Study Guide

Annie John Chapter 3

By Jamaica Kincaid

Chapter 3

Gwen

  • Our narrator has serious butterflies in her stomach on her first day of school. The narrator describes her transition to her new school while wearing her new uniform and carrying her new books and how all the other girls seemed to know each other and walk arm and arm.
  • There are a few lists in this chapter. One is a list of all of the narrator's new teachers and the subjects they teach.
  • Miss Moore is the school's headmistress, and she is originally from England. The narrator says, "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).
  • Finally, one of the other characters utters the name of our narrator and main protagonist. The student asks her, "You are Annie John? We hear you are very bright" (3.4). Now that the cat's officially out of the bag, we will refer to her from now on as Annie John or Annie.
  • Miss Nelson, the homeroom teacher gives Annie a special welcome greeting while taking roll call for class. All the classroom eyes are on her and she was sure it was because they could hear her heart pounding.
  • The first assignment of the day and the new term was to write an "autobiographical essay" after spending some time "in contemplation and reflection" (3.6). Annie is excited about this assignment, even if she isn't completely sure about contemplation and reflection.
  • By now, we're used to and even anticipate the lovely lists in each chapter. There is one tells what of the mishaps with ink or pens of a couple girls in the classroom. Also, Annie compares her new notebook to her old ones "which had on their covers a picture of a wrinkled-up woman wearing a crown on her head and a neckful and armfuls of diamonds and pearls—their pages so coarse, as if they were made of cornmeal" (3.8).
  • Annie and all the other girls go home for lunch. Unlike the previous chapters, there is no detailed description of her mother or what she feeds her. The main action of this chapter is at the school.
  • Giving a class presentation can be a nerve-racking experience. Not for Annie. She starts out shaky while reading her essay, but finishes strong, leaving her audience misty eyed and full of praise. Miss Nelson saves the essay and places it on the shelf with the course books so "it would be available to any girl who wanted to read it" (3.10).
  • The full essay is quoted in the chapter. You'll notice the tone and style matches that of the narration of the novel. The essay is about her mommy and Annie's crippling fear of separation from her. But, you'll notice she mentions that these were the old feelings she had for her mother, from the old days. Things have changed now.
  • We're sure you'll recall that being bffs is serious business in middle school. Gwen and Annie become best friends. Annie even says they "fell in love" (3.16). They are inseparable and share their deepest, darkest secrets. They walk to school together each day, arm in arm. Annie describes the ecstasy she feels when Gwen looks at her and they occasionally kiss each other on the neck or cheeks. This could be just innocent child's play or maybe some sexual feelings are involved…
  • After the success of her first day at school and her celebrated essay, Annie is now popular. Girls want to sit next to her and "vie for her friendship" (3.19). She's also good at sports and adored by the teachers because she's so smart. Annie even fills in for the teachers if they need to leave the classroom. Sometimes she uses her newfound power for good and sometimes for evil. Think Mean Girls.
  • There's another sexually charged scene in which Annie and her new group of friends sit on tombstones in a shady, hidden area near their schoolyard and discuss their changing bodies. "On hearing somewhere that if a boy rubbed your breasts they would quickly swell up, I passed along this news. Since in the world we occupied and hoped forever to occupy boys were banished, we had to make do with ourselves" (3.21).
  • Adding more layers to this tombstone passage is Annie's passing description of the tombstones: "What perfection we found in each other, sitting on these tombstones of long-dead people who had been the masters of our ancestors!" (3.21). Which masters is she referring to? Like the shaded nook where they are sitting, this passage is shrouded in mystery.
  • Annie John starts menstruating and is the first girl in her class to do so. She faints in Miss Nelson's class: "I brought to my mind a clear picture of myself sitting at my desk in my own blood" (3.25).
  • The school nurse, just called Nurse, sends her home early and her mother meets her at the door with sympathy.
  • The chapter ends with a stinger from Annie as her feelings towards her mother have drastically changed: "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).

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