The eternal question of complicate relations between children and parents has numerous discussions in fiction and scientific literature. Among numerous pieces of literature, Jamaica Kincaid’s novel Annie John deserves to be recognized as one, which deeply analyses the relations between mothers and daughters. Moreover, the theme of parenting experiences many changes through the entire story as the author considers not only the changes in views and reactions of the protagonist and her mother, but also the mediating role of the father in the mother-daughter conflicts. Consequently, it is essential to emphasize that, though mother-daughter relations are very often fundamental for the girl’s behavior, Kincaid in her novel showed that the child’s upbringing is highly dependent on the actions of both parents.
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In order to analyze the relationship of the main heroine Annie with her parents, it is important to pay attention to alteration in her thoughts through the chapters. On the early stages of Annie’s life, she felt much love, affection and warmth from her mother. The author described how much they loved each other. Kincaid described how Annie liked to observe her mother’s moves, enjoyed her laughing, was happy just to spend time together (Kincaid 22). The author managed to show the feelings of a pure childish love to the mother, being unified into one whole, which created the feeling of living in the paradise, through the reminiscences of Annie (Kincaid 23). Afterwards, Kincaid described the rebellion in the girl’s behavior. The first stage for these changes was the death of the girl (Kincaid 22). That situation has not only made Annie reflect on death and life, but also made her understand that her mother had her own, separated from Annie life. After that, having seen her mother making love with her father, she has made a decision that she would never permit her mother to kiss or touch her again (Kincaid 38). Since that time, Annie felt betrayed by her mother, who was connected to the world, which was entirely strange to Annie. Consequently, she evoked numerous conflicts and arguments with her mother. Although the requests of her mother were warm and soft, the rebellious behavior of the main heroine has not calmed down until she was finally sent to England. A reader can trace how strong the emotional band of a daughter with the mother was at the beginning, and how it was broken. This break of the intense emotional connection can be regarded as a key factor, which determined the behavior of the protagonist. However, the abovementioned facts were only the slight motives for Annie’s actions. In reality, comprehension that she could not be unified whole with her mother anymore, the protagonist’s anger and revolt was as an inherent part of the girl’s growing up. Furthermore, love and hatred to the mother in such age is not merely a specific fictional phenomenon, but a general psychological trend, to which numerous experts referred in their works.
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Regarding the psychoanalytic studies of Nancy Chodorow, it is essential to highlight that Annie John’s story matches her pattern of the absolute dependence of a child in a primary love relationship (Timothy 233). The main heroine Annie idealized her mother and was fully dependent on her until she came to perception that they should be two separate individualities. In accordance to Chodorow’s analysis, such rebellious behavior is common for the girls in the period of early adulthood as a reaction on the loss of close emotional connection and fear to accept the fact of becoming a separate individual; she called this stage “a rejection”. The separation is unavoidable and very important for the daughter’s future, even for her further intimate relations; such cyclical model of passing the experience “perpetuates the experience of the world” (Timothy 234). The struggle to separate from the mother, is particularly difficult for a girl, it is equal to denial of some part of the self.
Some other interesting views, which are worth attention, were offered by Adrienne Rich, who also regarded the connection between mother and daughter as “essential, distorted, misused” (cited in Hirsh 200). She regarded a mother and a daughter as two similar bodies, which are connected by a specific energy predetermining the tight bond between them. Therefore, the novel Annie John is a story, which is focused on the separation of the two bodies and further changeable and contradictory actions of the protagonist. However, the female experiences in the society “are shaped by male expectations” (Hirsh 201).
Though the same gender of a mother and daughter is a highly important factor, the father’s role in the dynamics of mother-daughter relationships is not less influential.
In Kincaid’s novel, the character of a father is a minor one, but he plays a leading role in soothing the conflicts and as a peacemaker between two women in his family. When talking about the relationship with her mother, Annie referred her father to those peoples, who, unfortunately, had “no one to love them so” (Kincaid 23). Nevertheless, later, his behavior became helpful by avoiding the conflicts. Annie and mother tried not to argue in his presence, he lifted their spirits, when they were upset about their arguments.
The father’s role in mother-daughter relations was also analyzed in psychological studies. As Freud viewed adolescence as the individuation process, when the individuals rush for autonomy, he regarded the role of father as interfering into the child’s symbiosis with the mother in order to contribute its separation (Roni 2). Jacques Lacan claimed that the father’s appearance forced the child to learn to suppress the desire for the mother (Roni 3).
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To sum it up, one can see that the novel Annie John rises a serious psychological issue of the child’s growing up and devotion to parents, namely of a daughter to mother. The story of early adolescence of the protagonist is common among teenagers and is confirmed by numerous psychological studies. Regarding the above mentioned studies, it is significant to highlight not only the fundamental mother’s role in children’s upbringing, but also the role of the father, who should be helpful by separating two personalities in the given period of girl’s life. Therefore, Annie John is not just a novel, which reveals the life and traditions of the Caribbean dwellers, but is a developed psychological study, which portrays the life and psychological state of average representatives not only of Annie’s age, but also of two parents, who love their child.