Study Guide

Annie John Chapter 4

By Jamaica Kincaid

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Chapter 4

The Red Girl

  • This chapter begins describing the way Annie steals books and hides them under her house, deceiving her mother. "After reading a book, whether I liked it or not, I couldn't bear to part with it" (4.2).
  • Annie's mother gives her marbles that she adores and learns that one of them is the color amber. She shows off her new knowledge to her friends at school.
  • While trying to knock down a ripe guava by throwing a stone at it, Annie meets the Red Girl who impressively climbs the tree "better than any boy" to retrieve the fruit for her (4.4). Annie gives her this name because of her unruly penny-red hair (4.5). She imagines her living in a house engulfed in flames.
  • The Red Girl hated to take baths and was generally quite filthy. She had "at least ten anthills of dirt under her fingernails," wore a dirty dress, hated to bathe and her mother only made her do so once a week. She only brushed her teeth on occasion.
  • Annie admired her because the Red Girl with the "unbelievable, wonderful smell, as if she had never taken a bath in her whole life" (4.6) because she had the freedom to embrace her chosen uncleanliness. Annie had to endure her mother's strict bathing rules.
  • Instead of a tree house, Annie and the Red Girl climb to the top of the forbidden lighthouse. With the Red Girl leading the way, Annie goes all the way to the top and watch the town below, including her father coming home from work. The Red Girl gives Annie three marbles. Annie hides these marbles from everyone. She also totally hides the fact that she's friends with the Red Girl.
  • Annie hides the marbles under the house in defiance of her mother's wishes. She also lies to her mother about her whereabouts; she tells her she is going to observe a field for a drawing class when she is really meeting with the Red Girl at the lighthouse. Annie is the best student in her class, so her mother believes her.
  • When Annie was finally able to lie to her mother and go to the lighthouse, the Red Girl pinches her. Repeatedly. Annie cries, and then the Red Girl kisses her where she had pinched her. They repeat this ritual each time they meet (4.13). That's quite a greeting, right?
  • Annie begins to steal money from her family's safe to buy presents for the Red Girl. She loves the Red Girl's reaction to receiving gifts, even if she just quickly stashes them in the pocket of her dirty dress.
  • Her mother catches her coming from under the house with a new, special marble in hand. This is one of the few moments with dialogue in the book. Her mother searches under the house for what she considers contraband.
  • Furious about the hidden marbles, Annie's mother then monitors her every movement to and from school. But Annie doesn't let on where the other marbles are hidden.
  • Story-within-a-story alert! In an effort to coax the location of the marbles from Annie, her mother told the story of when, as a young girl, she had to carry a bunch of figs on her head. The bag was heavy, and when she finally made it home a large black snake slivered out of the bag. Her mother collapsed from fright. End of the story-within-the-story.
  • Annie feels such sympathy for the beautiful girl version of her mother that she almost reveals the location of the marbles. She recalls other details of her mother's life like her striking beauty as a young girl and the anguish the death of her brother, John, caused her.
  • But, then her mother asks her again where she might find the marbles Annie refuses to reveal her secret and replies in a "newly acquired treacherous voice…"I don't have any marbles. I have never played marbles, you know" (4.30).
  • Like the previous chapter, this chapter ends when Annie begins to menstruate. She never sees the Red Girl again, but she learns that she's sent to live with her grandparents in Anguilla. She dreams that her boat is destroyed at sea, but she saves her and they go live on an island together, living off the land, and causing nearby cruise ships to crash.

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