Jana Evans Braziel, Assistant Professor
229B Mc Micken Hall
Department of English and Comparative Literature
University of Cincinnati
Cincinnati, OH 45221-0069
Office # (513) 556-0834
Fax # (513) 556-5960
Questions -- Kincaid's Annie John
Examine the preoccupation with death in "Figures in the Distance," the first chapter of Annie John. Why is the girl obsessed with death and loss? How does she acquire knowledge about death, and why does she have an almost insatiable desire to "know"?
Compare the characters "Red Girl" and Gwen. What similarities exist between each girl and Annie John? differences? How does each play the role of "mother substitute" for Annie John? Why?
Discuss Kincaid's double critique of the forces of colonialism and patriarchy in the chapter, "Columbus in Chains." How are these two systems interconnected in this chapter? What is Kincaid revealing about the nature of power? Examine how this "power" exists even in the hierarchical teacher-pupil dynamic in this chapter; in the mother-daughter dynamic; the father-daughter dynamic.
Compare Kincaid's description of her motherís leaving of Dominica (19-20) with her own departure at the end of Annie John (145-48). Relate these scenes to her own "autobiographical essay" about her mother (43-44) and her dream about "Red Girl" (70-71). How is water important in these passages? Are there any parallel scenes from the short stories in At the Bottom of the River? What do these passages reveal about alienation and loss?
What connections are made between "mother" and "motherland"? When Annie John departs is she leaving her mother or Antigua? or both?
Analyze the importance of water and land in Annie John. Consider: the ritualistic "obeah" baths with her mother (14-15); the illness and the long rain (112-13); the sea (an important symbol throughout the novel, but especially on 43-44 and 70-71); the pictures which are saturated with fluid (118-20). Is water a positive symbol or a negative one? or more complexly, an ambiguous symbol in the work? Explain your response.
Discuss the mother-daughter relationships in Annie John. Would you consider these relationships to be a mother-daughter romance or anti-romance? Consider all of the following: Annie John's feelings and actions toward her mother, Annie; Annie's feelings and actions toward Annie John; the relationship between Annie (the mother) and Ma Chess; and the relationship between Annie John and Ma Chess. Compare and contrast the three generations of women.
How does Kincaid characterize the father in Annie John? Is he a major or minor character? Is he delineated positively or negatively? What is the significance of his trade? Does he play a pivotal role in Annie John's feelings toward her mother? Explain.
Jamaica Kincaid has three younger brothers, the first of whom was born when she was nine years old. The youngest brother recently died of AIDS and is the focus of her latest memoir My Brother. Given that Annie John is an autobiographical novel, do you think the absence of siblings is significant?
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