Study Guide

Mother in Annie John

By Jamaica Kincaid

Mother

Like every relationship in this novel, we get all our intel on Annie's mother through Annie's totally not objective viewpoint. Not only is Annie's viewpoint not objective, it's also not exactly modulated. Her mother is either amazing or the devil incarnate. She's either beautiful or repulsive. She's either the best thing since sliced bread or the worst thing since the all-bread diet.

Let's take a gander at these two sides of Mother, as viewed by our very own A.J. First order of business: Annie's mom is a hottie.

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)

Annie's mom has got it going on. This is actually one of the few viewpoints that Annie holds consistently through the novel:

When I got home, my mother came toward me arms outstretched, concern written on her face. My whole mouth filled up with a bitter taste, for I could not understand how she could be so beautiful even though I no longer loved her. (3.28)

Annie's mother's beauty stays pretty consistent. Unfortunately, the first thing that doesn't stay consistent is Annie's mother's attitude towards her daughter. When Annie reaches puberty, her mom decrees that Annie and her cannot wear adorable matching outfits anymore. This hurts our Annie.

But there's more. According to Mama John, Annie needs to act completely differently:

[…] my mother informed me that I was on the verge of becoming a young lady, so there were quite a few things I would have to do differently. (2.15)

Basically, Annie's mother is old-fashioned. In her book, girls were allowed to behave a certain way but young women had to act a completely different way. Adolescence signaled a time to put away childish things, knuckle down and study hard, and become ladylike. From this attitude we can infer that Annie's mom was raised in this traditional manner.

And certainly she acts like a real 1950's housewife, Antigua-style. She's a domestic goddess, believes that cleanliness is next to Godliness and is huge on hygiene and presentation. She rules the roost. Having proper decorum and being ladylike are crucial personal qualities in Annie's mother's eyes. She wants to train Annie to be a good steward of her own future household.

This set of priorities and skills definitely worked out well for Mrs. John; after all, she was only woman in town who could get her playboy husband to put a ring on it. Annie's mother even has to avoid certain ex-girlfriends of her husband (who is thirty-five years older than her) because she suspects that these jilted women use obeah to try harm her daughter.

So Mrs. John (whose name is also Annie, btw) has had an interested life of her own. She shares Annie's free-spiritedness—she left her home in Dominica to come to Antigua. But Annie is so upset by the way her mother's attitude towards her changes as soon as she reaches puberty that she doesn't think too deeply about her mother's past and inner life—she's too busy looking out for #1. Hey, Annie's a teenager: rebellion is exactly what she should be doing.

We know, though, that Annie's mother never truly stops loving Annie, even though she gives her the cold shoulder as soon as she turns twelve. Her last lines to Annie are:

"It doesn't matter what you do or where you go, I'll always be your mother and this will always be your home." (8.19)

Yup: that's Annie's mom in a nutshell. Notice how she doesn't say, "I'll always love you" or "I want this to be your home"? That's not her style—she gives Annie tough love and commands (imagine her barking This will always be your home in a scary German accent).

Annie's mama is loving, but she's also tough as nails. She's force to be reckoned with.

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