Study Guide

Annie John Trunk

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Originally brought over from Dominica (Annie's mother's home) this yellow and green wooden trunk contains mementos from the entirety of Annie's life—from her baby clothes to special embroidered blankets that her mother made her. Annie's mother tells beautiful stories about her daughter using the items in this trunk as props.

Part of the significance of the trunk in the novel is how many times the story of the trunk is repeated. It is first mentioned in Chapter 1 when we first learn the story of how and why Annie's mother leaves her family home for Antigua "after quarreling with her father" (1.9). In Chapter 6, "Somewhere, Belgium," Annie remembers:

It was the trunk that my mother had bought when she was sixteen years old—a year older than I was now—and in which she had packed all her things and left not only her parents' house in Dominica but Dominica itself for Antigua. (6.27)

The trunk is both a warm reminder of home and a suffocating representation of her mother's conditional love for her. Her mother puts away things that she wants to remember about Annie's life, which makes Annie feel as though her life were in her mother's hands. She is denied agency over her own life story as long as she lives within spitting distance of this trunk.

Inside this trunk now were the things, all of them, that had been a part of my life at every stage, and if someone had come upon it without having an inkling of what my life had really been like, they would have got a pretty good idea. (6.27)

At this moment, when Annie is fifteen years old, the trunk signifies the possibility of liberation and she asks her father to make her "own trunk" (6.31). After all, her mother was only one year older when she boldly left her family home and moved away. Once Annie has asked her father to build her her own trunk, we know that Annie is not long for Antigua.

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