Study Guide

Annie John Visions of Antigua

By Jamaica Kincaid

Visions of Antigua

We walked home in the hot midmorning sun mostly without event. (2.5)

The hot sun is a constant in this novel. For Annie, this hot midmorning sun grows to be oppressive.

For instance, the headmistress, Miss Moore. I knew right away that she had come to Antigua from England, for she looked like a prune left out of its jar a long time and she sounded as if she had borrowed her voice from an owl. (3.3)

This is one of the excellent similes in the novel. Here, the English headmistress is compared to a prune and sounds like an owl, an image that gives us the visual and also an idea of the sound of her voice.

We cut through the tamarind grove, we cut through a cherry-tree grove, we passed down the lane where all the houses had elaborate hedges growing in front, so that nothing was visible but the upstairs windows. (3.16)

In this description of the places Gwen and Annie pass on their daily walk home, we're given a mini-tour of Antiguan beauty through its fruit frees and plant life. Sometimes Kinkaid makes this place look a-mazing.

Nothing in particular really troubled us except for the annoyance of a fly colliding with our lips, sticky from eating fruits; a bee wanting to nestle in our hair; the breeze suddenly blowing too strong. (3.21)

Again, we learn about the physical experience of living in Antigua through these references to the breeze, bees, and fresh fruit. Kincaid is a master at showing and not telling us the details of life on Antigua.

Outside, as usual, the sun shone, the trade winds blew. (5.1)

The key in this sentence is "as usual." It gives the sense of the monotony of the weather.

Our books, A History of the West Indies, were open in front of us. (5.3)

Because of their location on an island, one of the essential books for their history lessons with Miss Edward is this one referenced above. But whose history does it tell? From which perspective?

Just at that moment, I was not feeling sad at all. I was feeling how much I never wanted to see a boy climb a coconut tree again, how much I never wanted to see the sun shine day in, day out again, how much I never wanted to see my mother bent over a pot cooking me something that she felt would do me good when I ate it, how much I never wanted to feel her long, bony fingers against my cheek again, how much I never wanted to hear her voice in my ear again, how much I longed to be in a place where nobody knew a thing about me and liked me for just that reason, how much the whole world into which I was born had become an unbearable burden and I wished I could reduce it to some small thing that I could hold underwater until it died. (7.26)

Annie longs for a break from the monotony and common sites of the island of Antigua. She longs to be anonymous. She wants the opposite of Cheers; she wants to go to a place where nobody knows her name.

"My name is Annie John." These were the first words that came into my mind as I woke up on the morning of the last day I spent in Antigua, and they stayed there, lined up one behind the other, marching up and down, for I don't know how long. […] My name was the last thing I saw the night before, just as I was falling asleep; it was written in big, black letters all over my trunk, sometimes followed by my address in Antigua, sometimes followed by my address as it would be in England. (8.1)

This passage points out the association between Annie finally saying her name out loud and the country where she was born and raised. There is a connection between Annie's identity and her location. There is also a tension between Antigua and England, given the history of colonialism.

[T]he road for me now went only in one direction: away from home, away from my mother, away from my father, away from the everlasting blue sky, away from the everlasting hot sun, away from people who said to me, "This happened during the time your mother was carrying you." (8.4)

In this sentence, notice the repetition of the world "everlasting." Both the blue sky and hot sun are "everlasting." Since it never changes, Annie is unable to appreciate it or recognize the beauty of Antigua.

My home on an island—I was leaving it forever. What to make of everything? (8.17)

In the end, Annie seems certain that her departure from Antigua is permanent. Yet, the way she describes it as her "home on an island," might indicate that she knows how special it is to grow up in Antigua.

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