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Societies have their values, which make up an essential part of the human society. These values have time and again been portrayed in literature. Literature has been known for its ability to interpret social realities and experiences. In fact, literature is a mirror to the society. It reflects what a particular society is. In most cases, when a writer writes about a certain society, they normally have a good knowledge of it and hence they can relate their work to that society. In the book Mother-Daughter Relationship within Girl by Jamaica Kincaid, the views on values and norms that are usually imposed on the female gender. Kincaid also portrays the relationship between a daughter and her mother in the traditional society. He contrasts this with the mother and daughter relationship in the modern society. Being from the Caribbean region, Kincaid has also tried to assimilate his literature with the dynamics of slavery and immigration in the early years. This paper is an argumentative essay on the book Mother-Daughter Relationship within Girl. Its thesis is the changes in the relationships between daughter and their mothers with time. It will argue that the relationships between daughter and mother are psychological as also confirmed by Sigmoid Freud in his work.
First, Kincaid states that a girl has a very good relationship with her mother in her early years of development and before puberty. The reason for this strong relationship is the great love that a mother shows to their daughters. Daughters in turn grow to love and worship their mothers. During these early stages, daughters do not love their fathers. In fact, the fathers are viewed as not being very important. According to Sigmoid Freud, the stage where the daughter starts loving her father is referred to as the Normal Development stage (Bouson 217).
In the first chapter of the book, Annie is a girl who is almost impossible to separate from her mother in her childhood days. She is always around her mother all the time. Annie is always connected to her mother even as she grows up and relocates to a far place. It can be argued that the reason as to why a girl always has a very close relationship with her mother is because they are always together during childhood years. The girl grows knowing only the mother as her closest friend. In reality, there is also a close relationship between a boy and her mother during the early days. However, this does not last long as the boy grows and starts spending time with his dad (Snodgrass 85). During the infant years of any child, it is the mother who is always with them. Suppose they were to spend this time with their father, probably they would develop a strong relationship like that of their mother. The daughter-mother relationship is notable because the girl spends more time even in her later years with her mother.
Normally, anyone would have a very good and close relationship with his or her caregiver. An infant knows only the mother as the caregiver during the early days. However, for daughters, it becomes difficult to break the bond between them and the mother. Though the relationship may not be as strong as during the early days, it can never end. Suppose the child knew only her father as the caregiver during her infant years, they would grow loving their father and having a very strong relationship with them. Therefore, it can be argued that the reason such a strong relationship between a child and her mother is the love they get during their infant days. The love grows to be strong. However, going into puberty years, the girl starts being independent. The connection may decrease in some cases, but it never ceases completely. Flax agrees that the relationship between the child and the mother is psychological (Flax 179). As the girl grows, she goes through the various psychological stages and eventually gains independence from their mother. The development becomes normal when the girl becomes independent.
It is at this stage that Freud says the girl starts loving the farther. He describes the stage as Normal development. Freud explains that the reason for this strong is the Oedipal complex. The child has very strong emotions towards the mother, but the emotions are kept in the mind unconsciously. Therefore, as the child grows and starts to gain consciousness of these emotions, she starts being independent.
Kincaid then writes that the strong affection that children have to their mothers is because of the Oedipal complex as described by Sigmund Freud. The term Oedipus derives from Oedipus Rex, a Greek tragedy where the main character is said to have killed his father and married his mother (Kulish and Deanna 7). In the early childhood, fathers do not play any major role in the child development. The characters described by Kincaid grow to love not only their mothers but also their motherlands. The environment where one grows in shapes and determine the kind of person they become. They, therefore, relate to this environment as their motherland. The environment, just like the mother plays a major role in supporting and nurturing the child. Therefore, when people grow into adulthood, they will always have a strong attachment to their families and the home neighborhood where they grew.
There are many abnormalities that are associated that are associated with the female sexuality as compared to that of boys. As the girl grows through the various psychological stages, from the preverbal stage to the Oedipal Stage their affection moves from the mother and slowly moves to the father (Kulish and Deanna 7). The reason their attachment starts shifting is that they start to recognize the pleasure they can get from their sex organs. The mother will always discourage the behaviors they develop from this discovery. The child will then start fearing the mother who is always angered by the behavior. It could also be argued that following this discovery; the girl will start being attracted to the members of opposite sex.
The girl recognizes that her sexuality is the same as that her mothers and hence she will now start being interested and attracted to the father since the father apparently owns what she desires. The girl starts to feel that men are high esteemed and that women are not highly valued. This according to Kincaid is reflected in the treatment of women in the society.
Probably, the treatment of women and their view as weak is a psychological thing and maybe starts at the Oedipus complex stage when the girl makes these discoveries. She feels as weaker. Further, women could be the reason for their position in the society since she feels that she is not valued as men are. According to Flax, this discovery makes the woman feel less esteemed. She recognizes her gender inequality and loses her esteem (Flax 183). However, in the modern society, there has been advocacy for gender equality. Therefore, by the time a girl reaches the phallus stage and recognizing her gender inequality, her esteem is already high. It is boosted by the society as advocacy for gender equality is on the increase. The modern girl in the modern society is, therefore, high esteemed as compared to the girl in the traditional society.
As the girl becomes an adult, Kincaid notes that they start feeling the need to find their place in the world. It would not be possible to find this place when they are still attached to their mothers. They start feeling the need to move away and cut this connection. The girl moves from her motherland and her colonial heritage. Kincaid argues that it could be almost impossible for colonial subjects to reinvent themselves. However, it is only the physical disconnection that takes place. As in the case of Annie earlier in the book, it is almost impossible for one to mentally and psychologically forget their mother and their motherland (Snodgrass 85). The works of Kincaid are influenced by the society where she comes from. Due to the colonial influence in West Indies, most women cannot even identify themselves with their origins. These are the damages that were caused by slavery and the colonial rule. However, according to Flax, people will always have a connection to their motherland, and they can never forget where they came from. In the modern society, some people were displaced from their homes long ago. Their offspring has grown to know their place o birth as their homeland and hence they cannot identify themselves with their origin.
People go through various developmental stages as they grow and undergo various psychological stages in the process. For girls, the changes are more abnormal as compared to those of boys as Freud put it. The Oedipus complex makes the development of women abnormal. As they grow, they have a very strong love for their mother during infant days. This changes with time as they move to the phallus stage and then to the Oedipus phase. At this stage, they love for their mother shifts to the father due to the psychological changes in the body. However, they will always feel affectionate about their mother and their motherland even when they travel away from home.
Bouson, J B. Jamaica Kincaid: Writing Memory, Writing Back to the Mother. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2005. Internet resource.
Flax, Jane. “The Conflict Between Nurturance and Autonomy in Mother-Daughter Relationships and Within Feminism.” Feminist Studies. 4 (February 1978) 171-189
Kulish, Nancy, and Deanna Holtzman. A Story of Her Own: The Female Oedipus Complex Reexamined and Renamed. Lanham, Md: Jason Aronson, 2008. Print.
Snodgrass, Mary E. Jamaica Kincaid: A Literary Companion. Jefferson, N.C: McFarland & Co, 2008. Print.
1.Discuss the symbolism in the Brothers Grimm version of “Cinderella” and show how it enhances the meaning of the tale.
The fables by the Brothers Grimm create a misguided perception about women. Cinderella is portrayed as a frail and helpless young girl that needs a prince to save her from her life of misery (Neikirk). Even looking at the other female characters in the story, one common thread is clear, a woman is defined by the man that she marries. Without a man in her life she cannot provide for herself and have all the things she wants neither can she stand up for herself even against her own step mother.
A clear trend in Grimm’s fairy tales is the portrayal of women as submissive and beautiful while men are painted as brave, active and strong (Neikirk). The fairy tales seem to encourage the Christian patriarchal structure of the unique roles and positions that me and women hold in society where men are made to appear as superior to their female counterparts (Neikirk).
These have grown to become stereotypes that many in today’s society are familiar with. A woman that wishes to challenge the perception that she is weaker sex has a much harder time being accepted by men. In many instances, the men deem her unfit because she is not feminine enough. Fairy tales are therefore not just a past time while someone gets ready for bed but they have been elevated to tools of maintaining gender inequality and seeking power over women (Neikirk). This stereotype has profited Hollywood through multiple productions where the plot revolves around the sexuality and violence with the female being portrayed as the weaker sex. However, there are productions that portray women as capable of being just as powerful, strong and brave their male counterparts.
It is argued that the stereotype has resulted in fairy tales being an effective tool for exercising power over women and strengthening the stereotype that men are the superior sex (Neikirk).
The story of Cinderella reflects on different relationships that women have with their siblings and much older women. Cinderella is portrayed as a young girl that has to endure constant bullying from her stepsisters. Even though she does her chores well, she receives no praise for her efforts and this chips at her self-esteem. She not only represents children that have no living relatives to care for them but also those that endure emotional abuse.
Apart from sibling rivalry, the Cinderella fable is also about hope for those that have little going for them in terms of opportunity and status in society (Neikirk). A girl that was a lowly kitchen hand is elevated to high society when a prince falls in love with her. This yet again asserts the need for a woman to be married for them to be considered successful or in a better position in society. On her own, the woman is portrayed in a less than favorable light. Cinderella’s step mother and her step sisters are made to appear vain and materialistic rather than independent and self-sufficient. The focus of all their efforts is to nab the most eligible suitor; in this case the prince. It’s a slap in the face for any feminist because yet again the story is built on the weakness of the female gender. These stories also seem to classify women based on their physical attributes.
Cinderella’s sisters are painted as plain Jane’s who are loud and obnoxious. Creating the impression that women that speak their mind are not considered to be beautiful. The stepmother is presented as a woman that is not beautiful inside and out because she treats her step daughter in a cruel way and is not physically attractive. So women that are not physically attractive are evil and those that are risk being the victim of resentment and hatred by those that are not beautiful. As a result, young girls grow up with a desire to be Cinderella and this stereotype becomes the source of many emotional, mental, social and physical issues (Neikirk). When a young girl is told stories with girls such as Cinderella and sleeping beauty, she grows up believing that she is only beautiful if she has the tiny waist, musical voice, and pretty face. She also has it ingrained in her that she is only beautiful if a man tells her that she is and marries her. The result is an increase in focus on superficial things like looks.
Women in the 21st century still struggle with the stereotypes that were created by fables such as Cinderella. A strong, independent, and well educated woman still struggles with her physical appearance because she wants men to find her attractive. Her counterparts in the same society seek to stifle her by telling her not to be too ambitious or too excellent because it will result in her losing her femininity. The result is the creation of a society with divisive values as far as how men and women should view one another and identify themselves. A man that chooses to be transgender or gay struggles to express themselves because of this age old stereotype that a real man is active and at times violent. Anything short of that is considered a weakness.
As society evolves, fairy tales like Cinderella and others by the Grimm Brothers are becoming less acceptable because they encourage negative stereotypes which pit the male gender against their female counterparts making it hard to achieve a harmonious society that is all-inclusive.
Neikirk, Alice. ""... Happily Ever After" (or What Fairytales Teach Girls about Being Women)." 2007.
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