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by Jamaica Kincaid

Analysis: Tough-o-Meter

We've got your back. With the Tough-O-Meter, you'll know whether to bring extra layers or Swiss army knives as you summit the literary mountain. (10 = Toughest)

(3) Base Camp

Context ruins everything. You could read girl without context and still get the basic idea. It's a girl listening to her mother's long list of advice. Okay. Gotcha. That’s first-level toughness. Then you have to bring in the autobiographical part of the text, plus the historical and cultural context. Then you have to analyze the structure and the word choice and the political implications. Oh, and how it fits in context with Kincaid's other works. Before you know it, you have a pretty big task on your hands trying to understand this teensy, tiny text.

So why a three? Well, we figure you need to do a bit more than skim the surface to get a good understanding of "Girl," but at the same time you don't need to camp out in the library looking up every detail. We mean, sure, go ahead if you want to because we think it's more fun that way (sue us, we're dorks), but we understand if there's a new episode of Big Brother that you'd rather watch. We'll still be here when you get back.

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