescence, Annie John is a novel all women will enjoy.
Kincaid grew up on the Island of Antigua, and left as Annie did when she was sixteen. A novel claimed by critics to be autobiographical is partially denied by Kincaid: ” The feelings in it are autobiographical” says Kincaid in an interview with Cudjoe. The novel comes across an honest portrayal of girl breaking free from her mother and the culture she doesn’t fit into. The sincere empathy Kincaid has for Annie is apparent throughout the book.
Overlapping elements, such as details used to explain a bigger meaning, are a prominent and effective device used by Kincaid. The entire book is set up in mini episodes, and a single experience may be thoroughly described for several pages. For example, every physical aspect is used to explain the rebellious and intense nature of a character coined “The Red Girl.” Kincaid describes her hair, her “big red moon” face, her shabby clothes, and bad hygiene. These meticulous points are what displays the girls nature and her appeal to Annie.
Many literary elements in the book achieve the same effect. When Annie is very sick, the tone is used as a symbol for how gray and sick she feels. The marbles Annie hides to defy her mother are an important symbol, and the description of the marbles contains effective imagery that adds to the symbolism. This melting of elements is part of the depth Kincaid achieves.
The simplicity of the scenes in Annie John completes the depth. Kincaid does not hide the meaning, she leaves it unsaid. This allows the reader to feel personally involved while contemplating the significance. Annie John will take you back to your adolescent years, and if you’re experiencing it right now, it will make you examine your coming-of-age more closely.
This book is recommended for all mothers and daughters. If anything else, it will help both appreciate their relationship. The connection between Annie and her mom takes on two opposite spectrums. Though most mother’s and daughter’s won’t identify with either the absolute adoration or the blind hatred between the two, it is a novel mothers and daughters can relate to. It will also reveal aspects that both mother and daughter did not recognize of their own relationships. For this reason, this book is more appropriate for women that for men. Men will have a hard time identifying with Annie, because the two genders have different and contrasting feeling’s and experience’s during their adolescence.
The picture of Antigua adds character to Kincaid’s novel. Her descriptions and back flashes to experiences on the island create color in the book. The honesty and bluntness Kincaid uses to explain the beautiful and strange aspects of the culture carries over into the character of Annie ( again the layering of concepts). Kincaid is straightforward when presenting Annie. Whether speaking of her obsession with death, the betrayal of Annie to her best friend Gwen, or her hatred towards her mother, Kincaid is always blunt and honest in her portrayal. She captivates her audience by her accurate and candid portrait of adolescence.
In summary, Kincaid’s novel is a masterpiece. It has the depth, texture, and color of a Picasso, and is then melded into art through the simplicity of the text, and the depth behind it. Readers will be personally drawn into the novel, because the authentic depiction of adolescence. This novel will speak loudly to anyone who has felt unaccepted in some aspect of their life.