Study Guide

Father in Annie John

By Jamaica Kincaid


Poor Daddy John gets the short end of the stick when it comes to Annie's affection:

When my eyes rested on my father, I didn't think very much of the way he looked. But when my eyes rested on my mother, I found her beautiful. Her head looked as if it should be on a sixpence. What a beautiful long neck, and long plaited hair, which she pinned up around the crown of her head because when her hair hung down it made her too hot. Her mouth, moving up and down as she ate and talked at the same time, was such a beautiful mouth I could have looked at it forever if I had to and not mind. (2.8)

Oof. We included the entirety of that quotes, not because it deals with Annie's father but because it so clearly doesn't. Mommy gets four sentences of high praise. Daddy gets one lukewarm sentence that essentially states "Dad? Meh."

It's not this guy's fault. He just doesn't quite rate. But who is this transparent, Mr. Cellophane character? He is a carpenter who constructs houses, furniture, the stone heap for his wife's washing, and works with apprentices and the hapless Mr. Oatie, who is an endless source of funny stories.

Daddy John's parents sailed for South America when he was a boy and left him in the care of his grandmother whom he was raised by, and he shared a bed with until she died in her sleep when he was eighteen years old. Despite his grief, he built her a coffin and then left the house, never to return. When the father tells this story to Annie, they cry together.

He's also a "famous batsman with a cricket team" and he often recounts exciting stories of "what he did on this island and the next as he toured the Windward and the Leeward Islands with his teammates" (6.4).

So he seems like a nice enough chap. Annie just doesn't think he's all that and a bag of chips. But in Mr. John's past apparently plenty of women thought just the opposite. The guy apparently dated, slept with, and impregnated a bunch of ladies before falling hard for Annie's mother and settling down. And Annie doesn't really mind—she doesn't seem to hate either the player or the game and mildly refers to these other women as "the women my father had loved a long time ago" (7.12).

The one time Mr. John plays a truly pivotal role in the storyline is when Annie falls ill. Father is a fan of Western medicine over obeah medicine—waking up next to the corpse of his grandmother may have played a role in this, but we're not certain. In any case, it's only when Western medicine doesn't cure his daughter that he allows obeah women into his house… and only when he's not around.

Most likely, my mother agreed, but she also would have said that, just to be sure, she would call Ma Jolie, an obeah woman from Dominica who now lived not far from our house, and who was recommended to my mother by her mother, Ma Chess, who still lived in Dominica. To the Ma Jolie idea, my father would have said, "Very well, but count me out; have her come when I am not here." (7.3)

Part of the reason that he finally caves and allows the obeah women to treat his daughter is that there is suspicion that Daddy's evil exes (there appear to be more than seven—Scott Pilgrim had it easy) are responsible for cursing his daughter. He's a good Dad and doesn't want to deny his daughter any treatment, so he swallows his distaste for obeah and lets Ma Jolie and Ma Chess to do their thing.

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