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273 Colonialism’s Impact on Mothering: Jamaica Kincaid’s Rendering of the Mother– Daughter Split in Annie John | by nicole willey 17 Jamaica Kincaid’s Annie John speaks directly to the problems facing women, particularly Third World women of colour in their relationship to the state or the colonizer, and how that relationship affects their roles as mothers and daughters. The central conflict of this novel is the tension of the mother–daughter relationship. Annie John and her mother’s relationship is fraught with (largely rhetorical) violence because it cannot be separated from colonial discourse and violence. In Rhetoric of Motives, Kenneth Burke’s rhetorical theory concerning identification, particularly his ideas on “killing,” opens up the dynamics of their relationship and shows that, to use his terms, the novel is one with which readers all over the world are able to “identify” due to the mother–daughter relationship, but we are also “persuaded ” by the colonial discourse taking place throughout. This reading will provide more than just a rhetorical study; this novel will be read through the various lenses of feminist and African feminist theories, specifically those related to motherhood and voice. This reading of Annie John will show that when women are kept from self-definition due to the oppressions of race and class, it can become difficult or even impossible to pass on positive definitions of womanhood and motherhood to their daughters. However, when women (in this case, a daughter and grandmother) follow African feminist principles, it becomes clear that self-identification, naming, and “othermothering ” are ways to break the cycle of colonization. 274 nicole willey The 1998 printing by the Noonday Press of Annie John has a cover that boasts a review from The New York Times Book Review that reads, “So touching and familiar it could be happening to any of us … and that’s exactly the book’s strength, its wisdom, its truth.” I do not deny that the book is a productofcertainwisdom ,butIdoquestionthenotionofone“truth,”asdomost feminist and postcolonial critics. Why would a book written by a Caribbean author have such universal appeal? And why do Antigua and the political circumstances surrounding the novel become secondary to the “universally familiar and wrenchingly real” (book jacket) relationship between the daughter and mother?Diane Simmons makes note of commentaries that do not mention colonialism, the legacy of slavery, or institutionalized racism while discussing the book as having a “universal” theme (40). Annie John (1985) is the story of a young Antiguan girl’s coming of age, and the violent rupture and abrupt break from her mother and her colonial-subject status that must happen if she is ever going to be able to defineherself.JamaicaKincaidwasborninAntiguain1949.Sheisacolonial subject herself, so colonial themes make their presence known throughout the work. Richard Patteson names Kincaid a member of the “third wave” of Caribbean writers to reach an international audience (3). Rather than moving to England, as Annie does at the end of the novel, Kincaid moved to America at the age of 16, where she became an au pair; 14 years later she was hired on to the staff of The New Yorker. It wasn’t until 1983, though, with thepublicationofAttheBottomoftheRiver,thatKincaidbecamearecognized voice in American letters, and she has widely been acknowledged to be “one of the most important and provocative new voices in the current generation of Caribbean-born women authors” (Bouson 517). She is a prolific writer, who is still publishing works on Caribbean and other themes—family life and gardening, for instance—from her home in Vermont.1 Due to her origins and the concerns that are prevalent in Annie John, the mother–daughter relationship cannot simply be a universal one in this book—it is also a relationship that mirrors the relationship of the colonized subject to the colonizer. The mother represents not simply a generic authority from which Annie is trying to break free; in this case, the mother represents the authority of the Empire: “Mother and daughter are acknowledged enemies in a power struggle over Annie’s future and even her soul … for Annie’s relationship with her mother mirrors the relationship between colonized and colonizer” (Simmons 112). It seems that a truly complete reading will not occur until an African feminist lens is used to understand the novel. Gerise Herndon partially does this in her article “Anti-Colonialist and Womanist Discourse in the Works of Jamaica Kincaid and Simone Schwarz-Bart.” She does an excellent job of using knowledge of African 275 colonialism...


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