Girl/Woman Work Socio-Historical Critique Assignment

Girl/Woman Work Socio-Historical Critique Assignment Words: 1410

Claudette Woodhouse Professor Lea Ann Douglas English 112 29 October 2011 Any and everything can influence a work of literature. Life experiences, life choices, political events, time periods, or even time eras. In lieu of this concept it can be assumed that an interesting life may produce interesting poetry or stories. Two phenomenal women, Maya Angelou and Jamaica Kincaid portray two different points of view in their works of literature. A lot of things can contribute to their differences, but in particularly their upbringing is a major cause of their variances.

In Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl,” a young girl has the “rules of the world” drilled into her head by her scolding mother while in Maya Angelou’s “Woman Work” a mother faces the adversities of her life on her own. With such different positions in life and different relationships with elders, when paired against the other each of the poems have contrasting views due to their author’s lives. The females in “Woman Work” and “Girl” are complete opposites. One subject is a young girl being taught “rules of life” by her mother while the other is a mother herself.

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The woman in “Woman Work” is experiencing the hardships of life taking it day by day. On the other hand, the young girl in “Girl” is being taught “rules” so that she can achieve what the woman in “Woman Work” has, a good standing, a family, a home, and things to tend to. With the young adolescent in “Girl” just now entering the world and being exposed to the harsh realities so soon, it creates a dark contrast to the airy tone of “Woman Work” portrayed through the woman’s actions and words.

Taking a look at the life of Jamaica Kincaid, growing up in Antigua and moving to the United States to work as an au pair at the very tender age of seventeen, is a sign of her parents want for her to be “respectable making a good living. ” At the point where she began to write her poetry they disapproved; just as the mother in “Girl” disapproves of her daughter’s actions and tries to force or bully her to conform to her beliefs. It was their wishes that she give up her poetry, but instead she defied them, unlike the young girl in Girl” who simply listens to her mother only interrupting twice. In my opinion you can assume that Jamaica Kincaid at some point was a young adolescent being taught the rules of the world and once becoming a woman of age away from her mother’s control she took it upon herself to break away and express herself. Upon reading “Girl” you can feel a great deal of oppression yet wisdom from the words of the mother. According to Maya Jaggi, Jamaica Kincaid felt as though her mother should never have had children.

She felt as though that her mother didn’t care for her children when they flourished, only when they were down, or when they needed her most (Jaggi). This could explain the seemingly harsh tone of the mother in “Girl” when she blatantly refers to her daughter as a slut (Kincaid 47). Due to the fact that this is a circumstance where there is a lesson to be learned and not a need to pacify her daughter, it can assumed to describe the relationship that Jamaica Kincaid most likely had with her very own mother.

In my opinion many can agree that despite the mother’s harsh and blunt tone the advice she gives is ultimately valuable. Her advice not only relates to behavior that a young lady should observe as a young adolescent but also as an adult and how to handle certain situations. As mentioned before, Kincaid felt as though her mother only felt obligated to express the sensitivity a mother should show when her children truly need her most, which again explains the harsh tone observed in “Girl. Taking another look at Jamaica Kincaid’s life as reference it can be concurred that she portrays a love hate relationship between mother and daughter a lot in her work (Jaggi). Maya Angelou’s life has a different approach. Unlike Kincaid, Angelou’s relationship with her mother as well as her grandmother was a seemingly good one judging by her autobiography “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. ” In an interview she agreed to with Grandparents. com she admitted that her relationship with her grandmother and mother was an extremely good one.

Also, despite the fact her parents had abandoned her and brother, eventually as an adult her mother supported her unconditionally even with her status as an unwed single teenage mother, the very thing the mother in “Girl” wants to prevent from happening to her daughter (Halewicz). In “Woman Work” Angelou describes the life of a mother giving to those around her, having only her dream world to herself. As a young mother Angelou worked as a waitress and cook to support herself and her young son before eventually following her dream and becoming he Maya Angelou we are most familiar with today (Maya Angelou: Global Renaissance Woman ). “Woman Work” could not only be a reference to Maya Angelou’s experience as a young mother but also as a witness account of her grandmother’s trials to raise her grandchildren, run her store, and still deal with the harsh realities of racism that was still highly present in the 1930s (Angelou). With just the star shine and moon glow to call her own, “Woman Work” perfectly represents a mother, or even woman who gives her all to make sure what is around her remains stable even at the cost of her rest (Angelou).

Angelou’s life as a mother is one that can be highlighted at the end of her autobiography “I Know Why the Caged Birds Sings” where she feels extreme apprehensiveness about her newborn child, scared to touch, and ultimately leaves it to a pro, her mother, the first few hours her son is home (Angelou 281). In an interview with Good Morning America, she reveals the inspiration she felt when her mother exposed her proudness of Angelou who had flourished maintaining two jobs and living on her own giving her world to her child similar to what the mother in “Woman Work” does (Good Morn ing America).

Though “Girl” and “Woman Work” have differences due to their author’s life experiences, each author’s reason for creating their powerful work of literature is similar. Their mother’s and mother figures play huge part in not only these works of literature but possibly others they have written, Jamaica Kincaid in particular. As women and women of color they have experienced similar obstacles. With that being said, “Girl” and “Woman Work” portray obstacles young girls and women still face today. “Girl” focuses on both childhood as well as adulthood while “Woman Work” focuses on adulthood as well motherhood.

Maya Angelou and Jamaica Kincaid are prime examples that using life experiences can be extremely useful when used in literature. Their use of familiarities has ultimately led to them being distinguished as extremely influential writers. As powerful women from different time eras as well different countries the differences in their writing is expected, but the fact still remains they are still women as well as women in color. It is generally expected that women usually can relate to one of another regardless of their skin tone, which could explain the reasons for the contrasting yet similar ideals in “Woman Work” and “Girl. Works Cited Angelou, Maya. “Woman Work by Maya Angelou. “??Woman Work. N. p. , n. d. Web. 31 Oct 2011. <http://www. poemhunter. com/poem/woman-work/>. “Maya Angelou-Biography. “??Maya Angelou: Global Renaissance Woman. Penguin Creative, n. d. Web. 31 Oct 2011. <http://mayaangelou. com/bio/>. Angelou, Maya. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. New York: Random House, 1969. Print. Jaggi, Maya. “Books: Kincaid. “Kincaid in Revolt. N. p. , n. d. Web. 5 Nov 2011. <http://www. eng. fju. edu. tw/worldlit/caribbean/rebel. tm>. Halewicz, Julia. “Maya Angelou Talks About Grandparenting. “Expert Advice > Celebrity. Grandparents. com, n. d. Web. 5 Nov 2011. <http://www. grandparents. com/gp/content/expert-advice/celebrity/article/maya-angelou-words. html>. “Maya Angelou on Mothers. “??Good Morning America. N. p. , 11 May 2006. Web. 7 Nov 2011. <http://abcnews. go. com/GMA/MothersDay/story? id=1949309&page=1 Kincaid, Jamaica. Girl. 4th ed. Upper Saddle City, New Jersey: Pearson Learning Solutions, 2011. 46-48. Print.

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