Study Guide

Annie John Chapter 8

By Jamaica Kincaid

Chapter 8

A Walk to the Jetty

  • "My name is Annie John" is the announcement that opens this chapter (8.1). Finally, we hear her say her own name.
  • Annie John, now age seventeen, is leaving Antigua to study nursing in England. She doesn't want to, but she desperately wants to get away from the sights, sounds, and smells of her room, family, and current life: "I especially never wanted to lie in my bed and hear my mother gargling again" (8.1).
  • All the objects in her room that used to hold special meaning for Annie are now worthless in her eyes.
  • We learn that Annie's father's name is Alexander and he is thirty-five years older than her mother. Also, "[t]wo of his children are four and six years older than" her mother (8.3). It is unclear how many children Annie's father has in total, but clearly Poppa was a rolling stone.
  • Looking at how old her father looks now, Annie declares that she will never marry at all.
  • Scanning her surroundings, Annie realizes that everything around her was made from her father's (house itself, furniture) or mother's (clothes, drapes) own hands.
  • Annie's feelings for her parents have change drastically. "I don't see them now the way I used to, and I don't love them now the way I used to" (8.3). Rejecting the familiarity of home, Annie says "[t]he road for me now went only in one direction: away from my home, away from my mother; away from my father, away from the everlasting blue sky, away from the everlasting sun…" (8.4).
  • There are lots of fun Kincaidian lists in this chapter. From the preparations for her final bath in Antigua to descriptions of the special traveling outfit including her underclothes and jewelry sent to her mother's obeah so she could treat them with special remedies for protect to the menu of the special breakfast Annie's mother prepares, lists dominate this chapter.
  • Annie's mother's friends come by the house to say their farewells. Annie reluctantly endures all these visits and then she gives an anticlimactic goodbye to "former friend" Gwen. She almost seems to despise her and her "schoolgirl giggle" (8.9). How the tide has turned.
  • Annie and her parents take a long walk to the jetty and she reminisces along the way as she passes all the major landmarks and stomping grounds of her youth. They pass the house of Miss Dulcie, the seamstress, who Annie says mistreated her and also they walk down the main road that leads to school, church, Sunday school, and the library. "We passed the library, and if there was anything on this walk that I might have wept over leaving, this most surely would have been the thing" (8.14).
  • At the jetty, Annie remembers walks she had taken with her father in the afternoons to the jetty and the man he would talk to and how she was "afraid of slipping in between the boards of the jetty" (8.16).
  • Experiencing a mix of emotions, Annie wonders what it means to be leaving her mother, father, and home on the island. She admits: "I was on the verge of feeling that it had all been a mistake, but I remembered that I wasn't a child anymore, and that now when I made up my mind about something I had to see it through. At that moment, we came to the ship, and that was that" (8.18).
  • We get more of Annie's fascinating journalistic description about the boats, the fisherman, the sky, the sounds of the seagulls. Her mother double-checks that she has her passport, the money she gave her, the paper with names of relatives in England on a Bible, and finally they say their goodbyes.
  • Annie's father kisses her goodbye, tells her to write home and then seems to want to "say something else, something that he had never said to [her] before, but he just turned and walked away" (8.19). However, Annie's mother cries, and she squeezes her daughter tightly around her and says these final words: "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).
  • Seems like a touching moment, right? As Annie and her mother smile broadly at each other, Annie says, "I know the opposite of that was in my heart" (8.20). They wave at each other wildly as the ship sets sail and then Annie goes to her cabin and lays down listening to the waves hitting the ship, trembling.

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