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Dissimulating Women: Jamaica Kincaid's Annie John and Autobiography of My Mother


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DISSIMULATING WOMEN: JAMAICA KINCAIDS ANNIE JOHN AND AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MY MOTHER ByLINDSEY COLLINSA THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOLOF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENTOF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OFMASTER OF ARTSUNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA2005

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Copyright 2005byLindsey Collins

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iiiACKNOWLEDGMENTSI would like to thank my all of my family and friends, since this thesis is what Ihave to show for the many times I should have called my mother, taken Phil for a swim,or helped Andrew get acquainted with the beautiful state of Florida, to which he movedso that I could attend this program. Thanks as well go to Leah Rosenberg, my director forthis project, who gave extensive comments on multiple drafts, and Scott Nygren, whointroduced me to Jean-Francois Lyotard. Finally, I would like to thank Margot who readKincaid and recognized the pleasure that Xuela does know, and my mother, again, forlistening to me talk about it.

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ivTABLE OF CONTENTSpage ACKNOWLEDGMENTS..............................................................................................iiiABSTRACT....................................................................................................................vCHAPTER1 CYAAN LIVE SPLIT: AN OLD MOLD AND KINCAID'S INTERVENTION....12 SEDUCING THE NARRATOR: THE IMPORTANCE OF SELF-DESIRE INKINCAID'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MY MOTHER...............................................293 AND I HAVE MADE A VOW NEVER TO BE FOOLED AGAIN":NARRATIVE PRAGMATICS AND THE FORMATION OF SELF ANDDESIRE IN JAMAICA KINCAID'S ANNIE JOHN...............................................53LIST OF REFERENCES...............................................................................................72BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.........................................................................................74

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vAbstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate Schoolof the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of theRequirements for the Degree of Master of ArtsDISSIMULATING WOMEN: JAMAICA KINCAIDS ANNIE JOHN ANDAUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MY MOTHERByLindsey CollinsAugust 2005Chair: Leah RosenbergCochair: Scott NygrenMajor Department: EnglishCritics of Jamaica Kincaid have often overlooked her radical contribution toidentity politics in Caribbean literature. They argue that her writing does not have thesame desire or potential to resist colonialism that scholars see in the larger community ofCaribbean writers. They say that novels such as Annie John are apolitical or ahistoricalbecause of Kincaids close focus on domestic issues. They argue that such novels asAutobiography of My Mother do not acknowledge her responsibility to her Caribbeanhomeland, the Caribbean community, or to history, and that her style is too classicallyinfluenced or influenced by a Euro-centric postmodernism. However, Kincaid iscontesting these concepts as the grounds on which Caribbean writers theorize theirsubjectivity or agency. Caribbean writers have worked toward a decolonized definition ofCaribbeanness by placing a redefined nationwhich history, community, family andheritage all work to supportat the center of their resistance. Kincaids writing suggeststhat an allegiance to an oppressive community and nation can hurt the individual and can

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vipropagate unending cycles of oppression unless the individual is also able to redefine herrelationship with the community. Because Kincaid challenges the existing paradigm forresistance literature, Caribbean scholars have not recognized her intervention. Yet, herwriting it deceptively revolutionary, and her heroines depict an agency that is unmatchedin many Caribbean novels. The subtle success of her resistance calls for a re-evaluationof Kincaids writing, and the precepts by which critics have judged her potential to resist.Since critics have questioned her take on the key concepts of the individual,community, and nation in theories of resistance, this thesis will survey criticism aboutthese concepts. I will compare Kincaids reception to that of Michelle Cliff, a writer whois dealing with issues similar to Kincaids, but who is more accepted by the criticalcommunity. I will reconcile the positions on the above concepts and clarify howKincaids engagement of these concepts demonstrates the usefulness of postmodernismfor Caribbean writing. Because Caribbean nationalism rises out of modernist thinking,commonly accepted constructions of national space position the community and theindividual in a hierarchical relationship and compel individuals to support thecommunity, regardless of the communitys support for them. Kincaids writing, however,redefines these relationships as she successfully creates characters that interrogate meta-narratives such as community from a standpoint staked out by their individual agency.Her writing is both postmodern and revolutionary.

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1CHAPTER 1CYAAN LIVE SPLIT: AN OLD MOLD AND KINCAIDS INTERVENTIONThe time will come for both of us to choose. For we will have to make the choice.Cast our lot. Cyaan live split. Not in this world.-Michelle Cliff, No Telephone to HeavenI refused to belong to a race, I refused to accept a nation. I wanted only, and stilldo want, to observe people who do so. The crime of these identities, which I knownow more than ever, I do not have the courage to bear. Am I nothing, then? I donot believe so, but if nothing is a condemnation, then I would love to becondemned.-Kincaid, Autobiography of My MotherCritics of Jamaica Kincaid have often overlooked her radical contribution toidentity politics in Caribbean literature. They argue that her writing does not have thesame desire or potential to resist colonialism that scholars see in the larger community ofCaribbean writers. They say that novels such as Annie John are apolitical or ahistoricalbecause of Kincaids close focus on domestic issues. They argue that such novels asAutobiography of My Mother do not acknowledge her responsibility to her Caribbeanhomeland, the Caribbean community, or to history, and that her style is too classicallyinfluenced or influenced by a Euro-centric postmodernism. However, Kincaid iscontesting these concepts as the grounds on which Caribbean writers theorize theirsubjectivity or agency. Caribbean writers have worked toward a decolonized definition ofCaribbeanness by placing a redefined nationwhich history, community, family andheritage all work to supportat the center of their resistance. Kincaids writing suggeststhat an allegiance to an oppressive community and nation can hurt the individual and can

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2propagate unending cycles of oppression unless the individual is also able to redefine herrelationship with the community. Because she challenges this existing paradigm forresistance literature, Caribbean scholars have not recognized her intervention. Yet, herwriting it deceptively revolutionary, and her heroines depict an agency that is unmatchedin many Caribbean novels. The subtle success of her resistance calls for a re-evaluationof Kincaids writing, and the precepts by which critics have judged her potential to resist.Properly evaluating the potential for resistance in Jamaica Kincaids writingrequires redefining the above key concepts in theories of resistance. In Writing in Limbo,Simon Gikandi suggests that Caribbean modernism can only overturn colonial modernistideology when authors create a national space. Michelle Cliff and the other authors thatGikandi introduces re-negotiate how this national space is constructed, actively revisingoutdated essentialized constructs of the nation. Nevertheless, I will argue that theresulting constructions of national space still position the community and the individualin a hierarchical relationship, where individuals are expected to support the community,regardless of the communitys support for them. Kincaids writing redefines communityas she successfully creates characters that interrogate meta-narratives such as communityfrom a standpoint staked out by their individual agency.These characters embody what Patricia Mann calls an engaged individual, anindividual who has the agency to assess her own needs and create social contracts incommunities where those needs will be met (Mann 141).1 I will use community to suggest 1Indeed, some of the strangeness of rethinking the role of the individual in the national community maystem from the twin birth of the concepts of individual and nation within European discourses of modernity(Mann 20). It may be impossible to think about the individual without inviting the modernistresponsibilities to the nation to haunt the word. The term also suffers the baggage of humanist universalismthat posits the individual subject as central to an empirically verifiable universe. I will use Patricia Mannsterm engaged individual in order to accommodate ideal individuals who seek perfect information about the

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3any collection of individuals who are subject to a shared set of rules, expectations, ornarratives. While the nation is a community that an engaged individual might consent tomembership within, she might find a more exclusive community more helpful to her, orshe may assent to identify herself with several different communities that support heragency. Because I do not want to contribute to the tendency to privilege the nationalcommunitythe nationover smaller communities, I will use community to refer to anycommunity, including a national community.Because the national community has been instrumental in some of the gains thatresistance work has seen, Kincaids refusal to negotiate community or national spacebefore establishing personal security is misinterpreted as selfish or a hopeless last resort.Her attention to the needs of the individual leads critics to call her style postmodern,which for them, constitutes one more reason that her writing seems to fail to resistcolonialism. Their outright rejection of postmodernism is partly owing tomisunderstandings in how postmodern philosophy and style has been interpreted. Aspostmodernism interrogates the theoretical and cultural positions that Gikandi and otherssee as essential to defeating colonial modernism, critics suggest that it is apolitical andahistorical. In distinction, this thesis will argue that Kincaids postmodernism is politicaland is instrumental in her successful rejection of colonial oppression. In order to see thepotential for resistance in Kincaids writing, postmodernism must be reevaluated in thecontext of Caribbean literature.Postmodernism can be loosely understood as a style of the representation arts thatevolved out of modernism and is characterized by pastiche, fragmentation, and responsibilities that operate within a nation or subset community and who possess perfect agency to chooseor change a nation or community that fits their best interests.

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4fabrication (Wolfreys 611). Although the nation and community lose a priori legitimacyunder postmodern deconstruction, leading critic Jane King to reject both postmodernismand Kincaid, Jean-Francois Lyotard suggests that postmodern deconstruction is politicalbecause it effectively resists the installation of the grand-narrative as the exclusivenarrative of a community. For this paper, I will define postmodernism using Lyotardssuggestion that it is an incredulity toward meta-narratives (Postmodern xxiv).Though I have outlined my position on these important concepts, it is important tolook at how Caribbean writers and critics have dealt with them, and how that mightinfluence their judgment of Kincaid. Critic Simon Gikandi wrote Writing in Limbo inwhich he suggests that Caribbean writers seem to working through a response toEuropean modernism. He identifies the writing of the contemporary era as Caribbeanmodernism and outlines what he identifies as modernist Caribbean writers goals:My basic premise, then, is that Caribbean writers cannot adopt the history andculture of European modernism, especially as defined by the colonizing structures,but neither can they escape from it because it has overdetermined Caribbeancultures in many ways. Moreover, for peoples of African and Asian descent, thecentral categories of European modernity history, national language,subjectivityhave value only when they are fertilized by figures of the otherimagination which colonialism has sought to repress. In this sense, Caribbeanmodernism is highly revisionary. As Wilson Harris, possibly the most self-conscious Caribbean modernist, has argued, modern, implies an ongoing andunceasing re-visionary and innovative strategy that has its roots in the deepestlayers of that past that still address us. (Gikandi 3)From Gikandis summative statement about the purposes and techniques of Caribbeanmodernist writers, we can chart out a few expectations for writers of Caribbean literaturethat is to be understood as conscientious of the need for increased agency: First, they areneither able to adopt western modernist discourse or escape from it. Second, history,national language and subjectivity are picked out as the central categories of modernism,

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5and this is how Gikandi seems to describe the relationship between the individual, thecommunity, and the nation. Third, Caribbean writers who discuss these concepts tovarying degrees re-insert or naturalize figures from their repressed African andIndigenous cultural past. The final expectation seems to be that Caribbean writers shouldinvoke concepts of individual, community and nation and should do it in a way that looksto the deepest layers of the pastprevious literature has placed the beginning withColumbus or the birth of the island.2 This past becomes used in Gikandis model toexplore how history affects the Caribbean today, and to find figures and concepts that canbe naturalized into use to forge a new community and nation, re-visioned.Critics praise for Michelle Cliff exposes the assumptions that they bring to theirreadings of Caribbean literature about the responsibility of the individual to thecommunity. Although Cliffs light skin and lesbianism make Caribbean nationalist criticsthat rigidly pin Caribbeanness to blackness or heterosexuality sometimes hesitant toaccept Cliffs writing as a viable model, her writing is increasingly being read inclassrooms outside of the Caribbean as well as within. Writing in Limbo by SimonGikandi presents Michelle Cliffs Abeng as an example of postcolonial writing in theCaribbean that gains subjectivity and leaves room for other Caribbean voices (Gikandi251). In his conclusion, he forwards Cliffs writing as an example of how he seesCaribbean subjectivity developing out of Caribbean modernism. The following sectiondiscusses Cliffs novel, No Telephone to Heaven, the sequel to Abeng. I outline how 2 Gikandi discusses writers who have re-visioned the beginning of history in the Caribbean as anintervention into modernism. Although Western modernist discourse places the beginning of history at thetime of Columbus trips to the Caribbean, Edward Kamau Brathwaite in his writing has emphasized thegeological birth of the island to pose a new beginning. Cliff intertextually acknowledges the repositioningof pre-history in history in Abeng (Gikandi 238).

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6critics have found useful her writing about concepts such as nationalism, community, andfeminism and then outline why these approaches to these concepts might be limiting.Cliffs main character, Clare, is a light skinned Jamaican of African, English andArawak heritage. After years of living in the United States and England, she moves backto Jamaica where she identifies with her mothers line, her black heritage, and researchesand teaches a re-visioned history that she hopes will help the children of Jamaica becomemore aware of the ideological baggage that the colonial history books bring with them. 3After meditating on the poor living conditions of many children in Jamaica, she feelscompelled to do more, so she joins a guerilla group which stages an attack on a film setthat romanticizes the figure of Nanny of the Maroons, a runaway slave and folk-hero ofJamaica who led other run-away slaves to resist British attempts to recapture them. Theplot of the film is a twisted version of history that shows Cudjoe, another maroon leader,saving Nanny from the forest spirit Sasabonsam, a version that aims to overwrite NannysAfrican folk-hero status as a leader in the resistance to colonialism. The group isbetrayed, and the military counterattacks, shooting and killing Clare.Clares allegiance to the Nanny narrative that she protects defines thecharacteristics of resistance in the Caribbean in terms of Africanness and motherhood.Cliff writes about Nanny in the Magnanimous Warrior section of No Telephone toHeaven, which finds its refrain in Nannys motherly qualities and her warrior qualities:Mother who carries the power-stone, center of the world. Warrior who places theblood-cloth on the back of the whipped slave. She who turns her attention to theevildoer. Mother who binds the female drumhead with parchment from a goat.Warrior who gathers grave-dirt in her pockets. Pieces of chalk. Packs of cards. Bits 3 For an interview with Michelle Cliff where she discusses her preference for re-visioning as opposed torevising or revisionist see Jim Clawsons interview with her for Nidus at the University of Pittsburg2002 at http://www.pitt.edu/~nidus/archives/spring2002/cliff.html

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7of looking-glass. Beaks. Feet. Bones of patoo. Teeth of dogs and alligators. Glasseyes. Sulfur. Camphor. Myrrh. Asafoetida. Frankincense. Curious shells. Chinadolls. Wooden images. She writes in her own blood across the drumhead. Obeah-woman. Myal-womanShe bites the evil-doers that they become full of sores,(164)Cliffs representation of Nanny alternates her role as mother and warrior. Both of theseroles are wrapped in African cultural allusions: her attention to the whipped slave and herown status as a runaway slave secure her role in an Afro-Caribbean consciousness.Although the position of this Afro-Caribbean mother warrior at the center does notnecessarily exclude participation by other types of people, Clare finds herself reinscribingcolor categories in the resistance struggle as the narrator calls her an albino gorilla in thechapter White Chocolate (91). The image of the albino gorilla suggests that she is anexception to an otherwise recognizable category that defines the identity of the guerillagroup as black or African. Clares friend Harry/Harriet, who suggests in the first epigraphthat he/she must choose, knows that his participation in the group requires that he/shekeep his/her secret of transgenderedness to himself/herself, even though the descriptionsof Nanny as mother never extol her biological motherhood, only her position as anurturer. Though this list leaves room for Harry/Harriet, he/she feels like there is no roomfor his/her fragmented sexuality in the narrative of Nanny and the African past that thegroup adopts. Thus, the model of Caribbean woman as mother and nurturer to acommunity here represented by Cliffs characters makes it hard for critics to recognizethe resistance of Xuela, the main character in Autobiography of My Mother, who does notembrace motherhood, and is more critical of those in her community.As the themes of community and motherhood mark Cliffs writing as Caribbean,her writing style also is recognizable within the contexts of the Caribbean canon through

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8her use of intertextuality and parody. Intertextuality is a technique usually associated withpostmodernism through which one text alludes to another text or the outside world.Gikandi writes that Cliffs use of intertextuality characterizes her style as postmodern andplaces her within a community of Caribbean writers who also use intertextual techniquesto create and acknowledge a community of Caribbean writers. Gikandi suggests thatCliffs inclusion of geographical history of the island in her own re-visioned historyalludes to Edward Kamau Brathwaites Islands and Exiles (Gikandi 238). In NoTelephone to Heaven, Cliff also alludes to Audre Lordes Zami: A New Spelling of MyName, and Jean Rhys Wide Sargasso Sea, itself a parody of Charlotte Brontes JaneEyre. 4 As Cliff connects herself with these writers and texts, she makes her writinglegible to critics by acknowledging a common textual heritage that she shares with thesewriters. This acknowledgement of other Caribbean writers is a stylistic technique thatcomes to be installed as a mold for Caribbean writing, as Kincaid is criticized for herunwillingness to acknowledge her cultural heritage founded on a community of writers.In addition to creating community among writers, intertextuality in Caribbeanwriting serves political purposes. Even though critics such as Frederic Jameson argue thatintertextual references to history that characterize postmodernist writing necessarily losethe context of that history and therefore produce narratives that are both ahistorical andapolitical, Gikandi emphasizes that parody in Caribbean writing serves to renegotiate theterms of the grand-narrative of European modernist discourse in light of a new Caribbean 4 Thanks to Leah Rosenberg for her help in identifying these intertextual connections.

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9nationalism. 5 Cliffs list of items in the above quotation is an example of parody thatstrips away the power from a colonial modernist artifact of history, and enlists thatcolonial text in the project of restoring a repressed past with cultural power. The listrefers to obeah paraphernalia printed in the Sub-Officers Guide of Jamaica of 1908, andis quoted in a 1934 book Psychic Phenomena of Jamaica by Joseph Williams, a Jesuitpriest (Williams 103).6 The list of obeah paraphernalia reflects the fear that colonizingwhites had of Afro-Caribbean culture. Its inclusion in Cliffs text indicates the ultimatepowerlessness of western law to defeat a newly powerful Afro-Caribbean spirit builtaround Nanny. Rather than allowing European colonial texts to define Caribbean subjectsunanswered, Cliff adopts these texts to show how they can be used to create knowledgeabout a hidden history, if one reads with a watchful eye, and is willing to read historyagainst the grain. Cliffs narrative allows Nanny to regain the power of these obeahartifacts and installs her at the center (carves the center-stone), replacing the westernEnlightenment rejection of Afro-Caribbean spirituality at the center of ethnocentriccolonial texts. Though Caribbean individuals may have as their ultimate goal a desire toend the effects on the present of an unfair history, Cliff legitimates historys bid toorganize the present, though she replaces European modernist values with Afro-Caribbean ones.Thus, although Cliff uses postmodern techniques such as parody of colonialhistory and intertextuality, her aims for these techniques seek legitimation in grand5 In his Postmodernism: The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Frederic Jameson argues that historicalpastiche or intertextual connection of historical narratives creates empty signifiers of a time that alludes tohistory, but without the historical meaning. He argues that intertextuality is apolitical for this reason.6 An internet search for the obeah items brings up an online version of Williams book, available athttp://www.sacred-texts.com/afr/ppj/

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10narratives. Rather than using intertextuality to always question historiography, the abovediscussion suggests that Cliff uses intertextual allusions to other Caribbean writers as amethod of citation or authority. Her use of parody removes European centrality frommodernist thinking and replaces it with Afro-Caribbean context. Although Cliff does mixthe personal narrative in with history as a way to question how colonial historiographyhas ignored the individual, the reader feels as if Clare lives her life as an individualdetermined to evade the nightmare of history, yet being caught in the end. LindaHutcheon, in her Poetics of Postmodernism, writes, to elevate private experience topublic consciousness in postmodern historiographic metafiction isto renderinextricable the public and historical and the private and biographical (Hutcheon 94).Hutcheon writes here of the necessity that the private writer will order the public world.But Cliffs technique seems the opposite of this postmodern assumption because publicdiscoursenation and historyorders Clares private experience.Even though Cliff uses parody and intertextuality, including the individual inmaking public history and foregrounding personal narrative, Clare makes concessions fora history that cannot contain her. She becomes entangled in a nationalist narrative, andeventually sacrifices herself to destroy a film version of history in defense of the Nannynarrative, thereby installing it as grand-narrative. Hutcheon continues: among the manythings that postmodern intertextuality challenges are both closure and single, centralizedmeaning (Hutcheon 127). Whereas Clare begins her career as a historian by allowing herstudents to accept or resist her historyopening up the discourse to allow their individualviewpointsthe attack on the film set attempts to close down the Hollywood version of

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11history. Ironically, the attack only succeeds in closing down the personal narrative ofClare and the other guerilla soldiers.The obliteration of the characters at the end of No Telephone to Heaven reinforcesanalysis such as Antonia MacDonald-Smythes Making Homes in the West/Indies andSimon Gikandis work on writing in exile that suggests Caribbean individuals can bestsituate themselves in the national spaces that they imagine from outside of theirrespective Caribbean nations. Cliff and the other writers that Gikandi studies write aboutthe Caribbean from Europe or America and speak personally about the alienation theyfeel when they are away from the Caribbean, and the death that living in the Caribbean isfor them. The earlier writers wrote about the Caribbean from metropolitan centers out ofnecessity, because there they had access to the resources that would facilitate theirwriting, and Cliff says she writes from America because her lesbianism would be rejectedin the Caribbean. These limitations are also experienced by their characters, who do notfit in the Caribbean societies that the authors create for them. Although Caribbeancommunities have tried, with models of hybridity and creolization, to support the uniquemixing that has occurred in them as a result of colonialism, community discourses (suchas nationalist discourse) have often led to essentialized formulae of the qualities to bevalued or have been founded on notions of the essence of a community.7Belinda Edmondson praises Cliffs story for its community-making and sees thediverse group of individuals working together to create a new Jamaica as empowering 7 Edward Kamau Brathwaite in Contradictory Omens: Cultural Diversity and Integration in the Caribbeanhas argued that writers such as Jean Rhys cannot truthfully represent the situation of the Caribbean becauseshe is a white creole (38). On the other hand, Edouard Glissant, in Caribbean Discourse, suggests thatCaribbean culture is the essence of the Caribbean unconscious. While Glissants notion of Caribbeannessseems less fixed, it is silent on a position from which the individual can negotiate her role in thecommunity. Caribbeanness is essentialized as related to community values rather than individual ones.

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12the entire spectrum of people [in the Caribbean] and providing a means for all toparticipate in the discourse of shaping a West Indian identity. She further explains thatClares attack on the film set is related to her search for history: By blending the voiceof the official history, which denies that there is a history, with the oral transmission ofhistorical resistance encoded in the magical narrative of myth, the passage revealshistorical representation in discourse to be the site of conflict (Edmondson 178). Shefollows up her emphasis on representation: In the final analysis, it is discourse whichcreates meaning; by creating an alternative reality in a narrative structure which bothextends and engages West Indian and European representations, the text attempts not animaginary nor an imitation universe but a new kind of reality (191). And herassessments that Cliffs work promotes hope for community in a mixed Caribbeansociety, and effectively engages history on the ideological level are representative of thecanon of writing on her.In both Abeng and No Telephone to Heaven, Cliffs position as an author allowsher to re-vision history and narrative to support her individual subjectivity in the face ofthe larger Caribbean community and nation.8 That gain, however, is only in the plane ofdiscoursethe advances in agency are mediated by the writer, Michelle Cliff, andunderstood by the reader.9 In the plane of events of the novel, her characters are often 8 For an interview with Michelle Cliff where she discusses her preference for re-visioning as opposed torevising or revisionist see Jim Clawsons interview with her for Nidus at the University of Pittsburg2002 at http://www.pitt.edu/~nidus/archives/spring2002/cliff.html9 Here I adapt Bob Foss terminology of the plane of events and the plane of discourse. Inhis explication Filmmaking: Narrative and Structural Techniques, he writes that theplane of events describes everything that happens in the fictional world that the narrativetries to depict, and that phenomena in the plane of events can be perceived by thecharacters in that fictional world. On the other hand, he uses plane of discourse todescribe those elements of a narrative that are imperceptible to the characters in the plane

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13unsure of themselves, and ultimately they are unable to effect change in their fragmentedcommunities.10 In No Telephone to Heaven, they submit themselves completely to defendthe history of the nation, but find that that history cannot protect them from the injusticesin society. This fragmentation is lethal, as Clare is silenced by the very real (to hercharacter) fragmentation that her body experiences from the machine gun spray of herown government. Admittedly, Clare and the guerillas were willing to accept death as apossibility of their attack, and their refusal to admit death as the ultimate defeat doeseffect resistance against the government narrative and my own suggestion that Kincaidsheroines are more effective. But untimely death cuts short the ability of the guerillas tocontinue creating narratives that intervene in oppression, and even Cliffs own choice towrite suggests that she finds more resistance in her ability to tell narratives than Clareswillingness to die for a particular narrative. Though Edmondson suggests that it would bewrong to conclude that the world Cliff creates to express a less-fragmented self throughher writing of No Telephone to Heaven is not real, it is important to note that Cliffsfreedom does not transfer to Clare. The main character of the book is dead and the soundsof the Jamaican forest and birds have the last word in the novel. of events, but that create meaning for the viewer (Foss 2). For this paper, I will refer tothe actions and knowledge of the characters, and the events in the narrative of the novelas happening on the plane of events. Those phenomena and meanings that are unknownby the characters of the novel, and are instead reserved for the author of the novel or forthe reader, I will refer to as existing on the plane of discourse.10For discussion of the ultimate inefficiency of the characters in No Telephone to Heaven,and the effectiveness of Cliffs rhetorical posture and creativity to write herself intobelonging, see Antonia MacDonald-Smythe Making Homes in the West/Indies:Constructions of Subjectivity in the writings of Michelle Cliff and Jamaica Kincaid. NewYork: Garland Publishing, Inc. 2001. p 89 and Constance Richards. Nationalism andthe Development of Identity in Postcolonial Fiction: Zoe Witcomb and Michelle Cliff.Research in African Literatures 36.1 (2005): 25-33.

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14In contrast, Kincaids characters in Annie John and Autobiography of My Mothereffect change within the plane of events of the novel; in effect, Kincaids charactersassume the authors narrative responsibility for creating the plane of discourse for theirown stories. It is not apparent that Kincaid is mediating as Annie and Xuela relate theirstories to the reader of these novels. This distinction is not to say that Kincaids heroinesdo not engage discourse or narratives within their experienced plane of events. In fact,they never hesitate to draw on history or question colonial ideology. Their attention tomicropolitical action and consequent ability to renegotiate their roles in the communityand family allows them to take the resistance narrative to a new level of efficacy. Kincaidis able to create in her heroines a model of local resistance and agency where Cliff canonly model an ideological subjectivity that requires the authors position outside theplane of events of the Jamaica of her novels. Kincaids model might serve as a model forreaders and other individuals in the Caribbeanand beyondwho wish to gain agency.In a discourse where writing has often been about the Caribbean, with Caribbeanindividuals having so often been spoken for, Annies and Xuelas ability to succeed onthe plane of events without an outside author-itys intercession is a quality toappreciate.11In the second epigraph above, Xuela, the main character of Autobiography of MyMother refuses to belong to a race or nation, demonstrating that Kincaid is questioningold models of constructing Caribbean identity based on community and hybridity.Looking critically at narratives of the community allows Xuela and Annie to assess the 11 The plane of discourse and the plane of events do suffer from a hierarchical positioning in this argument.This paper will argue that the plane of discourse always has the upper hand as soon as it secures narrativepower. I hope to explicate the method through which authors and individuals can secure the narrativepower to orders events.

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15ways that the community can hurt and help them, but Kincaids characters criticism isoften misunderstood as insulting to a community that has been victimized bycolonialism.12 A closer look at Autobiography of My Mother and Annie John will suggestthat Kincaid does not criticize the usefulness of a community, or the desire to createcommunity; Kincaids characters both find help in community and work to nurturecommunity on their own terms. But they also recognize that Caribbean communities areaffected greatly by colonialism, and that individuals can allow themselves to bevictimized by their communities. Kincaids heroines refuse to replace the monolithicpower of dominant discourse with a monolithic discourse of Caribbeanness thatprescribes how the individual should think about categories such as race, community andhistory.Kincaids writing departs from Gikandis stipulations while satisfying his goal toincrease subjectivity. She has escaped the prescribed arena of conflict set by modernistideas of the nation: rather than restricting herself to changing the content of the categoriesset by modernist discourse, she is working through the validity of the nation to herselfand her responsibility to it and her community. It is her engagement with both colonialdiscourse and the national discourse that is its heir that makes her position indeterminateand illegible to critics. Her indeterminacy leads critics to call her postmodern. Myargument posits that the success of Kincaids heroines stems from this postmodernindeterminability which critics discount. 12 In Annie John, Annie chooses to emigrate at the end of the novel, but her emigration is different fromClares forced emigration to the United States, and different from Lammings G. who emigrates to redefinehimself and Caribbeanness. Annie has already emerged victorious from her identity confusion, and leavingthe island is a pragmatic choice.

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16In order to present why postmodernism should be reconsidered as a means forCaribbean writers and individuals to achieve the agency that critics think modernism willeventually provide, I must first outline why they think postmodernism does not have thispotential. In his discussion of Abeng and postmodernism, Gikandi suggests that Cliff andother Caribbean modernist writers borrow from postmodern technique only to engageWestern modernist discourse, but stop short of opening up the Caribbean discourse to theindeterminability commonly sought in postmodern discourses (Gikandi 233). So whileGikandi seeks to re-vision the categories of individual and nation, the literature hereviews in Writing in Limbo does little in the way of rethinking the validity of thesecategories. Gikandis conclusion sheds some light on why Caribbean writers might thinkpostmodern ideology less relevant for their purposes than the style that writers like Cliffhave adopted. He confirms that commonly in the Caribbean, writers use postmoderntechniques to subvert institutionalized history; but, on the other hand, these writers arestriving to establish an authoritative Caribbean narrative of history (Gikandi 232).Though Gikandi does not claim that Cliffs modernist writing is the zenith ofresistance literature in the Caribbean, and although postmodernism seeks to define therelationship of the individual with such narratives as nation as it abandons grand-narratives, Gikandi quickly dismisses the utility of a postmodernist approach to writing inthe Caribbean:My basic assumption is that before we deal with the post we have to interrogateits antecedent from all possible theoretical and cultural positions. And while it isnot my intention to salvage the battered reputation of modernism in this book, Ishare Houston Bakers conviction that for black people confined by racism andcolonialism in the Americas, the articulation of a modernized black or Africannational space represented through the arts has provided a domain of hope and anarena of possible progress. It could be that many of the claims being made for thepostmodern are sustained by a previous theory of the modern which is blind to the

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17discourses on identity and history which I have recentered in this book. (Gikandi255)Gikandi stipulates that the formulation of a black or African national space will free theindividual from the confinement of racism, an appeal to legitimation by blackness andAfricanness. His book sees some success as writers create subject-positions that betterapproximate the diverse collection of matter, thoughts and feelings that compriseindividuals in the Caribbean. But the resolution of No Telephone to Heaven depicts deathas the consequence of resistance, and dead ends are the natural conclusion of resistancewriting that struggles to keep together the fragments of Caribbean society, holding togrand-narratives. These paradigms for resistant Caribbean literature lack a non-essentializing solution to the problem of fragmentation of individuals, communities, andnations in the plane of events. Gikandi continues to discuss patterns of legitimation inCaribbean modernist writing:Whereas western novelists have acquiesced to Jean-Francois Lyotards definitionof the postmodern as incredulity toward grand-narratives, and have even succumbed tothe premise that the great narrative function is losing its functors, its great hero, its greatdangers, its great voyages, its great goal, many Caribbean writers seem to usepostmodern narrative techniques to affirm the continuing urgency of an oppositionalhistory and discourse that strive for the status of a grand narrative. Indeed, for writerssuch as Cliff the narrative of history in the Caribbean is legitimized by the writers appealto a repressed Afro-Caribbean historical consciousness (Gikandi 233).Although Jean-Franois Lyotards model of community as a local phenomenonwould help complex Caribbean individuals gain subjectivity without pledging allegianceto concepts such as the Nanny myth for the sake of legitimation, Gikandi quickly

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18essentializes and dismisses his argument and postmodernism. Using arguments aboutpostmodernism such as Gikandis, critics of Kincaid are able to reject her postmodernaesthetic, even though she shares with these critics and writers the desire to gainsubjectivity for the oppressed individual. Kincaid engages the narratives of community,individual, nation, and the narratives by which nation defines itselfhistory and heritage.Kincaids refusal to project a clean-cut narrative of individual and nation frustratescritics, but where Cliffs characters did not meet with success on the plane of events,Kincaids did. And where Gikandis assumptions are based on the inability of individualsto escape modernist overdeterminations of culture and the effect of a colonial modernistpast on individuals, Kincaid refuses to participate in communities that enact colonialviolence. Her process of maintaining subjectivity is elucidated by Lyotardspostmodernism as both seek to define a new relationship between the individual and thegrand-narratives that make up the world around her.13Although the relevance of this French philosopher of postmodernism to theCaribbean has been ignored or discounted, Lyotards writings provide the method for acritique of Caribbean nationalist thought that elucidates the significance of Kincaidswriting. I will be adapting two of his concepts to this argument. The first is the concept ofthe narrative cloud, which will serve as a way to reconceptualize the larger concept of 13 The meta-narratives that concern Lyotard the most in Lessons in Paganism and The PostmodernCondition are the nation or state and the corporate world, although he engages others in other works andlays the groundwork to call into question any grand-narrative. The grand-narratives of state and thecorporate world do apply to writing in the Caribbean as both the nation and corporate interests compromiseagency of the individual in the Caribbean. One of the biggest problems in the Caribbean, corruption, is amarker that these grand-narratives are working together to ensure oppression. Evidence of this is Clareschoice to execute an attack on the Hollywood film set to constitute an attack on hegemony. That thegovernment construes an attack on the film set as an attack on public interests suggests that the governmentis in league with corporate interests.

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19hybridity. The second is the concept of pagan narrative pragmatics, which will outline amode of approaching discourse and everyday relationships.In The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, Lyotard argues thatpostmodernism is, simply put, incredulity toward meta-narratives. He uses the termmeta-narrative to refer to those narratives that a society turns to in order to legitimatesuch phenomena as language, ideas, or actions, but which are not expected to be subjectto legitimation themselves. He suggests that thinkers who draw on grand-narratives togain knowledge will be left with conclusions that are dependent on the premises of thegrand-narratives and that reinscribe the power of the system under which the knowledgewas born. He argues that rather than think of ourselves as individuals put upon or calledto act on behalf of grand-narratives, we should think of ourselves existing at theintersection of an ever-expanding universe of narrative clouds, each cloud possessing itsown universe of rules (Postmodern xxiv).To begin, we might think of the nation as a narrative cloud with its own rules orpoetics. Lyotard writes that postmodernism sees these clouds being dispersed. Thus, wemight think of the reality of the division between the guerilla group and the Jamaicangovernment and militaryboth representatives of the nation, but now placed inopposition as they both claim to be defending the nations interests. This dispersion isactivated and sustained by the work of individuals to create a progression away fromgrand-narratives that are inherently ill-fitting because they are generated by the necessarygap between signifier and signified. It is the role of these individuals to create narrativesthat are more suitable, by pirating the power of the existing narratives.14 But Lyotard 14 It is interesting to note that because of the responsibility of the individual in dispersing narratives andcreating more suitable ones, Lyotards postmodernism is quite the opposite of the caricature of the

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20notes that these new clouds of narrative as well have pragmatic valencies that arestructured and specific to the contract undertaken by its participants. It was such avalency that made Harry/Harriets and Cliffs choice a matter of pragmatics. Theircommunity had an understanding about the rules that comprised itskin color didntmatter, as long as the aesthetic of the group was based on African cultural figures, andsex didnt matter as long as the individuals adhered to heterosexual discourse. Butregardless, at least for the member of the group that betrayed them, individual desiresinterfered. The group ignored the importance of the individual and assumed that everyonewas making the necessary sacrifices for the community.In essence, Lyotards philosophy places the responsibility of adherence to orresistance to these narratives on the individual, and suggests that an individual ignoresher subjectivity to narratives to her doom. The groups resistance to the governmentsnarrative was obvious and dramatic, but their manner of resisting might have been moreeffective had it been less obvious as Kincaids Annie John. According to Lyotard,postmodernism asks subjects to pay attention to the pragmatic tendencies of whichevercloud of discourse in which they are going to partake so that they can be anticipate therules of the system and work for their own best interests with understanding and intent.Alternately, they can join a different narrative cloud (keeping in mind that clouds arepermeablethey may choose to participate in more than one) or form a new narrativecloud. That is not to say that the tendencies or rules will be transparent or that anynarrative will allow an individual to experience a true narrative that aligns signifier andsignified. But the difference is that one can better approximate and manipulate his world postmodern subject walking around with her head in the clouds, at play with words and incognizant of thematerial realities on the ground.

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21if it can be divided up into smaller worlds that can be micromanaged with a moreawareness of the rules and discriminating precision.Lyotards cloud analogy is relevant to the field of Caribbean literature as a way tore-envision the work that theorists have done with discussions of hybridization orcreolizationusually understood as the linguistic, cultural or genetic mixing ofEuropean, African, Indigenous, or Asian heritage. I see in Lyotards description of cloudsof narratives the same resistance to any grand-narrative that defines the composition ofnation or the heritage and history it stipulates. The complexity of Caribbean societycannot possibly be approximated with such broad categories, so the concept of cloudsopens up the concept of hybridization to other fields of narrative outside of ethnicity,such as sexual agency, and to competing narratives within those narratives. TheCaribbean has for a long time recognized competition between European, African andindigenous cultural narratives in the debate over creolization, which has been bothpromoted and vilified. Edouard Glissant discusses the debate in his article, Cross-Cultural Poetics. He argues against those who would claim that any mixing of cultures isto be avoided because it leads to deculturalization. Rather, Glissant suggests thatnationalism based on purity of culture is a western concept and illusionary (Glissant 141).He argues that a cross-cultural poetics cannot be defined, but only recognized (Glissant142). A definition of cross-cultural poetics was upheld to the detriment of the guerillagroup when they focused their efforts on the defense of the Afro-Caribbean figure ofNanny the Maroon, suggesting that the composition of the nation depended on Afro-Caribbean folk narrative. Even that folk narrative is plagued by fragmentation as thebetrayal of the guerilla soldiers reinscribes the betrayal of Nanny by her war chief Quao

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22who agreed to a treaty with the British even though he knew that she did not want tosurrender.Glissant argues against a solidified definition of creolization, suggesting that it isinstead the accumulation of the commonplace and the clarification of related obscurity,creolization is the unceasing process of transformation (Glissant 142). It is important tonote that Glissant rejected notions of the primacy of the individual in favor of theprimacy of a national unconscious, Glissants definition of creolization has thecommonplace, the importance of utility of the history that is incorporated (clarificationof related obscurity) and change at the heart of it. Even for Glissants hybridity, Clareswearing a cotta, a rolled up cloth placed on top of her head to cushion it from the weightof vegetables she had to carry to market, might seem impractical. Kincaids charactersutilization of history seems less overt because she resists invoking historical artifacts.Though Cliff makes reference to the historical fact that female slaves would abort theirchildren so that they would not suffer under slavery, the inclusion of this piece ofhistory seems so relevant and useful to Kincaids Xuela so as to not seem likehistory.As Lyotard rejects fixed notions of community and nation, he also rejectsstipulations about a priori responsibility of the individual to the community and nation.Glissant suggests that the commonplace needs to be at the heart of understanding ofhybridity. Lyotard posits narrative pragmatics as a way to deal with the everydaydemands for response that grand-narratives, communities and individuals place on otherindividuals. In Kincaids success with this method lies her intervention into Caribbeanliterature. It is the theory behind the smartness of Xuelas and Annies behavior and

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23explains why Clares behavior is doomed. Lyotards discussion of narrative pragmaticssuggests a method of approaching action and speech that will be the foundation of myargument that a free society should be founded on the responsibility of individuals to onlyparticipate in narratives of nation and culture when those narratives will work to enacttheir own motivations and desires.15Although agency is often calculated as the ability of individuals to offer theirdissent against a larger power, be it a family, community, or national government,Lyotard argues in his article Lessons in Paganism that merely offering dissent on aparticular policy or action traps the dissenter because the individual accepts the powerstructure that allows the policy to take place. Even though she offers some resistance, sheresists in the way that is allowed to her by this power structure. He takes as his premisethat power structures evolve to limit the ability of dissenters both to recognize wrongs inthe system and to right those wrongs within the system. Though systems do often allowopportunities for individuals to voice dissent in ways that allow them to blow off steam,they evolve to prevent the opportunity to dissent in any way that will compromise thesystem. He argues that any victimization that the system enacts on an individual occursonly because the system was able to trick the individual into letting her guard down. Inother words, we often make gods of men or institutions when we would be better servedto recognize their narratives as the bids for power over us that they are, and thenstrategize ways to look like we are participating within the system while working to 15 Lyotards writing is both frustratingly dense and sublimely poetic at the same time. In addition, his essayis written as a Socratic dialogue to constantly remind his reader that it is above all his own storynottheorythat the reader approaches. Although I would love to quote him at length, the two aforementionedfactors make direct quotations awkward to integrate and analyze in standard essay form. Even though Iknow I cannot do justice to the insight or the multifaceted concepts he presents, I will limit my use of directquotations and offer instead my own summary of his argument.

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24compromise its power by creating our own alternative discourses. In essence, Lyotardargues that resistance should happen outside of a system, because resistance within asystem is bound to fail and be reincorporated into the system.To support this argument, he analyzes the pragmatics of the narrativewherenarrative pragmatics describe analyzing who is driving the action in a situation and howthat control can be maintained or usurpedand outcomes of two Greek myths: the storyof Arachnes tapestry and Dianas pursuit by Actaeon. In one story, Arachne boasts thatshe weaves most beautifully, thus inviting a challenge from the goddess Pallas to aweaving contest. They each weave a tapestry. Pallas weaves scenes describing themetamorphoses of humans that the gods dole as punishment for being too clever.Arachne takes the same subject, metamorphosis, but re-visions the theme to depict godsmetamorphosing to take advantage of humans. Although the weaving was thought to beof equal skill, Pallas became frustrated at Arachnes accusation of the gods and turnedher into a spider. Lyotard argues that although Arachne was able to outwit the goddess,she could not overpower her. Because of Pallas superior power, she was able toincorporate Arachne into her tapestry, thus winning the game of narrative pragmatics bybecoming the narrator of Arachnes story. Lyotard argues that Arachne is drawn into thestory that Pallas tells about her own ability to behave fairly in a contest presumed to beconducted on the merits of the womens weaving. She reacts to this story, forgetting thatthe gods do not have to play fairly. Arachne is manipulated and her resistance to thegoddess neutralized (Lessons 138).16 16 It should be noted that Lyotard does admit that the spider has continued to weave webs where the godsare extinct. This staying power of the spider is interesting to compare to the stories of Anansi, the tricksterspider god of Afro-Caribbean folktales, who is able to continue weaving stories because of the tendency of

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25The story of Arachne offers another explanation behind Clares inability tocomplete her mission. She naively believes first, in the primacy of the Nanny stories shehas come to recognize as history, and second in her ability to change her subjectivity bycontesting the narrative of history that developed alongside of it. She ignores the fact thateven though narratives of history work to uphold a western worldview, these narrativesonly serve as a distraction from the problem of subjectivity that keeps the Jamaicanpeople poor and hungry. Rather than Clare preserving her own ability to exist despitenarratives of the guerilla group or mocking representations of history, Clare feelscompelled to defend her version of the Nanny story thus acknowledging the powerhistory has over her. Her resistance only angers the government who maintains powerultimately regardless of what the history books say. Clare has limited the arena for herresistance to the arena of the historical narrative, the importance of which is stipulated bywestern modernism itself. Her action is a reaction which Lyotard argues only draws theindividual into the position of the narrated where the narrative being told is told bywestern modernism about its dominance of her. Western modernist discourse is onlymastered and made into the narrated on the level of the novel, which after all is writtenby Cliff.Despite his assertion that resistance must happen in a way that is outside thesurveillance of the power-structure, Lyotard suggests that there is a way to achieve justicewithin a society. He uses the narrative of the Greek goddess Diana and Actaeon to arguethat an individual can maintain her safety by recognizing interpellation and strategizing aresponse that will allow the interpellating narrator to think that she is acting out his the listeners to believe and be fooled. Whereas the spider in Lyotards story merely survives, Anansisurvives and resists by maintaining power.

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26narrative, thus seducing him out of his element, which gives control of the narrative toher. Actaeon the hunter encountered Diana while she was bathing and fell in love withher. She ran and he followed her with his hunting dogs chasing as well. She even turnedherself into a deer to make the hunter confident in his hunt. As he and the dogs closed inon Diana, confident of their power to make the capture, Diana made manifest her controlas she turned Actaeon into a stag to be eaten alive by his dogs as she metamorphosedback into human form. By seducing the narrator, Diana assumed control of thenarrative.These two possibilities for response to interpellation into dominant discoursedescribe the dynamics that Cliff creates for her characters and that Kincaid creates forhers. Clares re-visioned history is a reaction and leads her into the trap that history andideology have set for her, having secured the power to enforce their viewpoint. Incontrast, Kincaids heroines make what Lyotard calls a reply. Their response tointerpellation shows that they refuse to be bound by the discourse that oppresses them,even if it may outwardly seem like they arent resisting. Whereas the agency found inMichelle Cliffs writing can only be completed as she assumes the authorship of thenovel, Kincaids Xuela and Annie are able to tell their own stories and maintain theposition of the narrator. Although their resistance has been illegible to the community ofcritics because these women seem to ignore the precepts of community, nation, historyand heritage that have characterized resistance literature in the past, it is not out ofignorance that they ignore this resistance discourse. Lyotards theory of narrativepragmatics suggests that their unwillingness to conform to resistance discourse can beinterpreted as a refusal to be drawn into wasting energy on precepts inherited from

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27colonial discourse. Xuelas actions in Autobiography of My Mother work to questionthese precepts, while staunchly maintaining the primacy of the individual to determinethe importance of them.Though I have emphasized heretofore, the importance that individuals lookcritically at possible communities, I would like to explain now how these criticalindividuals will help to remake a more just society. Patricia Manns importanttheorization of micropolitical action provides the concept of the engaged individual, andthe benefits to communities made up of engaged individuals. Though some call Kincaidsheroines selfish, I will explicate how Annies and Xuelas behavior might be understoodas the basis for a more supportive community. Manns book Micro-politics offers aninsightful exploration of how a damaging ideology can lead to a perceived lack ofagency. She argues that often circumstances change that can change the opportunitiesavailable to individuals, even though ideology lags behind not offering support toindividuals who take advantage of those opportunities. She suggests that whenindividuals are confused about what to do in a particular situation, it is because ideologytells them they should not be in that situation. She gives reproductive technology as anexample that has allowed women to separate two components of motherhood: childbearing and child rearing. Whereas women now have the opportunity to do either, both,or neither, ideology supports an understanding that women have a responsibility to bothbear and rear children, rather than doing one or the other or neither. As a result, womenmay feel strange if they are not motivated (or do not have the desire) to have a child, andchoose not to despite the responsibility that ideology places on them. And they may feeloppressed if they are not motivated to have a child but do out of a feeling of

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28responsibility. Mann argues that this feeling of oppression comes from acting out a falsesense of responsibility, and that as more women choose according to their ownmotivations, ideology will slowly change to catch up with the subject-positions thatwomen have acquired. Manns thesis is that ideology will move to support women asthey make choices about family structure based on their desires. This thesis has a parallelin Kincaids project. Annies and Xuelas actions are currently not supported by ideologyof resistance, yet they provide, as Mann suggests, a model for individuals to follow in thefuture. They make a community that is closer to the type of community that will supportthem. Finally, the ideological objections will cease as engaged individualism is supportedby Caribbean ideology.The attitudes and actions of Kincaids heroines, which she weaves into a model ofindividual resistance, agency, and subjectivity come across as strange to those looking forcharacters who see building community and nation as essential to constructing individualresistance to colonial hegemony. Kincaids perceived disdain for community, herclassically influenced writing style, her incisive focus on the domestic sphere (andtherefore seemingly ahistorical focus and apolitical focus), and her affiliation withpostmodernism have all been marshaled as evidence of her strangeness by critics hesitantto place her work alongside other politically-conscious Caribbean writers. Thesecharacteristics of Kincaids writing do indeed seem diverse from the model of resistancecharacterized by Cliff, and they are. The next two chapters will outline Kincaids modelfor resistance.

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29CHAPTER 2SEDUCING THE NARRATOR: THE IMPORTANCE OF SELF-DESIRE INKINCAIDS AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MY MOTHERThis chapter will discuss the ways that Jamaica Kincaids Autobiography of MyMother makes explicit Kincaids contestation of community, nation, history and heritage,and the responsibility of the individual to these concepts. Even as most critics ofAutobiography recognize Kincaids desire to resist colonial discourse, the resistance ofher main character, Xuela, is not recognized as a viable strategy within the context ofCaribbean resistance literature. After a brief introduction to the novel, I will introducecriticism of Kincaids politics to suggest that critics dismiss her characters behavior as amodel of resistance because it lacks community spirit. I will then explain how Xuelaestablishes the problematic nature of her community in Antigua, showing the need to partfrom old models of individual and community. Finally, I will outline the narrativepragmatics which Xuela employs, and which allow her to solve the problem ofsubjectivity. Even though I will be arguing that in Autobiography of My Mother, Xuelarepresents an Annie from Annie John who has grown-up, and even though Autobiographyof My Mother was published after Annie John, this paper will take up Autobiography ofMy Mother first. This will allow me to foreground Kincaids more explicit resistance tomodernist concepts that define subjectivity and resistance discourse in the Caribbean inAutobiography of My Mother before introducing the more subtle resistance of Annie Johnin Chapter 3 where I will discuss the narrative pragmatics that link the strategies of Xuelain Autobiography of My Mother and Annie in Annie John and then discuss more

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30specifically the requirement of self-love that is required for micro-political agency andthat is hard-won in that novel.Autobiography of My Mother has as its main character Xuela ClaudetteRichardson, the daughter of a Carib womanwho died giving birth to herand a lightskinned father of Scots and African descent. The story is written from Xuelas point ofview as a woman in her seventies looking back on her life. Because her mother died andher father was not willing to care for her, she spent the first few years of her life with ananny whom she did not love and who did not love her. The narration that her mother isdead becomes a refrain in the novel, and this death gives her outsider status: it isintroduced as the reason for her ability to resist being initiated into the cruelty of thecommunity on the island. Xuela describes the pleasure that a mother must feel watching achild grow in a way that is reminiscent of the mirroring that Annie describes in AnnieJohn.1 Yet Xuela is denied this intimacy and can only imagine that the pleasure ofwatching someone growis an invisible current between the two, observed and observer, beheld andbeholder, and I believe that no life is complete, no life is really whole, without thisinvisible current which is in many ways a definition of love. No one observed andbeheld me, I observed and beheld myself; the invisible current went out and it cameback to me. I came to love myself in defiance, out of despair, because there wasnothing else. Such a love will do, but it will only doit is not to be recommended.(57)Her self-love forms because of the absence of her mother. Although the oppressivenature of the modeling of colonially-bounded identity is downplayed, there is a hint ofsadism in Kincaids description of watching an individuals maturation measured by the 1 Chapter 2 will discuss mirror imagery in the mother-daughter relationship in Annie John. While Anniefirst finds her mother as a comfortable mirror for her own development, she eventually finds it oppressiveand seeks to break the spell of her attachment to her mother.

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31weighing down of the brow, the heaviness of the heart and soulthe slowing down offootsteps not from old age but only with the caution of life (57). Although she writesthat this self-love is not recommended, there seems to be no equally liberating solutionfor Xuela or Annie represented within the writing of the Caribbean literary canon.Eventually she moves in with her father and his new wife, who, Xuela writes, isthreatened by her and tries to kill her. Xuela eventually moves into the home of a friendof her father, Jack LaBatte and his wife, Lise to be closer to school. Xuela is denied acaring relationship in this new place as well, as Lise wants Xuela to become pregnantwith Jacks child since she cannot have her own. Eventually, Xuela leaves and moves inwith Philip, another friend of her father. She has a sexual relationship with this man aswell and they eventually marry. Their relationship is not loving although they fulfill eachothers needs; these needs are not romantic however. Xuela fulfills Philips need tomasteror pretends towhile Philip gives Xuela a chance to enact revenge on westerncolonial discourse through her mastery of him. Throughout the novel, Xuela refuses tohave a child, using abortifacient herbs to rid herself of the children conceived from hersexual relations. The last section of the novel sees Xuela ruminating on her life: I long tomeet the thing to which I can submit. It is not in a book of history, it is not the work ofanyone whose name can pass my own lips. Death is the only reality, for it is the onlycertainty, inevitable to all things (Autobiography 228). Despite a lifetime of dealing withthe people and society around her, Xuela has refused to find guidance in any certaintyother than her own good and death.Xuelas unwillingness to make concessions to community or any other discourseunless it makes sense to her lies at the heart of Xuelas resistance. This seeming self-

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32absorption also forms the basis of criticism about Kincaid, as she is often accused ofrejecting Caribbean notions of community, nation, and history. Her writing style has beenjudged as having too much of a European influence, and both she and her characters havebeen called selfish and apolitical in their unwillingness to be pinned down to categoriesset by resistance discourse. Although criticism of the author is secondary to my argumentabout the narrative pragmatics that critics have ignored, it is important to note how thesearguments against Kincaid all react to her investment in self-love in lieu of more acceptedconcepts of modernist thinking regarding community, nation, heritage and history. JaneKings vilification of Kincaid in her article A Small Place Writes Back seems to be themost acerbic of the group of critics who dispute Kincaids resistance to communities, asshe responds to Kincaids A Small Place, and to a lesser extent, Kincaids other writing.King writes that she comes from Antigua, as does Kincaid, but she takes exception toKincaids castigation of the islands government and frustration with the people of theisland for their complicity with corrupt government in A Small Place. King argues thatKincaids assessment of Antigua is not accurate. Although other Antiguans haveacknowledged its accuracy, many argue along with King that Kincaid should not havewritten badly about Antigua (Perry 499). Regardless, King suggests that Kincaid takespleasure in the inability of the reader to pin her down, and she ends her essay with acodicil that alternates personal attacks on Kincaid with a larger critique ofpostmodernisms calling into question the individuals relationship with acceptedcategories and concepts:Kincaid refuses to allow us to pin her down. She is an autobiographical writer whocalls many of her books fictionAn Antiguan who lives in the US but claims toremain Antiguan while vilifying Antigua and sympathizing with the USs values. Aperson who reviles her mother in book after book but claims to think that her

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33mother is a great person. Whose emotions are all her own personal ones but findsthat her descriptions of them happen to be useful to feminists, and to postcolonialtheorists. And, above all, it is all postmodern. This shape-shifting, protean, slipperyunwillingness to be pinned downa consequence, I suggest of the very relaxedwriting style of a very talented writeris easily embraced by this recent traditionwhich enjoys refusing to search for definitions of such categories even aswoman. (King 905)King is frustrated that she is not able to pin Kincaid down with a definition, and thatKincaids freewriting manner does not require the author to exert ultimate control ofideas and events in the novel. Although King posits Kincaids outline of her writing styleas evidence for her own allegation of lax writing, Kincaids style allows the writer towrite a story without having to be concerned with directing the flow of ideas or images.In a discourse such as Caribbean writing that often laments its inability to think outside ofan imposed language, with an imposed network of value that determines the individualsrelationship with the outside world, Kincaid suggests that the way she has found to writeis to give her mind free range to assert the primacy of her self. This process allows thelanguage and dominating structures to deconstruct themselves, and demonstratesKincaids confidence that the sense of a narrative is held together only by its use to her.Kincaids freewriting style is a way of seducing the normalizing language andstructure as per Lyotards narrative pragmatics. Kincaid uses the colonizers tongue,English, without wasting energy to exert force to bend it into a form that may moreapproximate the expectations of the discourse but will still be an approximation. As shewrites, inviting the colonizing language to flow through her, she shows in the proteanshape of the text that comes out that there is room in the language to defeat it, but thatdefeating it requires that she refrain from guiding her thoughts too much and that she beunafraid of what will come out. Kincaid is writing, her style leaves room for her own

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34unconscious to make images, and it leaves room for the reader to make ideas from thewords that Kincaid presents. Kincaids style of not putting ideas together for the reader orherself suggests that she will need to be more open to what readers make of it. In light ofKincaids confidence in the ability of her words to express the colonial experience, weshould not be surprised that some critics call her a feminist writer while others call herpostcolonial, or that King reads her as racist and self-indulgent, while Harold Bloomlauds her for her literary qualities. All of these readings are left open by Kincaids trustin her self and her own experiences to provide a framework for her writing. Since writingis understood to find its meaning in between the meaning that the writer creates and themeaning that the reader reads into it, a free writing style should not be understood byKing to represent a sloppy writing style.In her article How Jamaica Kincaid writes the Autobiography of her Mother,Veronica Gregg goes a long way toward bringing critics to understand how KincaidsAutobiography of My Mother and A Small Place participate in the tradition of Caribbeanliterature. Her explication of Kincaid hinges on addressing critics of Kincaid who objectto Kincaids resistance to acknowledge Afro-Caribbean cultural influence, the license shetakes in writing badly about Antiguans in A Small Place, and the limited perception ofher scope. Gregg makes three very important arguments that address these issues: first,she argues that Kincaid acknowledges cultural influence. Even though she rejects the ideathat Afro-Caribbean tropes such as obeah influenced her writing she acknowledges thatreferences to obeah are found throughout her writing. Gregg argues that since obeah ispart of Kincaids own heritage, the references seem natural to her, and their influenceisnt felt. Second, Gregg argues that Kincaids narrative voice in A Small Place

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35reinscribes the western gaze, but Autobiography of My Mother in which the one whodescribes becomes the one who is described suggests that Kincaid never forgets that hervoice is not an objective one (Gregg 935). Third, Gregg argues that Kincaid is shiftingaway from the apparently personal aspects of the mother-daughter relationship to themore political aspect of writing the Native woman into the culture. She then points outthat Kincaid herself has said that there are wider implications than. . the immediatemother and daughter [relationship]. . I'm really writing about mother country andsubject daughter country. It certainly led me to see that I was obsessed with the powerfuland powerless and the strong and the weak. . I've outgrown the domestic implicationsof the mother and the daughter, and it now has wider implications for me (Kincaid qtd inGregg 928). Although Greggs suggestion that writing about the mother-daughterrelationship is more apparently personal, she does not define her position on whetherthe text is actually personal, or what constitutes personal writing. It seems that Kincaidherself has suggested that she has outgrown domestic implications and moved intoviewing the wider implications of the mother-daughter relationship. So even as Gregghas explicated the overt political of implications of these two books, there is a need toexplore the place of the mother-daughter relationship in Kincaids political writing. Howis Kincaids polemical writing present in Annie John? Is it fair to suggest that the authorhas outgrown books like Annie John as her work turns more overtly political? I willnow take up Autobiography of My Mother to explore Kincaids polemics against hercommunity in detail.In Autobiography of My Mother, Kincaid paints a picture of her mothershomeland, Dominica. Kincaid asserts that society in Dominica is problematic, and the

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36corruption of society forms the basis for her need to resist community within the novel.Her main argument about the community is that history has taken its toll on individualsso that they are victors or victims, unable to assert their own will to gain pleasure fromtheir lives. Kincaid places Xuela in a world in which all the other characters are actingout the effects of colonialism on each other. The narrator describes her father, Alfred, as alight skinned policeman of African and Scots descent, and of some power in the localcommunity. He remarries to a darker woman and together they have two children, a boyand a girl. The family relationship is defined by their disregard for each other and thedemands they put on each other. Alfred spends all his time working; Xuela rarely seeshim out of his policeman uniform. He is conniving and heartless toward those in need andis sure to stay in the good graces of those with power in the society. The son, also namedAlfred, dies before he reaches maturity, unwilling or unable to fulfill his fathers desiresfor him to grow to be like him. Xuelas brother, Alfred, is not able to grow into the nameof his father. He fails to thrive and eventually dies. This story of the stifling pressure onthe child to grow into the parent is a subtle reminder of the importance of the death ofXuelas motherwhose name was also Xuelain Xuelas own self-determination.Xuelas half-sister is a haunting reminder of what colonial womanhood would have instore for Xuela, had she had a mother and was inevitably ignored by her because of thelack of love between mothers and daughters in the Caribbean that Xuela outlines. Noneof the family membersother than Xuelaare able to take pleasure in themselves oreach other, even though they are relatively well off and powerful.The Scots heritage and relative power of the father also allows Kincaid to explorethe effects of colonialism within the scope of the community. His power in the

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37community is signified by his role as policeman, and Xuela remarks that his policeuniform grew into his body and became his real skin (Kincaid 90). That he wears hisuniform at home suggests that the power of colonial law infringes on the family. Butrather than the concept of family as allegory for the nation or community, Kincaid arguesthat the family politics and community politics are inseparable; the mechanics of thatinfringement depend on the inability of the individual to separate communal subjectformation from personal subject formation. The communal power of the man can only bemaintained by his refusal to shed his authority, even in more intimate family settings:Alfred would never allow anyone to see him eat or do anything that would remind peopleof his humanness because it would demystify his position of power over them. Hismastery of creating an image, or narrative, of himself that is inseparable from the powergiven to him by his police uniform makes him a god among men in the community.Xuela explains the connection between his role and the community and colonialism:inside my father (and also inside the island on which he was born, inside the island onwhich he now lived), an event that occurred hundreds of years before, the meeting of manand people, continued on a course so subtle that it became a true expression of hispersonality, it became who he really was (Autobiography 187). With this statement,Kincaid sets up her model of the individual as microcosm of colonialism. The passagesuggests that no re-visioning of the individual that happens outside of the novelsuch asCliffs ability to depict her fragmented selfis going to save the Caribbean from menlike Alfred who naturalize and enact colonial discourse so that it becomes their very core.Xuela writes about her fathers difference from those on the island who identifythemselves as the native population: his victory and their defeat:

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38These other people, the natives, had become bogged down in issues of justice andinjustice, and they had become attached to claims of ancestral heritage, and theindignities by which they had come to these islands, as if they mattered, reallymattered. Not so my father. He had a view of things, of history, of time, as if he hadlived through many ages, and what he might have seen was that in the short runeverything mattered and in the long run nothing mattered. It would all end innothing, death. (117)This statement suggests that those who put their faith in abstractions such as history andheritage will always lose to those exert their will in the moment.Xuela illustrates the yielding of power from the individual to Alfred, and Alfredsblindness to any other ideologies [narratives]besides his own endsas she narrates ascene in which a man named Lazarus comes to ask Alfred for hurricane supplies that thegovernment has entrusted Alfred to distribute. Although Alfred is supposed to dispensethe free supplies to those who need them, he only gives them for free to those who havepower and can afford them and to just enough of the poor people to avoid getting introuble with the government. Usually when he offers them to the poor, he chargesamounts that are exorbitant or prohibitive. Lazarus comes to Alfred for nails and goesaway empty handed because Alfred lies that he does not have any. Xuela writes that inLazarus, whose red hair suggests that he also is a result of African and Scots intermixing,too the event of the African people meeting the hyphenated man had taken on suchsubtlety that any way he chose to express himself was only a reminder of this: a happysong for him would be all about the idea of freedom, not a day spent lying on the sandnear the sea in aimless pleasure (188). The difference between Alfred and Lazarus isthat whereas Alfred does what he needs to in order to get ahead, and thinks of freedom ashis ability to exert power in his community, Lazarus has no power in the community.That Lazarus would feel happy thinking about the idea of freedom" rather than a "day

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39spent...in aimless pleasure" suggests that he will never achieve freedom, since what hethinks of as freedom does not require his own physical satisfaction. Alfreds freedomrelies on his ability to maintain power and work toward his own ends.In this scene, Kincaid shows that Lazarus was defeated indirectly by history, butthe direct and immediate cause of his defeat was his unwillingness to assert himself, inthe face of Alfreds primacy of self. Xuela makes the argument that her father will alwaysbe the victor because he lives for the short term: he makes decisions that allow himsatisfy his desires to the fullest extent before he dies, while he creates a mystique aroundhimself that compels others to never interfere with his desired end. The microcosm of theCaribbean community that this interaction between Lazarus and Alfred representssuggests that because colonial values and ideologies are internalized, no Caribbeancommunity can be assumed to be safe or valuable for Caribbean individuals until somemethod is found to exorcize internalized self-denial. In this event, Xuela argues that re-visioning history will only distract individuals from the need to fix effects of that historyof uneven mixing unless it also presents a model for individuals to recognize theimportance of their own selves and desires. The model of Alfred is not a model foragency that will heal the Caribbean community, since it is, in fact only a reaction to theinjustice in the community. His will leaves no room for the desire of others, and herefuses to cede any power to anyone, even those such as Lazarus who are clearlypowerless. Alfred does inspire in Xuela an understanding of the ability of desire to winpower, but Xuela tempers this desire with a desire for justice. Both desires are executedin way that creates an effective but subtle resistance, to match the subtlety of the resultof the meeting between Africa and Europe in the Caribbean.

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40As they focus more on the political possibilities of Kincaids writing, critics such asVeronica Gregg and Diane Simmons are beginning to acknowledge Kincaids critiqueagainst colonial discourse and even the Caribbean community in Autobiography of MyMother. Still too often, their writing points to a totalizing emptiness of Xuelas life thatobscures the value in Kincaids intervention, and the justice she works for even as sheworks for self-preservation. Diane Simmons writes in her article Coming-of-Age in theSnare of History of this emptiness:In Kincaids earlier work, her girls Annie and Lucy still believe they can freethemselves from the power relationships into which they were born. They still seeka form of love and nurtureeven if it is only self-love and self-nurturethat doesnot, finally, erase them, replacing the self with a set of characteristics that definethe deepest levels of subjugation. But with Kincaids novel, The Autobiography ofMy Mother, Kincaids girl no longer hopes for the freedom to build an authenticself. In a work that reviewers have called inhuman and almost unbearable(Schine), bitter and repell[ant] (Kakutani), Kincaid portrays a world in whichthe coming-of-age girl is hopelessly trapped in history. There is nowhere to turn butto revenge, nothing to nurture but a heart that is cold and closed. (Simmons 107)Simmons assertion that Xuela will be unable to build an authentic self is predicated onher assumption that Xuela does not nurture or love herself and that she is motivated onlyby revenge. Similarly, Gregg, one of Kincaids most sympathetic readers writes, Theprotagonist articulates, even as she embodies, the workings of a powerful but emptysystem through which the dominant history, language, and knowledge of the West Indieshave been construed (Gregg 935). These arguments suggest that Kincaid is a product ofthis system of dominant discourse, which is true, but it would be wrong to conclude thather embodiment of this system leaves Xuela herself empty; on the contrary, she neverloses sight of herself.Early on, Xuela stumbles on her ability to use to her advantage her lack ofattachment to make things happen in the way that she wants them to, and because of this

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41experience, she learns the importance of recognizing and asserting her own desires. Hercolonial school teaches her to write letters by copying model letters of someone whosecomplaints or perceptions of joys were of no interest to [her] (Autobiography 19). Thisenforced modeling of the individuals narrative position as writer of an approvednarrative is another example of colonial narrative pragmatics, working to create colonialsubjects. But Xuela takes the knowledge that she learns about letters and writes letters toher father about how miserable she is. Her father is given the letters by the teacher, ismoved by them and brings Xuela to live him. Of this experience she writes,I did not immediately recognize what had happened, what I had done: howeverunconsciously, however without direction, I had, through the use of some words,changed my situation; I had perhaps even saved my life. To speak of my ownsituation, to myself or to others, is something I would always do thereafter. It is inthis way that I came to be so extremely conscious of myself, so interested in myown needs, so interested in fulfilling them, aware of my grievances, aware of mypleasures. (22)Xuela learns that she needs to examine her own will and express it to make things happenand that her expressions do not always need to truthfully represent her feelings, but thatthey can be used as a tool. The letters that spurred the changes that brought about her newlife were not sincere, since she had been actually writing them for her mother, butaddressed them to her father not intending that he would see them. From then on, shelearns that it is to her benefit to seduce her narrators by talking to effect action orguarantee her safety rather than speak truth. And she continues to navigate her new lifeusing this principle, getting much practice from her family situation. Xuela writes that herstepmother tried to kill her with obeah because she was envious. Xuela outlines hercalculations about how she can appear pious so that her stepmother would not becomemore jealous, and her description of the amount of calculation in this endeavor fills an

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42entire page which ends with I negotiated many treacherous acts of deception, but it wasclear to me who I really was (42).Despite the misery and ineffable cruelty in the community, it would be to ignorethe message of Kincaids writing to think of Xuela as a helpless and miserable victim.Xuela writes, the impulse to possess is alive in every heartI chose to possess myself(Autobiography 174). Although she suggests that the need to possess is unavoidable, herdecision to possess herself resists victimization by her society, as it she resists victimizingother colonial subjects. The misery that critics often emphasize leaves a reader wonderingwhy Xuela would be so adamant about ending her family line, yet would resistoppression so tirelessly, living until her seventies. Her principle of self-possessionsuggests that Xuela does feel that her own life is important. She does not want to end herlife, and more importantly, she experiences pleasure, and experiences pleasure inpossessing herself:I came to know myself, and this frightened me. To rid myself of this fear I began tolook at a reflection of my face in any surface I could find: a still pool on theshallow banks of the river became my most common mirror. When I could not seemy face, I could feel that I had become hard; I could feel that to love was beyondme, that I had gained such authority over my own ability to be that I could causemy own demise with complete calm. I knew, too, that I could cause the demise ofothers with the same complete calm. It was seeing my own face that comfortedmeI loved my mouth; my lips were thick and wide, and when I opened mymouth I could take in volumes, pleasure and pain,no matter how swept away Iwould become by anyone or anything, in the end I allowed nothing to replace myown being in my own mind. (100)Her profession shows the extent to which Xuela values her self and is able to takepleasure in herself and the world, although at first, this knowledge of herself frightenedher because of the power that mastery requires. Above all, Xuela watches out for her owngood. When she finds out that she is pregnant, she feels stifled, and chooses to abort the

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43child because she does not want it and could not love it. The self-assuredness, stoicismand precision with which Xuela controls her fertility is startling, and could be confusingto critics who adhere to the primacy of motherhood and the community as healing factorsin the community.2 Indeed the unwillingness of Xuela to have children stands in starkcontrast to Clare in No Telephone to Heaven who is infertile and is refused at an adoptionagency. Despite society denial of granting Clare a legitimate parenthood throughallowing adoption, Clare suggests that her actions with the group of guerilla soldiers areon behalf of the children of Jamaica, who are her figurative children that she loves (Cliff195). It is interesting that even though critics seem to be veering from standardassumptions about the importance of motherhood, community and nation in theCaribbean as they recognize Kincaids resistance in Autobiography of My Mother, theyare only able to imagine this rejection alongside a complete surrender to misery andemptiness.Regardless of the corruption of society, Xuela is able to protect herself andmaintain control in situations that seem like hopeless consequences of an unfair history.When critics ignore the pragmatics of these situations, Xuelas success within the planeof events of the novel is lost and Autobiography of My Mother is written off as a sadbook (Simmons). Xuela alludes to the possible readings of her marriage to Philip whenshe writes that her half-sister is awed at Xuelas ability to marry a white man, but Xuelawrites that Philip was empty of real life and energy, used up, too tired even to givehimself pleasure, that I did not love him, never occurred to her; it never occurred to her 2 Donna Perry emphasizes community in the relationships of women in the Caribbean: for the woman ofcolor, her mother and the women in her family and/or community provide strength, self-confidence, anindividual and communal history, and heavy dose of reality. For whatever the tensions these charactersencounter at home are minor annoyances compared to their oppression in a racist culture (Perry 138).

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44that my marriage represented a kind of tragedy, a kind of defeat (Autobiography 212).Because of the history of domination suffered by indigenous women in the Caribbeaninflicted by desires of colonizing men, one might argue that the marriage between a Caribwoman and a white man is a tragedy as it reinscribes the colonial domination of the Caribwoman.3 Here, Xuela claims the oppositeher marriage represents tragedy because shemasters Philip, where colonial discourse would seek to uphold the illusion of mastery thatwhite people have over those of Carib and African heritage. The difference between thehistorical situation of the victimized indigenous woman and Xuelas victimized husbandis Xuelas ability to enact desirePhilip is too old to take any pleasure in himself or inXuela and so it is her desire and not his that is the controlling factor of their relationship.In fact, they move to the mountains to live among the aging community of Caribs whereXuela gains complete control of his relations with the outside world. Xuela writes of hisinability to live without her: He now lived in a world in which he could not speak thelanguage. I mediated for him, I translated for him. I did not always tell him the truthIblocked his entrance to the world in which he lived; eventually I blocked his entranceinto all the worlds he had come to know (Autobiography 224). Her choice to controlPhilips life makes Xuela seem vengeful and controlling.Simmons connects Xuelas relationship with Philip to all the children that sheaborts in the years that have passed and sums up the revenge Xuela takes on Philip:Thus stolen from himself, he becomes all the children Xuela did not allow to be born[224]. For she is sterile, too; her revenge upon him, her destruction of his world, is her 3 Kathryn Elizabeth Morris writes in Skirting History: Decolonizing Strategies in Caribbean WomensLiterature that the indigenous woman is seen as the paradigm and symbol of a conquered people, one thathas been opened and penetrated (53).

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45only offspring (Snare 116). She and other critics are repelled by what they construe asXuelas desire for revenge. But examining the narrative pragmatics that surround thesituation that connects Xuela, her aborted children and her relationship with Philipelucidate the way that this revenge is not the inevitable result of a woman trapped inhistory as Simmons suggests. Rather than simple revenge, her actions are founded onthe importance of putting herself first (a principle which she holds to despite thesurrounding emptiness) as well as her desire to shield children from the colonialoppression that leads her to choose to divert violence from these children to Philip. It isnot that vengeance is her offspring; rather, the colonial system taught mastery where itshould have taught nurture. She has learned well that mastery and self-desire above allare the tools she needs to survive, and that only through these tools can she work tocontrol who the victim of her mastery is. She can only identify and perform herconception of justice, protecting her children through aborting them, through self-mastery: the relentless execution of her own desires.Xuela says of her aborted children that it is not that they were dead, they just werenot to be at all, establishing first the three eventualities of the moral decision she isfaced with on finding that she is pregnant with a child [she] could not love and so didnot want (89): giving the child life, giving the child death, or acting so that the childwould just not be. But she fantasizes about what would happen if she allowed herpossible children to live in the following extended quotation:I would never become a mother, but that would not be the same as never bearingchildren. I would bear children, but I would never be a mother to them. I wouldbear them in abundanceI would bear children, they would hang from me likefruit from a vine, but I would destroy them with the carelessness of a god. I wouldbear children in the morning, I would bathe them at noon in a water that came frommyself, and I would eat them a night, swallowing them whole, all at once. They

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46would live and then they would not live. In their day of life, I would walk them tothe edge of a precipice. I would not push them over; I would not have to; the sweetvoices of unusual pleasures would call to them from its bottom; they would not restuntil they became one with these sounds. I would cover their bodies with diseases,embellish skins with thinly crusted sores, the sores sometimes oozing a thick pusfor which they would thirst, a thirst that could never be quenched. I wouldcondemn them to live in an empty space frozen in the same posture in which theyhad been born. I would throw them from a great height; every bone in their bodywould be broken and the bones would never be properly set, healing in the waythey were broken, healing never at all. I would decorate them when they were onlycorpses and set each corpse in a polished wooden box, and place the polishedwooden box in the earth and forget the part of the earth where I had buried the box.It is in this way that I did not become a mother; it is in this way that I bore mychildren. (97)I quote this section at length to suggest the gruesome possibility of Xuelasmotherhoodthe words in this section flow with such fervor that it seems inevitable thatthis type of monstrous motherhood would result if Xuela allowed a child to be born. Herfertility, indicated by children hanging off her like fruit, is poisoned by her inability tolove. This living death that she envisions for her children is reminiscent of her own life,and possibly worse because it describes a mother actively enforcing the pain where Xuelawas abandoned to feel the pain of being frozen in the same posture she had been bornin, looking toward the loss of her mother, a wound which would never properly heal.Xuelas children would feel all the pain of a distant mother, except Xuela would be aliveto actively create the distance and betray her children to a world determined by the cycleof colonial violence. In light of the possibility of bearing a life that would be more like adeath, she decides that her children are simply not to be. She refuses to mother herchildren, even though she would herself bear the violence and knowledge of the pain ofthis refusal of motherhood.It is my argument that it is Xuelas choice to take responsibility to refuse to enactviolence on her children that makes her more a mother than her step-mother is to her

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47step-sister, or more a parent than her father is to her. Her self-mastery and self-possessiondo not lead her to disregard those in her community who mean her no harm. In fact, whenit does not interfere with her self-possession, Xuela, actively helps those in hercommunity. Xuela cares for her step-sisters child until it dies for lack of love, since herstep-sister could not love it. Because she actively seeks to reduce the violence induced bycolonialism, she wills her children not to live, while bearing the weight of the violencewithin her that threatens to turn monstrous by devouring those who depend on her.Because Alfred was Xuelas model for self-desire and talking for effect, it isimportant to point out as well another difference in the motives of the two. Xuela seemsat all times self-aware of the outcome that she desires as well as the effect on thosearound her, she is forever aware that her convictions, emotions and desires should be themaster of her expressions. Whatever actions she must take to effect her desire in theworld cannot touch her inner desire and personhood. On the other hand, the desires of herfather create a mask:The manexisted but the person they saw was an expression of my fathersdesires, an expression of his needs; the personality they were observing was like asuit of clothes my father had made for himself, and eventually he wore it so longthat it became impossible to remove, it covered completely who he really was; whohe really might have been became unknown, even to himself. (Autobiography 54)Where Xuela maintains control over her desire, Alfred is bound by a mask thatencapsulates the original desire for power and ends up controlling him. No longer is aperson, able to feel, at the root of the action. The colonial violence has taken over anddespite Alfreds status as a policeman, he can admit no justice outside of the self-legitimating power of the colonial mask.

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48The mask began as a matter of convenience: My father had invented himself, hadmade himself up as he went along; when he wanted something, he made himself meet thesituation, he made his cut fit the jib (53). Because he uncompromisingly sought powerthrough the channels of the colonial system, that system formed him and his desires. Thisself-love is different from Xuelas, since Xuelas has a self where Alfred no longer does.Xuelas self-love is not easy; she suggests that it is not recommended, as it isolates theself from the expression, making any work against outward power an uphill battle. But asher self-love is the one thing that has kept her safe, her behavior does represent apossibility. To outline the mechanics that underpin her behavior, I would like to examinethe narrative pragmatics of her actions.Xuela has attested to the inability of women in the Caribbean to love and nurturetheir children, and even though she is able to survive by keeping her desires at the heartof her existence, she knows that she will be unable to avoid inflicting the colonialinheritance of violence and destruction on relationships. Yet, she still desires to be caredfor. Of her marriage to Philip, she writes that it allows her to think of her life withromance and to think well of herself at night. Revengea situation of retaliating violencefor violenceis certainly a response that Lyotard would consider a reaction: a doomedaction that acknowledges the power of an enemy by acknowledging the rules of thegame he suggests. It seems that Xuelas relationship with Philip, though violent anddestructive, is not exactly vengeful. If the reader thinks of colonial discourse as anarrator, the violence and destruction that the subjects learn from it is the narrative. Thisnarrative of interpersonal violence has been set in motion, to be repeated in endlesschains of narrators and narratees, receiving and in turn inflicting violence. Kincaid writes

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49In a place like this, brutality is the only real inheritance and cruelty is sometimes theonly thing freely given: the narrative of violence is too hard to stop and will be absorbedby all subjects involved (5). As a point of comparison with No Telephone to Heaven, theinability to purge violence from the community in Cliffs narrative resulted in thebetrayal of Clares guerilla group, and in the guerilla groups violence toward theHollywood narrative.It is unfair to judge Kincaid as selfish based on her re-enactment of this violence.More importantly, it is shortsighted to ignore the way that despite the intractable crueltyand misery, Xuela is able to take stock of the situation, calculate the way in which herneeds can be fulfilled, and redefine motherhood by refusing to become prey to thecolonial narrative of violence in order to prevent innocents from encountering theviolence of the community. One might argue that whereas the narrator in this situation iscolonial discourse, Philip is the one who is punished. But Xuela does assert that everyonein the society is guilty of giving violence or is a victim to it. Philip has assumed the roleof the narrator, parroting the narrative of colonial discourse. Xuela reminds us as wellthat he was of the victors, and so much a part of him was this situation (Autobiography217). Although it would be better to break the cycle of violencethat which Xuela writesis impossibleXuela is able to switch the narratees of the violence that she mustnecessarily enact, and protect her unborn children. Because Kincaid creates a characterthat is so willing to take responsibility for her self and her life, she is able to create thecharacter and solution on the same plane. Xuela becomes the narrator of her ownnarrative and the plane of discourse coincides with the plane of events. Whereas Claremust be mediated in No Telephone to Heaven by the narrators voice, because she does

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50not survive to tell her own story, Xuelas conversational tone and the frequent meta-textual interruptions remind the reader constantly of her narrative control over the wholetext. Autobiography of My Mother is written from Xuelas point of view, with her limitedbut precocious knowledge, and Xuelas responsibility for her own story comes only withher own mastery of the art of speaking to effect her own safety and desires.Autobiography of My Mother shows how Kincaid orders the effects of history onthe individual situation on a utilitarian basis of self recognition of need that reflectsLyotards concept of pagan narrative pragmatics; she asserts the responsibility of theindividual in making the decision to validate history and its discourses, or to refuse to doso in order to become the narrator of ones own life. Whereas the importance of history tothe present has been one of the main themes of Caribbean literature, the pragmaticmethod of speaking for effect is useful as well in determining how to represent history.Autobiography of My Mother suggests that the individual must make history relevant byacting as the victim who does not assert himself or as the victor who asserts his own willand desire at every opportunity. And Kincaids recognition of history follows the sameutilitarian rule of relevance. Xuela writes, The past is a room full of baggage andrubbish and sometimes things that are of use, but if they are of real use, I have kept them(205), highlighting Kincaids underlying assumption about the relevance of history to thepresent: she rejects the idea that an individual must dig up and re-vision history to gainagency. Rather, she argues that those things that are of value to her are generally the onesthat she has kept.When history, or the past, has been useful to Kincaid, she acknowledged it.Kathryn Morris Skirting History has done impressive research documenting the Carib

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51Leap. She writes that in Grenada in 1650 or 1652 according to different accounts, a groupof Caribs leapt off of what became known as Morne Sauteurs to resist being taken byFrench soldiers. She suggests that this was known as the Carib leap in folktales and that itwas understood as a refusal to be dominated by western society (Morris 49). It does seemthat Kincaid draws upon this historical event as an analogy for the resistance of theCarib society to assimilation in this novel. More tellingly about Kincaids use ofhistory, the reader hears an echo of history in the way that Xuelas refusal to motherchildren into oppression suggests the abortions reported in slave societies. But theseanalogies evolve naturally out of Xuelas situationXuelas formulation of herexperience and the integration of history into her life seem so natural because she is notintegrating history into her life. Rather, history is all around as the collection of ideas andbehaviors that are passed on to her, but most of what the readers sees is Xuelas self.Morris writes that Kincaids use of the Carib Leap represents an emerging national andhistorical consciousness (Morris 59). However, Kincaids positioning herself on thebrink of oblivion, then not jumping off actually contests the willed death of the CaribLeap, and emphasizes her refusal to be part of a race or nation. Xuela writes theindigenous woman into existence because it is her mother rather than out of responsibilityto examine the deepest layers of her history. Any feelings that Xuela has or action thatshe makes comes out of her experience. Imposing Kincaids ordering history orintertextual relationships to other authors who are writing resistance literature would notmake sense within the plane of action of the novel.As becomes clear from this section, a practice of narrative pragmatics throughwhich individuals can negotiate categories of nation and community, heritage and history

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52needs first a theory of will or desire. If individuals are to act and speak with the desiredeffect in mind, they must first know how to acknowledge and trust their desire andthemselves. Lazarus, the gravedigger who asks Xuelas father for nails but cannotimagine a day spent in aimless pleasure, stands in stark contrast with Xuela who writes,My impulse is to the good, my good is to serve myself. I am not a people, I am not anation (216). In Autobiography of My Mother, Xuela happens upon this will to bringabout her interests because she does not have a mother, and so is not driven to gain thelove that is not love among people who are taught to mistrust each other. The next sectionwill take up Annie John in which Annie John, the main character does have a mother andfights a hard-won battle to gain the agency that allows her to trust in herself so that shecan make decisions that resist her mother and colonial discourses intrusion into herfamily.Jamaica Kincaids Annie John also negotiates community, nation, history andheritage. This chapter introduced the value of analyzing the narrative pragmatics inKincaids work and explained that Autobiography of My Mother has been read as a bookwithout hope, but might instead be understood as a pragmatic model for action. The nextchapter will take up Kincaids earlier book, Annie John, in which Kincaids critique ofcolonialism is more subtle and often understated in criticism. The difference in receptionbetween Annie John and her later books A Small Place, Autobiography of My Mother,and My Brother suggests that there is a need to re-examine Annie John to discover thesubtlety of Kincaids resistance and see how her methods can be understood

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53CHAPTER 3AND I HAVE MADE A VOW NEVER TO BE FOOLED AGAIN: NARRATIVEPRAGMATICS AND THE FORMATION OF SELF AND DESIRE IN JAMAICAKINCAIDS ANNIE JOHNAlthough the resistance that Jamaica Kincaids main character Annie offers inAnnie John is more subtle than Xuelas resistance in Autobiography of My Mother, thesetwo heroines both resist colonial discourse, and use similar strategies to do so. The mostnoticeable connection between Annie John and Autobiography of My Mother is thesimilarity of the main characters. Kincaid has suggested that all of the main characters inher novels represent herself, so they are linked through her. In addition, Xuela and Anniehave the same name as their mothers. More importantly, we see at the end of Annie Johna younger Xuela: their personalities seem similar in their confidence in themselves andtheir detachment from their communities. Although Xuela describes herself asemotionally detached from her community from the moment she was born, Annie growsinto her detachment. This detachment seems to coincide with the loss of the mother fromthe daughters life, through death in Autobiography and a more figurative but self-mandated distancing in Annie John. Whereas the early death of Xuelas mother frees herfrom maternal domination to act in her own best interests, Annie must first overcome hermothers domination.This chapter will explain Annies initial contestations of colonial discourse andher attempts at resistance to colonial domination in terms of Lyotards pagan narrativepragmatic technique of speaking to create the desired effect. This method is particularly

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54appropriate to Annie John because it puts in context the use of language to manipulatewhat Annie learns from her mother and experiments with herself at the beginning of thenovel. It also explains the necessity and permanence of the detachment of her feelingsfrom her expression of those feelings in the end of the novel. From this learneddetachment, Annie gains the confidence to become her own narrator, as Annie Johndevelops into an autobiography as if written by a self-assured young woman who hastaken responsibility for her narrative, similar to Autobiography of My Mother. Yet, criticshave been less sure about the relevance of Kincaids methods in Annie John forCaribbean individuals.Donna Perry has suggested that Annie and her mothers relationship arerepresentative of the tension in all mother daughter relationships, and so characterizeKincaids writing as more relevant to a general feminist critique than postcolonial one.Jane King, stressing the importance of community and nation to the Caribbean individual,has argued Annie cannot be a suitable model for resistance since she wants to escapefrom Antigua. Neither of these readings has been able to explain the crisis of identity thatAnnie experiences near the end of the novel or the strange occurrence of hergrandmothers arrival to help her through the illness from Dominica on a day that nosteamer was scheduled to come.I will present a reading of Patricia Mann, whose theory of micropoliticsintroduces a theory of agency that discusses the importance of desire in action as well ashow acting without desire can create feelings of meaninglessness. I will argue that thedebilitating depression that entombs Annie can be explained in terms the misalignment ofdesire and action that Annie is taught by her mother and that her mother in turn has

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55learned from colonial discourse. During Annies hallucinatory illness, she is able toconjure a proxy for the lack of female guidance in her surroundings. Finally, I willdiscuss the criticism of Annie John to show that despite Kincaids negotiation of theeffects of colonialism on the family and individual agency in Annie John, this resistanceis invisible to critics who expect resistant texts to parrot modernist concepts of the nation.Because Kincaid does not seem to engage western modernism, she is able to slip underthe radar of colonial discourse and resistance discourse alike and create an effectivemodel of individual action featuring narrators who are able to desire and act withintention.Jamaica Kincaid places the main character and namesake of the novel Annie Johnon the island of Antigua. Her life with her mother and father become a type of primalscene for the Caribbean female who is assimilated to colonial discourse through familyrelationships. Kincaid testifies to the problem of familial relations in the Caribbean whenshe says in an interview: the relationship between the mother and daughter mirrors therelationship between Europe and the place that [Annie is] from (Kincaid qtd. inAlexander 45). Even though mothers throughout the world are expected to have powerover their daughters, motherhood in Antigua and other British colonies is haunted by themore abstract power of the Queen Mother, the Queen of England. This queen motherdominates the colonies politically, economically, and culturally, while claiming to be themodel for both identity and motherhoodin effect stifling the emergence of a Caribbeanidentity. Alexander writes that mothers in Caribbean literature tend to either re-enact thisdomination on their daughters, stifling their daughters identities, or if the daughters resisttheir domination, respond by distancing themselves from their daughters, leaving the

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56daughters to find other models of womanhood. Because of the alternate distance andsuffocation, those daughters who resist assimilating to their mothers identities find ithard to be confident of their own identities.It is important to track Annies resistance to her mothers demands for her toassimilate to her values, since Annies resistance to her mother provides an analogue forother Caribbean resistance literature with concerns about assimilation to the Europeanworldview, or creolization. In Chapter 1, I mentioned Veronica Greggs exploration ofthe importance of figures such as obeah to critics of Kincaids writing, and I alsomentioned Simon Gikandis suggestion that the desire to fertilize Caribbean writing withfigures of the repressed Afro-Caribbean other is one of the bases for Caribbean writing.Autobiography of My Mother shares with these writers resistance to assimilation in herrefusal to be drawn into a European value system. The foregrounding of the Carib womanwho is written into history makes Autobiography seem more polemical, but Annie Johnmust also resist assimilation. The difference between Annies and Xuelas childhood isdependent on difference in their familial relationships; and this itself suggests that themother-daughter relationship is a political issue. But the politics involved need to beviewed through the identity formation that Annie learns through her mother.Identity formation and the role of the mother in it might be explicated in terms ofJacques Lacans Mirror Stage. I will introduce this concept and show how we mightadapt it using Lyotards concept of narrative pragmatics to the describe Mrs. Johns useof narrative to model Annies colonial identity to her and Annies use of narrative toresist and misrepresent herself through lying. According to Lacans model, infants learnto structure their identities through a series of misrecognitions. An infant sees her image

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57in a mirror and must recognize that it is herself but that she is more than the imagethatalthough she can see the image as a replica that looks complete and solid, as it does toother people, her true identity lies within and cannot be represented in such a solidifiedform. This primal recognition and misrecognition sets the precedent for the ability of allof us to see images and people, such as parents, as models for our own identities.Because Annie is unable to be the mirror image of her mother because her motheris light-skinned with European features and Annie has darker skin with more Afro-Caribbean features that become more pronounced as she reaches puberty, Mrs. Johncreates models of an acceptable identity in language and narrative for Annie. The firstindication of the ways in which Annie is expected to model herself on her mother is theirshared name. Annie John is named after her mother, Annie John but takes on thenickname Little Miss, a name indicative of her parents expectation that Annie will growup to become just like her mother. But more telling than this mirror image of a namefor Annie to grow into, Mrs. John tells Annie stories about when Annie was growing up.Annie writes that her favorite childhood activity was to examine, together with hermother, the memorabilia that defined her history. Annie writes of her mother, as sheheld each thing in her hand she would tell me a story about myself. Sometimes I knewthe story first hand, for I could remember the incident quite well; sometimes what shetold me had happened when I was too young to know anything and sometimes ithappened before I was even born (21). Even when she was old enough to remember acertain story, it is gratifying for her to hear it told back to her by her mother.The manipulation that is at the heart of this language modeling comes to light whenthe reader juxtaposes on one hand the idea of Jamaica Kincaid as Annie, constituted by

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58this semi-autobiographical novel, Annie John, and on the other, the idea of Anniepreferring her mother to tell her history. I suggested in Chapter 1 that Caribbean writerssuch as Michelle Cliff have taken on the project of renegotiating their relationship withwriting about the Caribbean, taking back the position of the narrator from colonial texts.In Annie John, Annie is confronted very early with her mother telling her about her life,and the problematic of the novel becomes whether Annie John will grow up into AnnieJohn, the self who writes the novel, or Mrs. Annie John, her mother who tells her history.This problematic becomes clear only once the reader learns to see the struggle as thestruggle for narrative and meaning, where meaning becomes the self that Annie is tryingto become. The dynamics in this struggle can be recognized as well in Lyotards pagannarrative pragmatics.Lyotard argues that the struggle for power is always one that requires a narrator toassert a narrative and that requires the narratee to believe it. So, Mrs. John presents Anniea story of Annies life, and Annies decision to believe it or not will lead Annie to eitheraccept that her self is the self described to her by Mrs. Johns stories, or to deny the selfthat Mrs. John describes, instead telling her own story about herself. At the beginning ofthe novel, Annie feels comforted by her mothers telling of her history. She loves theattention that her mother gives her and the implication that they are mirror images. Thatshe does not believe her mothers stories about her becomes clear by the end of the novel,eponymously named Annie John, and narrated by Annie John. But how Annie John takesthe narrators responsibility for the narrative is more complicated than in Autobiographyof My Mother because Annies self is not as clear to her. That she is attached to hermother and motivated by her attachment to herfirst in the form of love, then as

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59hatredrather than her own desires becomes an obstacle in applying the theory ofnarrative pragmatics to colonial societies. Lyotard asserts that it is wise to speak in orderto achieve the desired effect. But in order to hypothesize that effect, an individual mustbe clear about interpreting her own desire and translating that desire into action. Anniebegins as Lazarus in Autobiography of My Mother, unable to align motivation and action,except in her motivation to be loved by her mother.As Annie reaches adolescence, Mrs. John distances herself. Mrs. Johnsperformance of their connection used to allow Annie to say, As we sat in this bath, mymother would bathe different parts of my body; then she would do the same to herself(AJ 14). However, when Annie reaches adolescence, her mother insists that Annie is tooold to depend on her identity being modeled to her through a bodily analogy with hermother. Annie looks into a mirror to notice that puberty has widened her nose anddarkened her skin. The colonial system in the Caribbean over-determines womensbodies: Mrs. Johns European features are privileged because they indicate properness,and Annies darker features are not privileged because they suggest African and inferiortraits (Alexander 52). She is haunted by her inability to become the mirror image of hermother. She begins to make up stories that deny the growing gap between her mother andherself and that attempt to stave off her increasing feeling of the fissure between her selfand her mother, whom she used to depend on as her self. At school, she is pleased with the schoolteachers assignment to spend the morningin reflection and write an autobiography. According to the teachers description of herassignment, examining oneself naturally leads to autobiography, the writing of oneselfinto a unified whole. Annie says, I got up and started to read, my voice shaky at first, but

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60since the sound of my own voice had always been a calming potion to me, it wasnt longbefore I was reading in such a way thatthe only sound to be heard was my voice as itrose and fell in sentence after sentence. Her initial anxiety is evidenced by her shaky orfragmented voice, but she regains composure as she speaks herself into wholeness.Annies autobiographical story is one that expresses fear at losing her mother. Theevent in the story is only a part of the larger story of a recurring dream that Annie has, inwhich her mother is sitting on a rock in the ocean but does not come when she calls. Sherewrites the story so that her mother reassures her and, the memory of the dark timewhen I felt I would never see her again did not come back to haunt me (44). This iscontrary to the separation that happens in her nightmare, and that is happening in herwaking life. Her fabricated narrative is another coping mechanism that allows Annie toignore her lack of a structuring identity. The uncertainty in her story and the gaps in herspeech are smoothed over as the sound of her autobiographical voice in its integrityreassures her that she is whole. Although this is certainly an example of speaking for theeffect, Annie is just barely keeping afloat, and is not yet strong enough to resist outsidepressure. The purpose or effect of the stories she is telling is to make herself feel wholeand keep functioning as an individual, although her self is still very much entangled inher attachment to her mother.Annie does learn to appropriate storytelling in order to experiment with identitiesthat are not supported by her mother. She lies about playing marbles, an activity notdeemed proper for girls. She lies to spend time with a friend who her mother does notlike. One day, her mother questions her whereabouts after she comes home late, havingspoken to Mineu a male friend: It would please me to hear an excuse from you. This

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61statement, in effect asks Annie to create an excuse for her tardiness when Mrs. Johnknows very well what Annie was up to. Annie complies, telling Mrs. John a story abouther devotion to school: I said something about being kept late for extra studies. I thenwent on to say that my teachers believed that if I studied hard enough, by my sixteenthbirthday I might be able to take final exams and so be able to leave school (102).Annies meta-textual comments of I said something aboutI then went on highlightsthe use of her story-telling to deceive. Mrs. John again asks for an excuse: Perhaps if Iask again this time I will get a straight answer [my emphasis] (102). Mrs. John is askingfor an answer that is both truthful and upright. She has internalized the colonial mentalitythat associates the black female body with unrestrained sexuality (Alexander 52), and soshe questions her daughters choice to have a conversation with a boy. She calls Annie aslut, her prejudice akin to a re-colonization of her daughter. Annie replies, like fatherlike son, like mother like daughter (AJ 102). In this response, Annie refuses to cave toher mothers wishes for her to become lady-like and proper. She has claimed for herselfthe narrative position over Mrs. John by taking Mrs. Johns technique of modelingidentity on language, but twisting the mechanism so that Mrs. John is now implicated byAnnies stories.Even though Annie has manipulated narrative pragmatics to assert dominance overher mother for a moment, she has leaned on the colonial discourse that implicates themother if the daughter is improper. This would be a valid strategy of gaining narrativedominance if she did not believe the analogy and need the security of an imposedrelationship between herself and her mother. Instead, her suggestion that mother anddaughter are alike indicates that she is not yet free from the need to equate the identity of

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62the mother and daughter. Annie will not be able to develop her own identity until she canembrace an individuality that can support making decisions and can tell stories that arenot defined by what will keep her out of trouble with her mother, or merely make her feelbetter, but instead is what Annie wants to say.But Annie does not have a sense-of-self that will allow her to make decisions thatsupport her feelings and desires. Although she uses the syllogism of the colonialdiscourse to imply that her mother is a slut because of her relation to Annie, she mighthave found the nerve to call her a slut outright, as Annie hints that Mrs. Johnsrelationship with her parents was just as stormy as Annies relationship with Mrs. andMr. John. Mrs. John moves to Antigua from Dominica because her parents would nottolerate her living on her own, because it would tarnish her moral image and theirs.Regardless of Annies instincts about her mothers hypocrisy, she participates incommitting actions against her own best judgment for the sake of her mother:My mother brought me my lunch. I took one smell of it, and I could tell that it wasthe much hated breadfruit. My mother said not at all, it was a new kind of riceimported from Belgium, and not breadfruit, mashed and forced through a ricer, as IthoughtI ate my meal. The more I ate of it, the more I was sure that it wasbreadfruit. When I finished, my mother got up to remove my plateMy mothersaid, You just ate some breadfruit. I made it look like rice so that you would eat it.Its very good for you, filled with lots of vitaminsWhen she laughed, her mouthopened to show off big, shiny, sharp white teeth. It was as if my mother hadsuddenly turned into a crocodile. (AJ 84)This passage is important for a few reasons: first, it is the point at which Annie is atthe depths of disillusion before she descends into a depression. Second, in light of novelssuch as Audre Lordes Zami: A New Spelling of My Name and Michelle Cliffs NoTelephone to Heaven in which foods of the Caribbean are incorporated into the story inways that are symbolic of the fertility of the islands, Annies rejection of breadfruit is

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63surprising. In light of Kincaids constant reminders that neither the Caribbean communitynor the family is to be considered safe for the individual out of nave attachment to theCaribbean, the inclusion of breadfruit as the contested food only seems realistic. Onemight almost be tempted to make an analogy between Annies experience and theexperience of children everywhere who do not want to eat what their parents want themto, but that would be a mistake. Annies eating the breadfruit that she hates representsviolence to the body and the core of her feelings. She disbelieves her own certainty thatshe is eating breadfruit in order to accommodate her mother. She eats it anyway, only forher mother to laugh off Annies feelings of betrayal. Even though Mrs. John seems towant Annie to grow up, she has rejected her bodily integrity, as well as her ability to acton her own knowledge.At this point, it is interesting to make a comparison between Annie and Xuela.Having seen a classmate drown while swimming out to meet a naked woman whoappeared in a river and then disappeared, Xuela writes of her schoolmates who also sawthe woman: they no longer believe what they saw with their own eyes, or in their ownreality. Our experience cannot be interpreted by us; we do not know the truth in itIbelieved in that apparition then and I believe in it now (Autobiography 38). Annie at thispoint seems to be in the same position of disbelieving her experience that Xuelasclassmates were in in this passage. Xuela, however resisted the insistence of her fatherthat belief in her own experience was impossible. She writes that she did believe: But itwas not to him that I insisted on the reality I knew (50).Patricia Manns concept of agency can help us understand what is keeping Annieand Xuelas classmates from telling their own stories, and why it seems like they have no

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64agency to believe what they have seen with their own eyes. She defines agency as theability to perform an action out of motivation, responsibility or expectation of reward (7).The aim of her book, Micro-politics, is to outline the rubrics for a new American societythat is based on engaged individuals which she suggests should take the place of thewestern concept of the liberal individual. She argues that though in theory, the concept ofthe liberal individual includes women as being equal, the reality has always been thatthey were incorporated selves whose agency was defined by responsibility in theprivate sphere, while their husbands were free to act based on motivation (desire) orexpectation of reward (capital) (125). She makes the argument that women under westernliberalism have always had the agency to be incorporated selves to the male individual.In fact, women had a responsibility to perform the personal services that kept the liberalman able to maintain his position in the world to conduct transactions in the way ofexpending desire and collecting capital as a disinterested individual (46). And in theory,these women were assumed to have the desireto wantto perform these personalservices including bearing and rearing children. The importance of all of this for thispaper is that Mann outlines a concept of agency that explains that agency cannot becreated or destroyed; it can only be misplaced or misdirected.The problem comes when an individual has a responsibility to do somethingwithout the desire (which she calls motivation). Mann writes that responsibilitythefeeling that one ought to do somethingwithout desire or reward is oppressive. If aperson acts, that person must have agency; but all types of agency are not equal. Thisconcept of misplaced agency links the ideological control of western colonialismthecontrol over narrativeswith the self-doubt that leads to the inability of the individual to

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65act in her own self-interests since narrative domination leads to the inability of theindividual to formulate a sense of self. The cycle is self-reinforcing, but Kincaids textssuggest that the narrative domination of history can be broken if the individual can re-align what she feels like she ought to do with what makes sense to do for her own desireor profit.Annie needed her mothers confirmation that the food was, in fact, breadfruitbefore she could know for sure. One could argue that Annie is not ablethat she doesnot have the agencyto decide to believe her own sensory experience. But it would bemore useful to see the ways in which she has merely been trained to trust herself onlywhen that self is supported by its connection to her mother, who in turn was trained totrust herself only when that self is supported by colonial discourse. She had been able toweather her mothers designation of her as slutvalue judgments like that might be hardfor a young girl to dispute or to recognize as irrational. Her mother convinced her tobetray her own senses, and this betrayal is an acute threat to the self. In order for Annie tomature, she needs to realign her agency with the will of an identity that she can dependon. For a brief moment, her senses become detached from reality so that the image of hermother turning into a crocodile is based completely on her subjectivity and causes thefirst departure from the realism portrayed in the book. Even though she is enraged and isagain rewriting the narrative of her mother as she did when she implied that Mrs. John isa slut, Annie is now connected to her mother through hatred rather than love or desire forattachment, and is unable to take control of hatred as a narrative.Walking home from school shortly after the breadfruit episode, she looks at herreflection in a store window, and the window projects back to her an unwelcome image.

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66She first notices her head and eyes, which were too big and wide open. Her plaits stuckout under her hat and her image made her think of The Young Lucifer, a painting ofLucifer, just thrown out of heaven, standing on a black rock all alone and nakedHisskin was coarse, and so were all his features. His hair was made up of live snakes, andthey were in a position to strike (94). Although Annie emphasizes a mutual dejectedloneliness in the image of Lucifer, her identification with Lucifer can be understood toforeshadow an eventual alliance. Lucifer has a long history of resisting the imposedstandards of propriety that Western society values, and it is with this resistance in mindthat he is cast in another of Jamaica Kincaids semi-autobiographical novels, Lucy, in amore revelatory light. Lucys mother says, I named you after Satan himself. Lucy, shortfor Lucifer. To this Lucy narrates, I went from feeling burdened and old and tired tofeeling light, new, clean. I was transformed from failure to triumph. It was the moment Iknew who I was (Lucy 152). In Lucy, Lucifer is a powerful model and is in Annie Johnas well even though Annie does not yet know that she can adopt his image as a model forresistance.Kincaid juxtaposes this image of Lucifer on the rock with the nightmare that Anniehas had previously of her mother sitting on the rock in the ocean, so Lucifer represents asurrogate mother as wellor perhaps another more resistant side of the saintly Mrs.John that she is hesitant to show to Annie. Simone Alexander writes about Kincaids useof othermothers as models of resistance in Kincaids work. She notes thatothermothers are common within Caribbean female coming-of-age novels: thesurrogate or othermother is not as emotionally intertwined with her surrogate daughter asthe biological mother, and this minimal distancing seemingly gives her a better, wiser,

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67and less emotion-driven perspective on the mother-daughter relationship (Alexander,49). They often are able to initiate the adolescent woman into sexual maturity withoutcaring about being deemed morally backwards. Alexander says that Ma Chess, Anniesgrandmother, serves this purpose. Annie begins menstruating, and. this is the final markerof her passage into womanhood. Although Lucifer becomes for her an othermother imageof value for rational identity formation, she sees in him loneliness instead of resistance.She is still unable to break free of her mother and colonial prejudice against the blackfemale body, which she has now undeniably acquired. Since before she was born, herbody has been overdetermined by her mother and colonial prejudice. She literally doesnot know what to do with her self. She falls into a depression that puts her in a dream-likestate because she cannot pass into womanhood without a rebirth to an othermother whowill break the equation between the mother who mothers her and the mother that stiflesher identity by imposing colonial discourse, and Annies attachment to both.For this purpose, Annie will use the image of her grandmother, Ma Chess. Inreality, Annies hallucinations grow more severe as her senses become more detached,subjective, and therefore based on a nascent self still in need of love and reassurance.Annie sees her mothers shadow but assumes that she is Ma Chess because of the worriedmothers enactment of special care. Annie often indicates that Mrs. John is hypocritical,having one set of rules for herself and another for Annie. This suggests that Anniesuspects that Mrs. John is more resistant to colonial discourse than she lets on. She splitsMrs. John into two so that she can use the resistant images of Mrs. John as Lucifer or thefeisty Ma Chess that are productive to her identity formation without having to deal withthe unproductive image that tricks her and subjects her to colonial interference. Mrs. John

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68is unable to allow Annie independence for fear that Annies behavior will bring shame toher. Annies manifestation of her mother as Ma Chess is more able to cope with thedemands of patriarchal hegemonyAnnie notes that her version of Ma Chess hasnothing to do with Mr. John who Annie feels in competition with for her mothersaffection. Ma Chess can lie down next to Annie at this time of transition, and the womencan share an emotional connection without regard to the supposed sexual impurity of theblack female body. Ma Chess gives Annie the symbolic birth that Mrs. John is not strongenough to give her when Annie is well and testing her limits. Annie is able to narrativizeMrs. John so that she can get the mixture of bodily and identity affirmation that she needsto support an identity that rejects the limitations that colonial discourse, through over-determination of the black female body, puts on Annies ability to create her ownmeaning.Annie comes out of her depression and decides to leave Antigua, but not beforeasserting her new fully formed identity. She is now is an expert at creating her ownstories, designed to have an effect on others rather than disguise for herself her ownfeelings of incompleteness. She writesWhy, I wonder, didnt I see the hypocrite in my mother when over the years, shesaid that she loved me and could hardly live without me, while at the same timeproposing and arranging separation after separation, including this one, whichunbeknownst to her, I have arranged to be permanent? So now I, too, havehypocrisy, and breasts (small ones), and hair growing in the appropriate places,and sharp eyes, and I have made a vow never to be fooled again. (133)She may tell truths or lies, but knows exactly what she wants and will only say or act inways that effect her own desires. Of her decision to leave, she writes that she wanted toget away from the stories told her about her, and that her decision cannot be based onwords: If I had been given years to reflect and come up with the words of why I felt this

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69way, I would not have been able to come up with so much as the letter A. I only knewthat I felt the way I did, and that this feeling was the strongest thing in my life (134).Whereas words and narratives can be used for their effect on others, Annie haslearned that her own desire and motivation will lead her to trust her own judgments andthat these desires do not have to be explained to anyonean insight which Xuela has at avery early age. Because Xuela is not initiated into a family community that erodes hersense of self and ability to resist, she learns all too quickly the lesson that Annie mustlearn only after great struggle in detaching herself from love that is also oppressive, andthe lesson that is at the premise of Lyotards Lessons in Paganism: We have alwaysalready been told something, and we have always already been spoken. We are weak andthe gods exist because we didnt win (137). There is no ability to institute a communitynarrative without recreating hegemonic control of the narratives that individuals canexpress. Kincaid suggests that individuals make their own desires their end so that whencommunitieslike cloudsform and disperse, the ultimate rationality behindindividuals participation in them will be the motivations of those individuals who arewise enough to manufacture both strategic alliances and strategic dissimulations and aresuspicious enough to be wary of being fooled.A final note about Kincaids intervention into criticism of resistance literature inthe Caribbean: In the introduction, I set out to show that although critics have beenpuzzled or frustrated by Kincaids lack of responsibility to the Caribbean, the community,nation, history and heritage, this resistance to responsibility is precisely her point. PatriciaManns theory for promoting agency on the micropolitical level aims to minimize actionundertaken solely out of a feeling of responsibility. Mann argues that unless an individual

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70acts with a sense of motivation (desire) or expectation of reward, the action will be anoppressive one. According to Manns model of creating engaged individuals by aligningaction, motivation and reward, there is a danger in the search for a formula for agencyor subjectivity in the Caribbean. This danger is looming (in the case of critics whodisregard Kincaid) in the criticism of Caribbean individuals who are expressing someaspect of the Caribbean condition without careful critique of the assumptions that lead tothat critique. Literary analysis must be careful to never stipulate a universal for howagency is created that does not place desire at the very heart of it, lest an individual feelresponsible to uphold it rather than desire to use it in a way that makes sense to her. Thiswould model a false notion of agency, while in reality masking a more deceptive type ofoppression. It is because of Kincaids observance of individual desire and motivationabove all that allows her to create novels that display the power of her self-assuredwomen.Kincaids writing does break out of the Caribbean modernist and nationalistexpectations for creating agency. Although it stands to reason that critics would be waryof postmodern critique as another grand-narrative of western discourse, Lyotard wouldsuggest that these critics should be wary, but they should also take advantage where theycan. He writes:Opportunity is the mistress of those who have no masters, the weapon of those whohave no arm, and the strength of the weak, amen. It is not simply a contemporaryand unexpected relationship between powerful established narrative apparatusesand the interference of a strange little history, a minor history which momentarilynonplusses them. So, alternate between harassing the State and harassing capital.Attack them by attacking their pragmatics. And if it is at all possible to do so, useone to attack the other. (Lessons 152)

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71In the end, Kincaids intervention is not the equation between the mother and MotherCountry, nor the suggestion that individuals should think about the effects that history hashad on the community, nor even that resistance is in every action. Neither pledges ofallegiance to the nation nor the community will save the individual from a living death ofre-enacted oppression. The revolutionary message of Kincaids writing is that the powerto resist will only be found in engaged individuals who act to bring about a desiredoutcome.

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72LIST OF REFERENCESAlexander, Simone A. James. Mother Imagery in the Novels of Afro-CaribbeanWomen. Columbia: U of Missouri P, 2001.Bloom, Harold. "Introduction." Modern Critical Views: Jamaica Kincaid. Ed.Harold Bloom. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 1998.Cliff, Michelle. No Telephone to Heaven. New York: Plume, 1996.Eagleton, Terry. Literary Theory. Minneapolis:The U of Minnesota P, 1998.Edmondson, Belinda. Race, Writing, and the Politics of (Re)Writing History: AnAnalysis of the Novels of Michelle Cliff. Callaloo 16.1 (Winter 1993):180-191.Foss, Bob. Filmmaking: Narrative and Structural Techniques. Los Angeles:Silman-James, 1992.Gikandi, Simon Writing in Limbo: Modernism and Caribbean Literature. Ithaca:Cornell UP, 1992.Glissant, Edouard. Caribbean Discourse. Trans. J. Michael Dash. Charlottesville:UP of Virginia, 1999.Gregg, Veronica Marie. How Jamaica Kincaid Writes the Autobiography of herMother. Callaloo 25.3 (2002): 920-937.Hutcheon, Linda. A Poetics of Postmodernism: History, Theory, Fiction. London:Routledge, 1988.Kincaid, Jamaica. Annie John. New York: Farrar Strauss & Giroux, 1985.----Lucy. New York: Plume, 1991.----Autobiography of My Mother. New York: Plume, 1997.King, Jane. A Small Place Writes Back. Callaloo 25:3 (2002): 885-909.Lacan, Jacques The Mirror Stage ed. Hazard Adams and Leroy Searle CriticalTheory Since 1965. Gainesville: UP of Florida, 1986.

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73Lyotard, Jean-Franois. Lessons in Paganism. Ed. Andrew Benjamin. TheLyotard Reader. Malden: Blackwell, 1989.----The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Minneapolis: U ofMinnesota P, 1984.-----Peregrinations: Law, Form, Event. New York: Columbia UP, 1988.MacDonald-Smythe, Antonia. Making Homes in the West/Indies: Constructionsof Subjectivity in the Writings of Michelle Cliff and Jamaica Kincaid. NewYork: Garland, 2001.Mann, Patricia S. Micro-Politics: Agency in a Postfeminist Era. Minneapolis:University of Minnesota P, 1994.Morris, Kathryn Elizabeth. Skirting History: Decolonizing Strategies inCaribbean Womens Literature. Diss. University of Miami, 2002. AnnArbor: UMI, 2003.Perry, Donna. "Initiation in Jamaica Kincaids Annie John." Modern CriticalViews: Jamaica Kincaid. Ed. Harold Bloom. Philadelphia: Chelsea House,1998----Jamaica Kincaid Backtalk: Women Writers Speak Out: Interviews. NewBrunswick: Rutgers UP, 1993.Richards, Constance. Nationalism and the Development of Identity inPostcolonial Fiction: Zoe Witcomb and Michelle Cliff. Research inAfrican Literatures 36.1 (2005): 25-33.Simmons, Diane. Coming of Age in the Snare of History: Jamaica KincaidsAutobiography of My Mother. The Girl: Constructions of the Girl inContemporary Fiction by Women. Ed. Ruth O. Sexton. New York: St.Martins P, 1998.---Jamaica Kincaid. New York: Twayne, 1994.Williams, Joseph J. Psychic Phenomena of Jamaica. New York: Dial, 1934Wolfreys, Julian. The Continuum Encyclopedia of Modern Criticism and Theory.New York: Continuum, 2002.

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74BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHLindsey Collins was born in Tampa, Florida. She graduated from BrandeisUniversity in 2002 and began graduate school at the University of Florida. She willgraduate in August 2005 with her masters degree in English with a concentration inpostcolonial studies with a focus on Caribbean literature. She will be attending theUniversity of Florida in the Fall, continuing work on a doctoral degree in English.


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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0010833/00001

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Title: Dissimulating Women: Jamaica Kincaid's Annie John and Autobiography of My Mother
Physical Description: Mixed Material
Copyright Date: 2008

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Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
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System ID: UFE0010833:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0010833/00001

Material Information

Title: Dissimulating Women: Jamaica Kincaid's Annie John and Autobiography of My Mother
Physical Description: Mixed Material
Copyright Date: 2008

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Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
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DISSIMULATING WOMEN: JAMAICA KINCAID'S ANNIE JOHNAND
AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MYMOTHER















By

LINDSEY COLLINS


A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF ARTS

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


2005


































Copyright 2005

by

Lindsey Collins









ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I would like to thank my all of my family and friends, since this thesis is what I

have to show for the many times I should have called my mother, taken Phil for a swim,

or helped Andrew get acquainted with the beautiful state of Florida, to which he moved

so that I could attend this program. Thanks as well go to Leah Rosenberg, my director for

this project, who gave extensive comments on multiple drafts, and Scott Nygren, who

introduced me to Jean-Francois Lyotard. Finally, I would like to thank Margot who read

Kincaid and recognized the pleasure that Xuela does know, and my mother, again, for

listening to me talk about it.
















TABLE OF CONTENTS

page

A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ...................................................................... ...................iii

ABSTRACT ....................... ... ...................... .............. ........ v

CHAPTER

1 "CYAAN LIVE SPLIT": AN OLD MOLD AND KINCAID'S INTERVENTION .... 1

2 SEDUCING THE NARRATOR: THE IMPORTANCE OF SELF-DESIRE IN
KINCAID'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MY MOTHER................................... 29

3 "AND I HAVE MADE A VOW NEVER TO BE FOOLED AGAIN":
NARRATIVE PRAGMATICS AND THE FORMATION OF SELF AND
DESIRE IN JAMAICA KINCAID'S ANNIE JOHN ............................................... 53

LIST OF REFERENCES.. ............................................................ ............... 72

BIOGRAPH ICAL SKETCH ......................................................... .. .............. 74
















Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts

DISSIMULATING WOMEN: JAMAICA KINCAID'S ANNIE JOHN AND
AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MY MOTHER

By

Lindsey Collins

August 2005

Chair: Leah Rosenberg
Cochair: Scott Nygren
Major Department: English

Critics of Jamaica Kincaid have often overlooked her radical contribution to

identity politics in Caribbean literature. They argue that her writing does not have the

same desire or potential to resist colonialism that scholars see in the larger community of

Caribbean writers. They say that novels such as Annie John are apolitical or ahistorical

because of Kincaid's close focus on domestic issues. They argue that such novels as

Autobiography of My Mother do not acknowledge her responsibility to her Caribbean

homeland, the Caribbean community, or to history, and that her style is too classically

influenced or influenced by a Euro-centric postmodernism. However, Kincaid is

contesting these concepts as the grounds on which Caribbean writers theorize their

subjectivity or agency. Caribbean writers have worked toward a decolonized definition of

Caribbeanness by placing a redefined nation-which history, community, family and

heritage all work to support-at the center of their resistance. Kincaid's writing suggests

that an allegiance to an oppressive community and nation can hurt the individual and can









propagate unending cycles of oppression unless the individual is also able to redefine her

relationship with the community. Because Kincaid challenges the existing paradigm for

resistance literature, Caribbean scholars have not recognized her intervention. Yet, her

writing it deceptively revolutionary, and her heroines depict an agency that is unmatched

in many Caribbean novels. The subtle success of her resistance calls for a re-evaluation

of Kincaid's writing, and the precepts by which critics have judged her potential to resist.

Since critics have questioned her take on the key concepts of the individual,

community, and nation in theories of resistance, this thesis will survey criticism about

these concepts. I will compare Kincaid's reception to that of Michelle Cliff, a writer who

is dealing with issues similar to Kincaid's, but who is more accepted by the critical

community. I will reconcile the positions on the above concepts and clarify how

Kincaid's engagement of these concepts demonstrates the usefulness of postmodernism

for Caribbean writing. Because Caribbean nationalism rises out of modernist thinking,

commonly accepted constructions of national space position the community and the

individual in a hierarchical relationship and compel individuals to support the

community, regardless of the community's support for them. Kincaid's writing, however,

redefines these relationships as she successfully creates characters that interrogate meta-

narratives such as community from a standpoint staked out by their individual agency.

Her writing is both postmodern and revolutionary.















CHAPTER 1
"CYAAN LIVE SPLIT": AN OLD MOLD AND KINCAID'S INTERVENTION



The time will come for both of us to choose. For we will have to make the choice.
Cast our lot. Cyaan live split. Not in this world.
-Michelle Cliff, No Telephone to Heaven

I refused to belong to a race, I refused to accept a nation. I wanted only, and still
do want, to observe people who do so. The crime of these identities, which I know
now more than ever, I do not have the courage to bear. Am I nothing, then? I do
not believe so, but if nothing is a condemnation, then I would love to be
condemned.
-Kincaid, Autobiography of My Mother


Critics of Jamaica Kincaid have often overlooked her radical contribution to

identity politics in Caribbean literature. They argue that her writing does not have the

same desire or potential to resist colonialism that scholars see in the larger community of

Caribbean writers. They say that novels such as Annie John are apolitical or ahistorical

because of Kincaid's close focus on domestic issues. They argue that such novels as

Autobiography of My Mother do not acknowledge her responsibility to her Caribbean

homeland, the Caribbean community, or to history, and that her style is too classically

influenced or influenced by a Euro-centric postmodernism. However, Kincaid is

contesting these concepts as the grounds on which Caribbean writers theorize their

subjectivity or agency. Caribbean writers have worked toward a decolonized definition of

Caribbeanness by placing a redefined nation-which history, community, family and

heritage all work to support-at the center of their resistance. Kincaid's writing suggests

that an allegiance to an oppressive community and nation can hurt the individual and can









propagate unending cycles of oppression unless the individual is also able to redefine her

relationship with the community. Because she challenges this existing paradigm for

resistance literature, Caribbean scholars have not recognized her intervention. Yet, her

writing it deceptively revolutionary, and her heroines depict an agency that is unmatched

in many Caribbean novels. The subtle success of her resistance calls for a re-evaluation

of Kincaid's writing, and the precepts by which critics have judged her potential to resist.

Properly evaluating the potential for resistance in Jamaica Kincaid's writing

requires redefining the above key concepts in theories of resistance. In Writing in Limbo,

Simon Gikandi suggests that Caribbean modernism can only overturn colonial modernist

ideology when authors create a "national space." Michelle Cliff and the other authors that

Gikandi introduces re-negotiate how this national space is constructed, actively revising

outdated essentialized constructs of "the nation." Nevertheless, I will argue that the

resulting constructions of national space still position the community and the individual

in a hierarchical relationship, where individuals are expected to support the community,

regardless of the community's support for them. Kincaid's writing redefines community

as she successfully creates characters that interrogate meta-narratives such as community

from a standpoint staked out by their individual agency.

These characters embody what Patricia Mann calls an engaged individual, an

individual who has the agency to assess her own needs and create social contracts in

communities where those needs will be met (Mann 141).1 I will use community to suggest



'Indeed, some of the strangeness of rethinking the role of the individual in the national community may
stem from the twin birth of the concepts of individual and nation within European discourses of modernity
(Mann 20). It may be impossible to think about the individual without inviting the modernist
responsibilities to the nation to haunt the word. The term also suffers the baggage of humanist universalism
that posits the individual subject as central to an empirically verifiable universe. I will use Patricia Mann's
term engaged individual in order to accommodate ideal individuals who seek perfect information about the









any collection of individuals who are subject to a shared set of rules, expectations, or

narratives. While the nation is a community that an engaged individual might consent to

membership within, she might find a more exclusive community more helpful to her, or

she may assent to identify herself with several different communities that support her

agency. Because I do not want to contribute to the tendency to privilege the national

community-the nation-over smaller communities, I will use community to refer to any

community, including a national community.

Because the national community has been instrumental in some of the gains that

resistance work has seen, Kincaid's refusal to negotiate community or national space

before establishing personal security is misinterpreted as selfish or a hopeless last resort.

Her attention to the needs of the individual leads critics to call her style postmodern,

which for them, constitutes one more reason that her writing seems to fail to resist

colonialism. Their outright rejection of postmodernism is partly owing to

misunderstandings in how postmodern philosophy and style has been interpreted. As

postmodernism interrogates the theoretical and cultural positions that Gikandi and others

see as essential to defeating colonial modernism, critics suggest that it is apolitical and

ahistorical. In distinction, this thesis will argue that Kincaid's postmodernism is political

and is instrumental in her successful rejection of colonial oppression. In order to see the

potential for resistance in Kincaid's writing, postmodernism must be reevaluated in the

context of Caribbean literature.

Postmodernism can be loosely understood as a style of the representation arts that

evolved out of modernism and is characterized by pastiche, fragmentation, and

responsibilities that operate within a nation or subset community and who possess perfect agency to choose
or change a nation or community that fits their best interests.









fabrication (Wolfreys 611). Although the nation and community lose a priori legitimacy

under postmodern deconstruction, leading critic Jane King to reject both postmodernism

and Kincaid, Jean-Francois Lyotard suggests that postmodern deconstruction is political

because it effectively resists the installation of the grand-narrative as the exclusive

narrative of a community. For this paper, I will define postmodernism using Lyotard's

suggestion that it is an "incredulity toward meta-narratives" (Postmodern xxiv).

Though I have outlined my position on these important concepts, it is important to

look at how Caribbean writers and critics have dealt with them, and how that might

influence their judgment of Kincaid. Critic Simon Gikandi wrote Writing in Limbo in

which he suggests that Caribbean writers seem to working through a response to

European modernism. He identifies the writing of the contemporary era as Caribbean

modernism and outlines what he identifies as modernist Caribbean writers' goals:

My basic premise, then, is that Caribbean writers cannot adopt the history and
culture of European modernism, especially as defined by the colonizing structures,
but neither can they escape from it because it has overdetermined Caribbean
cultures in many ways. Moreover, for peoples of African and Asian descent, the
central categories of European modernity- history, national language,
subjectivity-have value only when they are fertilized by figures of the 'other"
imagination which colonialism has sought to repress. In this sense, Caribbean
modernism is highly revisionary. As Wilson Harris, possibly the most self-
conscious Caribbean modernist, has argued, modern, "implies an ongoing and
unceasing re-visionary and innovative strategy that has its roots in the deepest
layers of that past that still address us." (Gikandi 3)

From Gikandi's summative statement about the purposes and techniques of Caribbean

modernist writers, we can chart out a few expectations for writers of Caribbean literature

that is to be understood as conscientious of the need for increased agency: First, they are

neither able to adopt western modernist discourse or escape from it. Second, history,

national language and subjectivity are picked out as the central categories of modernism,









and this is how Gikandi seems to describe the relationship between the individual, the

community, and the nation. Third, Caribbean writers who discuss these concepts to

varying degrees re-insert or naturalize figures from their repressed African and

Indigenous cultural past. The final expectation seems to be that Caribbean writers should

invoke concepts of individual, community and nation and should do it in a way that looks

to the "deepest layers of the past"-previous literature has placed the beginning with

Columbus or the birth of the island.2 This past becomes used in Gikandi's model to

explore how history affects the Caribbean today, and to find figures and concepts that can

be naturalized into use to forge a new community and nation, re-visioned.

Critics' praise for Michelle Cliff exposes the assumptions that they bring to their

readings of Caribbean literature about the responsibility of the individual to the

community. Although Cliff's light skin and lesbianism make Caribbean nationalist critics

that rigidly pin Caribbeanness to blackness or heterosexuality sometimes hesitant to

accept Cliff's writing as a viable model, her writing is increasingly being read in

classrooms outside of the Caribbean as well as within. Writing in Limbo by Simon

Gikandi presents Michelle Cliff s Abeng as an example of postcolonial writing in the

Caribbean that gains subjectivity and leaves room for other Caribbean voices (Gikandi

251). In his conclusion, he forwards Cliff s writing as an example of how he sees

Caribbean subjectivity developing out of Caribbean modernism. The following section

discusses Cliff's novel, No Telephone to Heaven, the sequel to Abeng. I outline how



2 Gikandi discusses writers who have re-visioned the beginning of history in the Caribbean as an
intervention into modernism. Although Western modernist discourse places the beginning of history at the
time of Columbus trips to the Caribbean, Edward Kamau Brathwaite in his writing has emphasized the
geological birth of the island to pose a new beginning. Cliff intertextually acknowledges the repositioning
of"pre-history" in history inAbeng (Gikandi 238).









critics have found useful her writing about concepts such as nationalism, community, and

feminism and then outline why these approaches to these concepts might be limiting.

Cliff s main character, Clare, is a light skinned Jamaican of African, English and

Arawak heritage. After years of living in the United States and England, she moves back

to Jamaica where she identifies with her mother's line, her black heritage, and researches

and teaches a re-visioned history that she hopes will help the children of Jamaica become

more aware of the ideological baggage that the colonial history books bring with them. 3

After meditating on the poor living conditions of many children in Jamaica, she feels

compelled to do more, so she joins a guerilla group which stages an attack on a film set

that romanticizes the figure of Nanny of the Maroons, a runaway slave and folk-hero of

Jamaica who led other run-away slaves to resist British attempts to recapture them. The

plot of the film is a twisted version of history that shows Cudjoe, another maroon leader,

saving Nanny from the forest spirit Sasabonsam, a version that aims to overwrite Nanny's

African folk-hero status as a leader in the resistance to colonialism. The group is

betrayed, and the military counterattacks, shooting and killing Clare.

Clare's allegiance to the Nanny narrative that she protects defines the

characteristics of resistance in the Caribbean in terms of Africanness and motherhood.

Cliff writes about Nanny in the "Magnanimous Warrior" section of No Telephone to

Heaven, which finds its refrain in Nanny's motherly qualities and her warrior qualities:

Mother who carries the power-stone, center of the world. Warrior who places the
blood-cloth on the back of the whipped slave. She who turns her attention to the
evildoer. Mother who binds the female drumhead with parchment from a goat.
Warrior who gathers grave-dirt in her pockets. Pieces of chalk. Packs of cards. Bits

3 For an interview with Michelle Cliff where she discusses her preference for "re-visioning" as opposed to
"revising" or "revisionist" see Jim Clawson's interview with her for Nidus at the University of Pittsburg
2002 at http://www.pitt.edu/-nidus/archives/spring2002/cliff.html









of looking-glass. Beaks. Feet. Bones of patoo. Teeth of dogs and alligators. Glass
eyes. Sulfur. Camphor. Myrrh. Asafoetida. Frankincense. Curious shells. China
dolls. Wooden images. She writes in her own blood across the drumhead. Obeah-
woman. Myal-woman... She bites the evil-doers that they become full of sores,
(164)

Cliff s representation of Nanny alternates her role as mother and warrior. Both of these

roles are wrapped in African cultural allusions: her attention to the whipped slave and her

own status as a runaway slave secure her role in an Afro-Caribbean consciousness.

Although the position of this Afro-Caribbean mother warrior at the center does not

necessarily exclude participation by other types of people, Clare finds herself reinscribing

color categories in the resistance struggle as the narrator calls her an albino gorilla in the

chapter "White Chocolate" (91). The image of the albino gorilla suggests that she is an

exception to an otherwise recognizable category that defines the identity of the guerilla

group as black or African. Clare's friend Harry/Harriet, who suggests in the first epigraph

that he/she must choose, knows that his participation in the group requires that he/she

keep his/her secret of transgenderedness to himself/herself, even though the descriptions

of Nanny as mother never extol her biological motherhood, only her position as a

nurturer. Though this list leaves room for Harry/Harriet, he/she feels like there is no room

for his/her fragmented sexuality in the narrative of Nanny and the African past that the

group adopts. Thus, the model of Caribbean woman as mother and nurturer to a

community here represented by Cliff s characters makes it hard for critics to recognize

the resistance of Xuela, the main character in Autobiography of My Mother, who does not

embrace motherhood, and is more critical of those in her community.

As the themes of community and motherhood mark Cliffs writing as Caribbean,

her writing style also is recognizable within the contexts of the Caribbean canon through









her use of intertextuality and parody. Intertextuality is a technique usually associated with

postmodernism through which one text alludes to another text or the outside world.

Gikandi writes that Cliff s use of intertextuality characterizes her style as postmodern and

places her within a community of Caribbean writers who also use intertextual techniques

to create and acknowledge a community of Caribbean writers. Gikandi suggests that

Cliff s inclusion of geographical history of the island in her own re-visioned history

alludes to Edward Kamau Brathwaite's "Islands and Exiles" (Gikandi 238). In No

Telephone to Heaven, Cliff also alludes to Audre Lorde's Zami: A New Spelling of My

Name, and Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea, itself a parody of Charlotte Bronte's Jane

Eyre. 4 As Cliff connects herself with these writers and texts, she makes her writing

legible to critics by acknowledging a common textual heritage that she shares with these

writers. This acknowledgement of other Caribbean writers is a stylistic technique that

comes to be installed as a mold for Caribbean writing, as Kincaid is criticized for her

unwillingness to acknowledge her cultural heritage founded on a community of writers.

In addition to creating community among writers, intertextuality in Caribbean

writing serves political purposes. Even though critics such as Frederic Jameson argue that

intertextual references to history that characterize postmodernist writing necessarily lose

the context of that history and therefore produce narratives that are both ahistorical and

apolitical, Gikandi emphasizes that parody in Caribbean writing serves to renegotiate the

terms of the grand-narrative of European modernist discourse in light of a new Caribbean


4 Thanks to Leah Rosenberg for her help in identifying these intertextual connections.









nationalism. Cliff s list of items in the above quotation is an example of parody that

strips away the power from a colonial modernist artifact of history, and enlists that

colonial text in the project of restoring a repressed past with cultural power. The list

refers to obeah paraphernalia printed in the Sub-Officer's Guide of Jamaica of 1908, and

is quoted in a 1934 book Psychic Phenomena of Jamaica by Joseph Williams, a Jesuit

priest (Williams 103).6 The list of obeah paraphernalia reflects the fear that colonizing

whites had of Afro-Caribbean culture. Its inclusion in Cliff s text indicates the ultimate

powerlessness of western law to defeat a newly powerful Afro-Caribbean spirit built

around Nanny. Rather than allowing European colonial texts to define Caribbean subjects

unanswered, Cliff adopts these texts to show how they can be used to create knowledge

about a hidden history, if one reads with a watchful eye, and is willing to read history

against the grain. Cliff s narrative allows Nanny to regain the power of these obeah

artifacts and installs her at the center ("carves the center-stone"), replacing the western

Enlightenment rejection of Afro-Caribbean spirituality at the center of ethnocentric

colonial texts. Though Caribbean individuals may have as their ultimate goal a desire to

end the effects on the present of an unfair history, Cliff legitimates history's bid to

organize the present, though she replaces European modernist values with Afro-

Caribbean ones.

Thus, although Cliff uses postmodern techniques such as parody of colonial

history and intertextuality, her aims for these techniques seek legitimation in grand-


5 In his Postmodernism: The Cultural Logic ofLate Capitalism, Frederic Jameson argues that historical
pastiche or intertextual connection of historical narratives creates empty signifiers of a time that alludes to
history, but without the historical meaning. He argues that intertextuality is apolitical for this reason.
6 An internet search for the obeah items brings up an online version of Williams' book, available at
http://www. sacred-texts.com/afr/ppj/









narratives. Rather than using intertextuality to always question historiography, the above

discussion suggests that Cliff uses intertextual allusions to other Caribbean writers as a

method of citation or authority. Her use of parody removes European centrality from

modernist thinking and replaces it with Afro-Caribbean context. Although Cliff does mix

the personal narrative in with history as a way to question how colonial historiography

has ignored the individual, the reader feels as if Clare lives her life as an individual

determined to evade the nightmare of history, yet being caught in the end. Linda

Hutcheon, in her Poetics ofPostmodernism, writes, "to elevate 'private experience to

public consciousness' in postmodern historiographic metafiction is...to render

inextricable the public and historical and the private and biographical" (Hutcheon 94).

Hutcheon writes here of the necessity that the private writer will order the public world.

But Cliff s technique seems the opposite of this postmodern assumption because public

discourse-nation and history-orders Clare's private experience.

Even though Cliff uses parody and intertextuality, including the individual in

making public history and foregrounding personal narrative, Clare makes concessions for

a history that cannot contain her. She becomes entangled in a nationalist narrative, and

eventually sacrifices herself to destroy a film version of history in defense of the Nanny

narrative, thereby installing it as grand-narrative. Hutcheon continues: "among the many

things that postmodern intertextuality challenges are both closure and single, centralized

meaning" (Hutcheon 127). Whereas Clare begins her career as a historian by allowing her

students to accept or resist her history-opening up the discourse to allow their individual

viewpoints-the attack on the film set attempts to close down the Hollywood version of









history. Ironically, the attack only succeeds in closing down the personal narrative of

Clare and the other guerilla soldiers.

The obliteration of the characters at the end of No Telephone to Heaven reinforces

analysis such as Antonia MacDonald-Smythe's Making Homes in the West/Indies and

Simon Gikandi's work on writing in exile that suggests Caribbean individuals can best

situate themselves in the "national spaces" that they imagine from outside of their

respective Caribbean nations. Cliff and the other writers that Gikandi studies write about

the Caribbean from Europe or America and speak personally about the alienation they

feel when they are away from the Caribbean, and the death that living in the Caribbean is

for them. The earlier writers wrote about the Caribbean from metropolitan centers out of

necessity, because there they had access to the resources that would facilitate their

writing, and Cliff says she writes from America because her lesbianism would be rejected

in the Caribbean. These limitations are also experienced by their characters, who do not

fit in the Caribbean societies that the authors create for them. Although Caribbean

communities have tried, with models of hybridity and creolization, to support the unique

mixing that has occurred in them as a result of colonialism, community discourses (such

as nationalist discourse) have often led to essentialized formulae of the qualities to be

valued or have been founded on notions of the essence of a community.7

Belinda Edmondson praises Cliff s story for its community-making and sees the

diverse group of individuals working together to create a new Jamaica as "empowering


7 Edward Kamau Brathwaite in Contradictory Omens: Cultural Diversity and Integration in the Caribbean
has argued that writers such as Jean Rhys cannot truthfully represent the situation of the Caribbean because
she is a white creole (38). On the other hand, Edouard Glissant, in Caribbean Discourse, suggests that
Caribbean culture is the essence of the Caribbean unconscious. While Glissant's notion of Caribbeanness
seems less fixed, it is silent on a position from which the individual can negotiate her role in the
community. Caribbeanness is essentialized as related to community values rather than individual ones.









the entire spectrum of people [in the Caribbean] and providing a means for all to

participate in the discourse of shaping a West Indian identity." She further explains that

Clare's attack on the film set is related to her search for history: "By blending the voice

of the 'official' history, which denies that there is a history, with the oral transmission of

historical resistance encoded in the 'magical' narrative of myth, the passage reveals

historical representation in discourse to be the site of conflict" (Edmondson 178). She

follows up her emphasis on representation: "In the final analysis, it is discourse which

creates meaning; by creating an alternative 'reality' in a narrative structure which both

extends and engages West Indian and European representations, the text attempts not an

imaginary nor an imitation universe but a new kind of reality" (191). And her

assessments that Cliff s work promotes hope for community in a mixed Caribbean

society, and effectively engages history on the ideological level are representative of the

canon of writing on her.

In both Abeng and No Telephone to Heaven, Cliff s position as an author allows

her to re-vision history and narrative to support her individual subjectivity in the face of

the larger Caribbean community and nation.8 That gain, however, is only in the plane of

discourse-the advances in agency are mediated by the writer, Michelle Cliff, and

understood by the reader.9 In the plane of events of the novel, her characters are often



8 For an interview with Michelle Cliff where she discusses her preference for "re-visioning" as opposed to
"revising" or "revisionist" see Jim Clawson's interview with her for Nidus at the University of Pittsburg
2002 at http://www.pitt.edu/-nidus/archives/spring2002/cliff.html

9 Here I adapt Bob Foss' terminology of the plane of events and the plane of discourse. In
his explication Filmmaking: Narrative and Structural Techniques, he writes that the
plane of events describes everything that happens in the fictional world that the narrative
tries to depict, and that phenomena in the plane of events can be perceived by the
characters in that fictional world. On the other hand, he uses plane of discourse to
describe those elements of a narrative that are imperceptible to the characters in the plane









unsure of themselves, and ultimately they are unable to effect change in their fragmented

communities.10 In No Telephone to Heaven, they submit themselves completely to defend

the history of the nation, but find that that history cannot protect them from the injustices

in society. This fragmentation is lethal, as Clare is silenced by the very real (to her

character) fragmentation that her body experiences from the machine gun spray of her

own government. Admittedly, Clare and the guerillas were willing to accept death as a

possibility of their attack, and their refusal to admit death as the ultimate defeat does

effect resistance against the government narrative and my own suggestion that Kincaid's

heroines are more effective. But untimely death cuts short the ability of the guerillas to

continue creating narratives that intervene in oppression, and even Cliffs own choice to

write suggests that she finds more resistance in her ability to tell narratives than Clare's

willingness to die for a particular narrative. Though Edmondson suggests that it would be

wrong to conclude that the world Cliff creates to express a less-fragmented self through

her writing of No Telephone to Heaven is not real, it is important to note that Cliffs

freedom does not transfer to Clare. The main character of the book is dead and the sounds

of the Jamaican forest and birds have the last word in the novel.


of events, but that create meaning for the viewer (Foss 2). For this paper, I will refer to
the actions and knowledge of the characters, and the events in the narrative of the novel
as happening on the plane of events. Those phenomena and meanings that are unknown
by the characters of the novel, and are instead reserved for the author of the novel or for
the reader, I will refer to as existing on the plane of discourse.
10For discussion of the ultimate inefficiency of the characters in No Telephone to Heaven,
and the effectiveness of Cliff's "rhetorical posture" and creativity to "write herself into
belonging," see Antonia MacDonald-Smythe Making Homes in the West/Indies:
Constructions of Subjectivity in the writings of Michelle Cliff and Jamaica Kincaid. New
York: Garland Publishing, Inc. 2001. p 89 and Constance Richards'. "Nationalism and
the Development of Identity in Postcolonial Fiction: Zoe Witcomb and Michelle Cliff."
Research in African Literatures 36.1 (2005): 25-33.









In contrast, Kincaid's characters in Annie John and Autobiography of My Mother

effect change within the plane of events of the novel; in effect, Kincaid's characters

assume the author's narrative responsibility for creating the plane of discourse for their

own stories. It is not apparent that Kincaid is mediating as Annie and Xuela relate their

stories to the reader of these novels. This distinction is not to say that Kincaid's heroines

do not engage discourse or narratives within their experienced plane of events. In fact,

they never hesitate to draw on history or question colonial ideology. Their attention to

micropolitical action and consequent ability to renegotiate their roles in the community

and family allows them to take the resistance narrative to a new level of efficacy. Kincaid

is able to create in her heroines a model of local resistance and agency where Cliff can

only model an ideological subjectivity that requires the author's position outside the

plane of events of the Jamaica of her novels. Kincaid's model might serve as a model for

readers and other individuals in the Caribbean-and beyond-who wish to gain agency.

In a discourse where writing has often been about the Caribbean, with Caribbean

individuals having so often been spoken for, Annie's and Xuela's ability to succeed on

the plane of events without an outside author-ity's intercession is a quality to

appreciate."

In the second epigraph above, Xuela, the main character of Autobiography of My

Mother refuses to belong to a race or nation, demonstrating that Kincaid is questioning

old models of constructing Caribbean identity based on community and hybridity.

Looking critically at narratives of the community allows Xuela and Annie to assess the


" The plane of discourse and the plane of events do suffer from a hierarchical positioning in this argument.
This paper will argue that the plane of discourse always has the upper hand as soon as it secures narrative
power. I hope to explicate the method through which authors and individuals can secure the narrative
power to orders events.









ways that the community can hurt and help them, but Kincaid's characters' criticism is

often misunderstood as insulting to a community that has been victimized by

colonialism.12 A closer look at Autobiography of My Mother and Annie John will suggest

that Kincaid does not criticize the usefulness of a community, or the desire to create

community; Kincaid's characters both find help in community and work to nurture

community on their own terms. But they also recognize that Caribbean communities are

affected greatly by colonialism, and that individuals can allow themselves to be

victimized by their communities. Kincaid's heroines refuse to replace the monolithic

power of dominant discourse with a monolithic discourse of Caribbeanness that

prescribes how the individual should think about categories such as race, community and

history.

Kincaid's writing departs from Gikandi's stipulations while satisfying his goal to

increase subjectivity. She has escaped the prescribed arena of conflict set by modernist

ideas of the nation: rather than restricting herself to changing the content of the categories

set by modernist discourse, she is working through the validity of the nation to herself

and her responsibility to it and her community. It is her engagement with both colonial

discourse and the national discourse that is its heir that makes her position indeterminate

and illegible to critics. Her indeterminacy leads critics to call her postmodern. My

argument posits that the success of Kincaid's heroines stems from this postmodern

indeterminability which critics discount.




12 In Annie John, Annie chooses to emigrate at the end of the novel, but her emigration is different from
Clare's forced emigration to the United States, and different from Lamming's G. who emigrates to redefine
himself and Caribbeanness. Annie has already emerged victorious from her identity confusion, and leaving
the island is a pragmatic choice.









In order to present why postmodernism should be reconsidered as a means for

Caribbean writers and individuals to achieve the agency that critics think modernism will

eventually provide, I must first outline why they think postmodernism does not have this

potential. In his discussion ofAbeng and postmodernism, Gikandi suggests that Cliff and

other Caribbean modernist writers borrow from postmodern technique only to engage

Western modernist discourse, but stop short of opening up the Caribbean discourse to the

indeterminability commonly sought in postmodern discourses (Gikandi 233). So while

Gikandi seeks to re-vision the categories of individual and nation, the literature he

reviews in Writing in Limbo does little in the way of rethinking the validity of these

categories. Gikandi's conclusion sheds some light on why Caribbean writers might think

postmodern ideology less relevant for their purposes than the style that writers like Cliff

have adopted. He confirms that commonly in the Caribbean, writers use postmodern

techniques "to subvert institutionalized history; but, on the other hand, these writers are

striving to establish an authoritative Caribbean narrative of history" (Gikandi 232).

Though Gikandi does not claim that Cliff's modernist writing is the zenith of

resistance literature in the Caribbean, and although postmodernism seeks to define the

relationship of the individual with such narratives as nation as it abandons grand-

narratives, Gikandi quickly dismisses the utility of a postmodernist approach to writing in

the Caribbean:

My basic assumption is that before we deal with the "post" we have to interrogate
its antecedent from all possible theoretical and cultural positions. And while it is
not my intention to salvage the battered reputation of modernism in this book, I
share Houston Baker's conviction that for black people confined by racism and
colonialism in the Americas, the articulation of a "modernized" black or African
national space represented through the arts has provided "a domain of hope and an
arena of possible progress." It could be that many of the claims being made for the
postmodern are sustained by a previous theory of the modem which is blind to the









discourses on identity and history which I have recentered in this book. (Gikandi
255)

Gikandi stipulates that the formulation of a black or African national space will free the

individual from the confinement of racism, an appeal to legitimation by blackness and

Africanness. His book sees some success as writers create subject-positions that better

approximate the diverse collection of matter, thoughts and feelings that comprise

individuals in the Caribbean. But the resolution of No Telephone to Heaven depicts death

as the consequence of resistance, and dead ends are the natural conclusion of resistance

writing that struggles to keep together the fragments of Caribbean society, holding to

grand-narratives. These paradigms for resistant Caribbean literature lack a non-

essentializing solution to the problem of fragmentation of individuals, communities, and

nations in the plane of events. Gikandi continues to discuss patterns of legitimation in

Caribbean modernist writing:

Whereas western novelists have acquiesced to Jean-Francois Lyotard's definition

of the postmodern 'as incredulity toward grand-narratives,' and have even succumbed to

the premise that the great narrative function is 'losing its functors, its great hero, its great

dangers, its great voyages, its great goal,' many Caribbean writers seem to use

postmodern narrative techniques to affirm the continuing urgency of an oppositional

history and discourse that strive for the status of a grand narrative. Indeed, for writers

such as Cliff the narrative of history in the Caribbean is legitimized by the writer's appeal

to a repressed Afro-Caribbean historical consciousness (Gikandi 233).

Although Jean-Francois Lyotard's model of community as a local phenomenon

would help complex Caribbean individuals gain subjectivity without pledging allegiance

to concepts such as the Nanny myth for the sake of legitimation, Gikandi quickly










essentializes and dismisses his argument and postmodernism. Using arguments about

postmodernism such as Gikandi's, critics of Kincaid are able to reject her postmodern

aesthetic, even though she shares with these critics and writers the desire to gain

subjectivity for the oppressed individual. Kincaid engages the narratives of community,

individual, nation, and the narratives by which nation defines itself-history and heritage.

Kincaid's refusal to project a clean-cut narrative of individual and nation frustrates

critics, but where Cliff's characters did not meet with success on the plane of events,

Kincaid's did. And where Gikandi's assumptions are based on the inability of individuals

to escape modernist overdeterminations of culture and the effect of a colonial modernist

past on individuals, Kincaid refuses to participate in communities that enact colonial

violence. Her process of maintaining subjectivity is elucidated by Lyotard's

postmodernism as both seek to define a new relationship between the individual and the

grand-narratives that make up the world around her.13

Although the relevance of this French philosopher of postmodernism to the

Caribbean has been ignored or discounted, Lyotard's writings provide the method for a

critique of Caribbean nationalist thought that elucidates the significance of Kincaid's

writing. I will be adapting two of his concepts to this argument. The first is the concept of

the narrative cloud, which will serve as a way to reconceptualize the larger concept of




13 The meta-narratives that concern Lyotard the most in "Lessons in Paganism" and The Postmodern
Condition are the nation or state and the corporate world, although he engages others in other works and
lays the groundwork to call into question any grand-narrative. The grand-narratives of state and the
corporate world do apply to writing in the Caribbean as both the nation and corporate interests compromise
agency of the individual in the Caribbean. One of the biggest problems in the Caribbean, corruption, is a
marker that these grand-narratives are working together to ensure oppression. Evidence of this is Clare's
choice to execute an attack on the Hollywood film set to constitute an attack on hegemony. That the
government construes an attack on the film set as an attack on public interests suggests that the government
is in league with corporate interests.









hybridity. The second is the concept of pagan narrative pragmatics, which will outline a

mode of approaching discourse and everyday relationships.

In The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, Lyotard argues that

postmodernism is, simply put, "incredulity toward meta-narratives." He uses the term

meta-narrative to refer to those narratives that a society turns to in order to legitimate

such phenomena as language, ideas, or actions, but which are not expected to be subject

to legitimation themselves. He suggests that thinkers who draw on grand-narratives to

gain knowledge will be left with conclusions that are dependent on the premises of the

grand-narratives and that reinscribe the power of the system under which the knowledge

was born. He argues that rather than think of ourselves as individuals put upon or called

to act on behalf of grand-narratives, we should think of ourselves existing at the

intersection of an ever-expanding universe of narrative clouds, each cloud possessing its

own universe of rules (Postmodern xxiv).

To begin, we might think of "the nation" as a narrative cloud with its own rules or

poetics. Lyotard writes that postmodernism sees these clouds being dispersed. Thus, we

might think of the reality of the division between the guerilla group and the Jamaican

government and military-both representatives of the nation, but now placed in

opposition as they both claim to be defending the nation's interests. This dispersion is

activated and sustained by the work of individuals to create a progression away from

grand-narratives that are inherently ill-fitting because they are generated by the necessary

gap between signifier and signified. It is the role of these individuals to create narratives

that are more suitable, by pirating the power of the existing narratives.14 But Lyotard


14 It is interesting to note that because of the responsibility of the individual in dispersing narratives and
creating more suitable ones, Lyotard's postmodernism is quite the opposite of the caricature of the









notes that these new clouds of narrative as well have "pragmatic valencies" that are

structured and specific to the contract undertaken by its participants. It was such a

"valency" that made Harry/Harriet's and Cliff s choice a matter of pragmatics. Their

community had an understanding about the rules that comprised it-skin color didn't

matter, as long as the aesthetic of the group was based on African cultural figures, and

sex didn't matter as long as the individuals adhered to heterosexual discourse. But

regardless, at least for the member of the group that betrayed them, individual desires

interfered. The group ignored the importance of the individual and assumed that everyone

was making the necessary sacrifices for the community.

In essence, Lyotard's philosophy places the responsibility of adherence to or

resistance to these narratives on the individual, and suggests that an individual ignores

her subjectivity to narratives to her doom. The group's resistance to the government's

narrative was obvious and dramatic, but their manner of resisting might have been more

effective had it been less obvious as Kincaid's Annie John. According to Lyotard,

postmodernism asks subjects to pay attention to the pragmatic tendencies of whichever

cloud of discourse in which they are going to partake so that they can be anticipate the

"rules" of the system and work for their own best interests with understanding and intent.

Alternately, they can join a different narrative cloud (keeping in mind that clouds are

permeable-they may choose to participate in more than one) or form a new narrative

cloud. That is not to say that the tendencies or rules will be transparent or that any

narrative will allow an individual to experience a "true" narrative that aligns signifier and

signified. But the difference is that one can better approximate and manipulate his world

postmodern subject walking around with her head in the clouds, at play with words and incognizant of the
material realities on the ground.









if it can be divided up into smaller worlds that can be micromanaged with a more

awareness of the rules and discriminating precision.

Lyotard's cloud analogy is relevant to the field of Caribbean literature as a way to

re-envision the work that theorists have done with discussions of hybridization or

creolization-usually understood as the linguistic, cultural or genetic mixing of

European, African, Indigenous, or Asian heritage. I see in Lyotard's description of clouds

of narratives the same resistance to any grand-narrative that defines the composition of

nation or the heritage and history it stipulates. The complexity of Caribbean society

cannot possibly be approximated with such broad categories, so the concept of clouds

opens up the concept of hybridization to other fields of narrative outside of ethnicity,

such as sexual agency, and to competing narratives within those narratives. The

Caribbean has for a long time recognized competition between European, African and

indigenous cultural narratives in the debate over creolization, which has been both

promoted and vilified. Edouard Glissant discusses the debate in his article, "Cross-

Cultural Poetics." He argues against those who would claim that any mixing of cultures is

to be avoided because it leads to deculturalization. Rather, Glissant suggests that

nationalism based on purity of culture is a western concept and illusionary (Glissant 141).

He argues that a cross-cultural poetics cannot be defined, but only recognized (Glissant

142). A definition of cross-cultural poetics was upheld to the detriment of the guerilla

group when they focused their efforts on the defense of the Afro-Caribbean figure of

Nanny the Maroon, suggesting that the composition of the nation depended on Afro-

Caribbean folk narrative. Even that folk narrative is plagued by fragmentation as the

betrayal of the guerilla soldiers reinscribes the betrayal of Nanny by her war chief Quao









who agreed to a treaty with the British even though he knew that she did not want to

surrender.

Glissant argues against a solidified definition of creolization, suggesting that it is

instead "the accumulation of the commonplace and the clarification of related obscurity,

creolization is the unceasing process of transformation" (Glissant 142). It is important to

note that Glissant rejected notions of the primacy of the individual in favor of the

primacy of a national unconscious, Glissant's definition of creolization has the

commonplace, the importance of utility of the history that is incorporated ("clarification

of related obscurity") and change at the heart of it. Even for Glissant's hybridity, Clare's

wearing a cotta, a rolled up cloth placed on top of her head to cushion it from the weight

of vegetables she had to carry to market, might seem impractical. Kincaid's characters'

utilization of history seems less overt because she resists invoking historical "artifacts."

Though Cliff makes reference to the historical fact that female slaves would abort their

children so that they would not suffer under slavery, the inclusion of this piece of

"history" seems so relevant and useful to Kincaid's Xuela so as to not seem like

"history."

As Lyotard rejects fixed notions of community and nation, he also rejects

stipulations about apriori responsibility of the individual to the community and nation.

Glissant suggests that the commonplace needs to be at the heart of understanding of

hybridity. Lyotard posits narrative pragmatics as a way to deal with the everyday

demands for response that grand-narratives, communities and individuals place on other

individuals. In Kincaid's success with this method lies her intervention into Caribbean

literature. It is the theory behind the smartness of Xuela's and Annie's behavior and









explains why Clare's behavior is doomed. Lyotard's discussion of narrative pragmatics

suggests a method of approaching action and speech that will be the foundation of my

argument that a free society should be founded on the responsibility of individuals to only

participate in narratives of nation and culture when those narratives will work to enact

their own motivations and desires.15

Although agency is often calculated as the ability of individuals to offer their

dissent against a larger power, be it a family, community, or national government,

Lyotard argues in his article "Lessons in Paganism" that merely offering dissent on a

particular policy or action traps the dissenter because the individual accepts the power

structure that allows the policy to take place. Even though she offers some resistance, she

resists in the way that is allowed to her by this power structure. He takes as his premise

that power structures evolve to limit the ability of dissenters both to recognize wrongs in

the system and to right those wrongs within the system. Though systems do often allow

opportunities for individuals to voice dissent in ways that allow them to blow off steam,

they evolve to prevent the opportunity to dissent in any way that will compromise the

system. He argues that any victimization that the system enacts on an individual occurs

only because the system was able to trick the individual into letting her guard down. In

other words, we often make gods of men or institutions when we would be better served

to recognize their narratives as the bids for power over us that they are, and then

strategize ways to look like we are participating within the system while working to


15 Lyotard's writing is both frustratingly dense and sublimely poetic at the same time. In addition, his essay
is written as a Socratic dialogue to constantly remind his reader that it is above all his own story-not
theory-that the reader approaches. Although I would love to quote him at length, the two aforementioned
factors make direct quotations awkward to integrate and analyze in standard essay form. Even though I
know I cannot do justice to the insight or the multifaceted concepts he presents, I will limit my use of direct
quotations and offer instead my own summary of his argument.









compromise its power by creating our own alternative discourses. In essence, Lyotard

argues that resistance should happen outside of a system, because resistance within a

system is bound to fail and be reincorporated into the system.

To support this argument, he analyzes the pragmatics of the narrative-where

narrative pragmatics describe analyzing who is driving the action in a situation and how

that control can be maintained or usurped-and outcomes of two Greek myths: the story

of Arachne's tapestry and Diana's pursuit by Actaeon. In one story, Arachne boasts that

she weaves most beautifully, thus inviting a challenge from the goddess Pallas to a

weaving contest. They each weave a tapestry. Pallas weaves scenes describing the

metamorphoses of humans that the gods dole as punishment for being too clever.

Arachne takes the same subject, metamorphosis, but re-visions the theme to depict gods

metamorphosing to take advantage of humans. Although the weaving was thought to be

of equal skill, Pallas became frustrated at Arachne's accusation of the gods and turned

her into a spider. Lyotard argues that although Arachne was able to outwit the goddess,

she could not overpower her. Because of Pallas' superior power, she was able to

incorporate Arachne into her tapestry, thus winning the game of narrative pragmatics by

becoming the narrator of Arachne's story. Lyotard argues that Arachne is drawn into the

"story" that Pallas tells about her own ability to behave fairly in a contest presumed to be

conducted on the merits of the women's weaving. She reacts to this story, forgetting that

the gods do not have to play fairly. Arachne is manipulated and her resistance to the

goddess neutralized ("Lessons" 138).16



16 It should be noted that Lyotard does admit that the spider has continued to weave webs where the gods
are extinct. This staying power of the spider is interesting to compare to the stories of Anansi, the trickster
spider god of Afro-Caribbean folktales, who is able to continue weaving stories because of the tendency of









The story of Arachne offers another explanation behind Clare's inability to

complete her mission. She naively believes first, in the primacy of the Nanny stories she

has come to recognize as history, and second in her ability to change her subjectivity by

contesting the narrative of history that developed alongside of it. She ignores the fact that

even though narratives of history work to uphold a western worldview, these narratives

only serve as a distraction from the problem of subjectivity that keeps the Jamaican

people poor and hungry. Rather than Clare preserving her own ability to exist despite

narratives of the guerilla group or mocking representations of history, Clare feels

compelled to defend her version of the Nanny story thus acknowledging the power

history has over her. Her resistance only angers the government who maintains power

ultimately regardless of what the history books say. Clare has limited the arena for her

resistance to the arena of the historical narrative, the importance of which is stipulated by

western modernism itself. Her action is a "reaction" which Lyotard argues only draws the

individual into the position of the narrated where the narrative being told is told by

western modernism about its dominance of her. Western modernist discourse is only

mastered and made into the narrated on the level of the novel, which after all is written

by Cliff.

Despite his assertion that resistance must happen in a way that is outside the

surveillance of the power-structure, Lyotard suggests that there is a way to achieve justice

within a society. He uses the narrative of the Greek goddess Diana and Actaeon to argue

that an individual can maintain her safety by recognizing interpellation and strategizing a

response that will allow the interpellating narrator to think that she is acting out his

the listeners to believe and be fooled. Whereas the spider in Lyotard's story merely survives, Anansi
survives and resists by maintaining power.









narrative, thus seducing him out of his element, which gives control of the narrative to

her. Actaeon the hunter encountered Diana while she was bathing and fell in love with

her. She ran and he followed her with his hunting dogs chasing as well. She even turned

herself into a deer to make the hunter confident in his hunt. As he and the dogs closed in

on Diana, confident of their power to make the capture, Diana made manifest her control

as she turned Actaeon into a stag to be eaten alive by his dogs as she metamorphosed

back into human form. By "seducing the narrator," Diana assumed control of the

narrative.

These two possibilities for response to interpellation into dominant discourse

describe the dynamics that Cliff creates for her characters and that Kincaid creates for

hers. Clare's re-visioned history is a reaction and leads her into the trap that history and

ideology have set for her, having secured the power to enforce their viewpoint. In

contrast, Kincaid's heroines make what Lyotard calls a "reply." Their response to

interpellation shows that they refuse to be bound by the discourse that oppresses them,

even if it may outwardly seem like they aren't resisting. Whereas the agency found in

Michelle Cliff's writing can only be completed as she assumes the authorship of the

novel, Kincaid's Xuela and Annie are able to tell their own stories and maintain the

position of the narrator. Although their resistance has been illegible to the community of

critics because these women seem to ignore the precepts of community, nation, history

and heritage that have characterized resistance literature in the past, it is not out of

ignorance that they ignore this resistance discourse. Lyotard's theory of narrative

pragmatics suggests that their unwillingness to conform to resistance discourse can be

interpreted as a refusal to be drawn into wasting energy on precepts inherited from









colonial discourse. Xuela's actions in Autobiography of My Mother work to question

these precepts, while staunchly maintaining the primacy of the individual to determine

the importance of them.

Though I have emphasized heretofore, the importance that individuals look

critically at possible communities, I would like to explain now how these critical

individuals will help to remake a more just society. Patricia Mann's important

theorization of micropolitical action provides the concept of the engaged individual, and

the benefits to communities made up of engaged individuals. Though some call Kincaid's

heroines selfish, I will explicate how Annie's and Xuela's behavior might be understood

as the basis for a more supportive community. Mann's book Micro-politics offers an

insightful exploration of how a damaging ideology can lead to a perceived lack of

agency. She argues that often circumstances change that can change the opportunities

available to individuals, even though ideology lags behind not offering support to

individuals who take advantage of those opportunities. She suggests that when

individuals are confused about what to do in a particular situation, it is because ideology

tells them they should not be in that situation. She gives reproductive technology as an

example that has allowed women to separate two components of motherhood: child

bearing and child rearing. Whereas women now have the opportunity to do either, both,

or neither, ideology supports an understanding that women have a responsibility to both

bear and rear children, rather than doing one or the other or neither. As a result, women

may feel strange if they are not motivated (or do not have the desire) to have a child, and

choose not to despite the responsibility that ideology places on them. And they may feel

oppressed if they are not motivated to have a child but do out of a feeling of









responsibility. Mann argues that this feeling of oppression comes from acting out a false

sense of responsibility, and that as more women choose according to their own

motivations, ideology will slowly change to catch up with the subject-positions that

women have acquired. Mann's thesis is that ideology will move to support women as

they make choices about family structure based on their desires. This thesis has a parallel

in Kincaid's project. Annie's and Xuela's actions are currently not supported by ideology

of resistance, yet they provide, as Mann suggests, a model for individuals to follow in the

future. They make a community that is closer to the type of community that will support

them. Finally, the ideological objections will cease as engaged individualism is supported

by Caribbean ideology.

The attitudes and actions of Kincaid's heroines, which she weaves into a model of

individual resistance, agency, and subjectivity come across as strange to those looking for

characters who see building community and nation as essential to constructing individual

resistance to colonial hegemony. Kincaid's perceived disdain for community, her

classically influenced writing style, her incisive focus on the domestic sphere (and

therefore seemingly ahistorical focus and apolitical focus), and her affiliation with

postmodernism have all been marshaled as evidence of her strangeness by critics hesitant

to place her work alongside other politically-conscious Caribbean writers. These

characteristics of Kincaid's writing do indeed seem diverse from the model of resistance

characterized by Cliff, and they are. The next two chapters will outline Kincaid's model

for resistance.















CHAPTER 2
SEDUCING THE NARRATOR: THE IMPORTANCE OF SELF-DESIRE IN
KINCAID' S AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MY MOTHER

This chapter will discuss the ways that Jamaica Kincaid's Autobiography of My

Mother makes explicit Kincaid's contestation of community, nation, history and heritage,

and the responsibility of the individual to these concepts. Even as most critics of

Autobiography recognize Kincaid's desire to resist colonial discourse, the resistance of

her main character, Xuela, is not recognized as a viable strategy within the context of

Caribbean resistance literature. After a brief introduction to the novel, I will introduce

criticism of Kincaid's politics to suggest that critics dismiss her characters' behavior as a

model of resistance because it lacks community spirit. I will then explain how Xuela

establishes the problematic nature of her community in Antigua, showing the need to part

from old models of individual and community. Finally, I will outline the narrative

pragmatics which Xuela employs, and which allow her to solve the problem of

subjectivity. Even though I will be arguing that in Autobiography of My Mother, Xuela

represents an Annie from Annie John who has grown-up, and even though Autobiography

of My Mother was published after Annie John, this paper will take up Autobiography of

My Mother first. This will allow me to foreground Kincaid's more explicit resistance to

modernist concepts that define subjectivity and resistance discourse in the Caribbean in

Autobiography of My Mother before introducing the more subtle resistance of Annie John

in Chapter 3 where I will discuss the narrative pragmatics that link the strategies of Xuela

in Autobiography of My Mother and Annie in Annie John and then discuss more









specifically the requirement of self-love that is required for micro-political agency and

that is hard-won in that novel.

Autobiography of My Mother has as its main character Xuela Claudette

Richardson, the daughter of a Carib woman-who died giving birth to her-and a light

skinned father of Scots and African descent. The story is written from Xuela's point of

view as a woman in her seventies looking back on her life. Because her mother died and

her father was not willing to care for her, she spent the first few years of her life with a

nanny whom she did not love and who did not love her. The narration that her mother is

dead becomes a refrain in the novel, and this death gives her outsider status: it is

introduced as the reason for her ability to resist being initiated into the cruelty of the

community on the island. Xuela describes the pleasure that a mother must feel watching a

child grow in a way that is reminiscent of the mirroring that Annie describes in Annie

John.1 Yet Xuela is denied this intimacy and can only imagine that the pleasure of

watching someone grow

...is an invisible current between the two, observed and observer, beheld and
beholder, and I believe that no life is complete, no life is really whole, without this
invisible current which is in many ways a definition of love. No one observed and
beheld me, I observed and beheld myself; the invisible current went out and it came
back to me. I came to love myself in defiance, out of despair, because there was
nothing else. Such a love will do, but it will only do...it is not to be recommended.
(57)

Her self-love forms because of the absence of her mother. Although the oppressive

nature of the modeling of colonially-bounded identity is downplayed, there is a hint of

sadism in Kincaid's description of watching an individual's maturation measured by "the



1 Chapter 2 will discuss mirror imagery in the mother-daughter relationship in Annie John. While Annie
first finds her mother as a comfortable mirror for her own development, she eventually finds it oppressive
and seeks to break the spell of her attachment to her mother.









weighing down of the brow, the heaviness of the heart and soul.., the slowing down of

footsteps not from old age but only with the caution of life" (57). Although she writes

that this self-love is not recommended, there seems to be no equally liberating solution

for Xuela or Annie represented within the writing of the Caribbean literary canon.

Eventually she moves in with her father and his new wife, who, Xuela writes, is

threatened by her and tries to kill her. Xuela eventually moves into the home of a friend

of her father, Jack LaBatte and his wife, Lise to be closer to school. Xuela is denied a

caring relationship in this new place as well, as Lise wants Xuela to become pregnant

with Jack's child since she cannot have her own. Eventually, Xuela leaves and moves in

with Philip, another friend of her father. She has a sexual relationship with this man as

well and they eventually marry. Their relationship is not loving although they fulfill each

others' needs; these needs are not romantic however. Xuela fulfills Philip's need to

master-or pretends to-while Philip gives Xuela a chance to enact revenge on western

colonial discourse through her mastery of him. Throughout the novel, Xuela refuses to

have a child, using abortifacient herbs to rid herself of the children conceived from her

sexual relations. The last section of the novel sees Xuela ruminating on her life: "I long to

meet the thing to which I can submit. It is not in a book of history, it is not the work of

anyone whose name can pass my own lips. Death is the only reality, for it is the only

certainty, inevitable to all things" (Autobiography 228). Despite a lifetime of dealing with

the people and society around her, Xuela has refused to find guidance in any certainty

other than her own good and death.

Xuela's unwillingness to make concessions to community or any other discourse

unless it makes sense to her lies at the heart of Xuela's resistance. This seeming self-









absorption also forms the basis of criticism about Kincaid, as she is often accused of

rejecting Caribbean notions of community, nation, and history. Her writing style has been

judged as having too much of a European influence, and both she and her characters have

been called selfish and apolitical in their unwillingness to be pinned down to categories

set by resistance discourse. Although criticism of the author is secondary to my argument

about the narrative pragmatics that critics have ignored, it is important to note how these

arguments against Kincaid all react to her investment in self-love in lieu of more accepted

concepts of modernist thinking regarding community, nation, heritage and history. Jane

King's vilification of Kincaid in her article "A Small Place Writes Back" seems to be the

most acerbic of the group of critics who dispute Kincaid's resistance to communities, as

she responds to Kincaid's A Small Place, and to a lesser extent, Kincaid's other writing.

King writes that she comes from Antigua, as does Kincaid, but she takes exception to

Kincaid's castigation of the island's government and frustration with the people of the

island for their complicity with corrupt government in A Small Place. King argues that

Kincaid's assessment of Antigua is not accurate. Although other Antiguans have

acknowledged its accuracy, many argue along with King that Kincaid should not have

written badly about Antigua (Perry 499). Regardless, King suggests that Kincaid takes

pleasure in the inability of the reader to pin her down, and she ends her essay with a

codicil that alternates personal attacks on Kincaid with a larger critique of

postmodernism's calling into question the individual's relationship with accepted

categories and concepts:

Kincaid refuses to allow us to pin her down. She is an autobiographical writer who
calls many of her books fiction... An Antiguan who lives in the US but claims to
remain Antiguan while vilifying Antigua and sympathizing with the US's values. A
person who reviles her mother in book after book but claims to think that her









mother is "a great person." Whose emotions are all her own personal ones but finds
that her descriptions of them happen to be useful to feminists, and to postcolonial
theorists. And, above all, it is all postmodern. This shape-shifting, protean, slippery
unwillingness to be pinned down-a consequence, I suggest of the very relaxed
writing style of a very talented writer-is easily embraced by this recent tradition
which enjoys refusing to search for definitions of such categories even as
"woman." (King 905)

King is frustrated that she is not able to pin Kincaid down with a definition, and that

Kincaid's freewriting manner does not require the author to exert ultimate control of

ideas and events in the novel. Although King posits Kincaid's outline of her writing style

as evidence for her own allegation of lax writing, Kincaid's style allows the writer to

write a story without having to be concerned with directing the flow of ideas or images.

In a discourse such as Caribbean writing that often laments its inability to think outside of

an imposed language, with an imposed network of value that determines the individual's

relationship with the outside world, Kincaid suggests that the way she has found to write

is to give her mind free range to assert the primacy of her self. This process allows the

language and dominating structures to deconstruct themselves, and demonstrates

Kincaid's confidence that the sense of a narrative is held together only by its use to her.

Kincaid's freewriting style is a way of "seducing" the normalizing language and

structure as per Lyotard's narrative pragmatics. Kincaid uses the colonizer's tongue,

English, without wasting energy to exert force to bend it into a form that may more

approximate the expectations of the discourse but will still be an approximation. As she

writes, inviting the colonizing language to flow through her, she shows in the protean

shape of the text that comes out that there is room in the language to defeat it, but that

defeating it requires that she refrain from guiding her thoughts too much and that she be

unafraid of what will come out. Kincaid is writing, her style leaves room for her own









unconscious to make images, and it leaves room for the reader to make ideas from the

words that Kincaid presents. Kincaid's style of not putting ideas together for the reader or

herself suggests that she will need to be more open to what readers make of it. In light of

Kincaid's confidence in the ability of her words to express the colonial experience, we

should not be surprised that some critics call her a feminist writer while others call her

postcolonial, or that King reads her as racist and self-indulgent, while Harold Bloom

lauds her for her "literary qualities." All of these readings are left open by Kincaid's trust

in her self and her own experiences to provide a framework for her writing. Since writing

is understood to find its meaning in between the meaning that the writer creates and the

meaning that the reader reads into it, a free writing style should not be understood by

King to represent a sloppy writing style.

In her article "How Jamaica Kincaid writes the Autobiography of her Mother,"

Veronica Gregg goes a long way toward bringing critics to understand how Kincaid's

Autobiography of My Mother and A Small Place participate in the tradition of Caribbean

literature. Her explication of Kincaid hinges on addressing critics of Kincaid who object

to Kincaid's resistance to acknowledge Afro-Caribbean cultural influence, the license she

takes in writing badly about Antiguans in A Small Place, and the limited perception of

her scope. Gregg makes three very important arguments that address these issues: first,

she argues that Kincaid acknowledges cultural influence. Even though she rejects the idea

that Afro-Caribbean tropes such as obeah influenced her writing she acknowledges that

references to obeah are found throughout her writing. Gregg argues that since obeah is

part of Kincaid's own heritage, the references seem natural to her, and their "influence"

isn't felt. Second, Gregg argues that Kincaid's narrative voice in A Small Place









reinscribes the western gaze, but Autobiography of My Mother in which "the one who

describes becomes the one who is described" suggests that Kincaid never forgets that her

voice is not an objective one (Gregg 935). Third, Gregg argues that Kincaid is shifting

away from the "apparently personal" aspects of the mother-daughter relationship to the

more political aspect of writing the Native woman into the culture. She then points out

that Kincaid herself has said that there are "wider implications than. .. the immediate

mother and daughter [relationship]. ... I'm really writing about mother country and

subject daughter country. It certainly led me to see that I was obsessed with the powerful

and powerless and the strong and the weak. I've outgrown the domestic implications

of the mother and the daughter, and it now has wider implications for me" (Kincaid qtd in

Gregg 928). Although Gregg's suggestion that writing about the mother-daughter

relationship is more "apparently" personal, she does not define her position on whether

the text is actually personal, or what constitutes personal writing. It seems that Kincaid

herself has suggested that she has "outgrown" domestic implications and moved into

viewing the "wider implications" of the mother-daughter relationship. So even as Gregg

has explicated the overt political of implications of these two books, there is a need to

explore the place of the mother-daughter relationship in Kincaid's political writing. How

is Kincaid's polemical writing present in Annie John? Is it fair to suggest that the author

has "outgrown" books like Annie John as her work turns more overtly political? I will

now take up Autobiography of My Mother to explore Kincaid's polemics against her

community in detail.

In Autobiography of My Mother, Kincaid paints a picture of her mother's

homeland, Dominica. Kincaid asserts that society in Dominica is problematic, and the









corruption of society forms the basis for her need to resist community within the novel.

Her main argument about the community is that history has taken its toll on individuals

so that they are victors or victims, unable to assert their own will to gain pleasure from

their lives. Kincaid places Xuela in a world in which all the other characters are acting

out the effects of colonialism on each other. The narrator describes her father, Alfred, as a

light skinned policeman of African and Scots descent, and of some power in the local

community. He remarries to a darker woman and together they have two children, a boy

and a girl. The family relationship is defined by their disregard for each other and the

demands they put on each other. Alfred spends all his time working; Xuela rarely sees

him out of his policeman uniform. He is conniving and heartless toward those in need and

is sure to stay in the good graces of those with power in the society. The son, also named

Alfred, dies before he reaches maturity, unwilling or unable to fulfill his father's desires

for him to grow to be like him. Xuela's brother, Alfred, is not able to grow into the name

of his father. He fails to thrive and eventually dies. This story of the stifling pressure on

the child to grow into the parent is a subtle reminder of the importance of the death of

Xuela's mother-whose name was also Xuela-in Xuela's own self-determination.

Xuela's half-sister is a haunting reminder of what colonial womanhood would have in

store for Xuela, had she had a mother and was inevitably ignored by her because of the

lack of love between mothers and daughters in the Caribbean that Xuela outlines. None

of the family members-other than Xuela-are able to take pleasure in themselves or

each other, even though they are relatively well off and powerful.

The Scots heritage and relative power of the father also allows Kincaid to explore

the effects of colonialism within the scope of the community. His power in the









community is signified by his role as policeman, and Xuela remarks that his police

uniform grew into his body and became his real skin (Kincaid 90). That he wears his

uniform at home suggests that the power of colonial law infringes on the family. But

rather than the concept of family as allegory for the nation or community, Kincaid argues

that the family politics and community politics are inseparable; the mechanics of that

infringement depend on the inability of the individual to separate communal subject

formation from personal subject formation. The communal power of the man can only be

maintained by his refusal to shed his authority, even in more intimate family settings:

Alfred would never allow anyone to see him eat or do anything that would remind people

of his humanness because it would demystify his position of power over them. His

mastery of creating an image, or narrative, of himself that is inseparable from the power

given to him by his police uniform makes him a god among men in the community.

Xuela explains the connection between his role and the community and colonialism:

"inside my father (and also inside the island on which he was born, inside the island on

which he now lived), an event that occurred hundreds of years before, the meeting of man

and people, continued on a course so subtle that it became a true expression of his

personality, it became who he really was" (Autobiography 187). With this statement,

Kincaid sets up her model of the individual as microcosm of colonialism. The passage

suggests that no re-visioning of the individual that happens outside of the novel-such as

Cliff s ability to depict her fragmented self-is going to save the Caribbean from men

like Alfred who naturalize and enact colonial discourse so that it becomes their very core.

Xuela writes about her father's difference from those on the island who identify

themselves as the "native" population: his victory and their defeat:









These other people, the natives, had become bogged down in issues of justice and
injustice, and they had become attached to claims of ancestral heritage, and the
indignities by which they had come to these islands, as if they mattered, really
mattered. Not so my father. He had a view of things, of history, of time, as if he had
lived through many ages, and what he might have seen was that in the short run
everything mattered and in the long run nothing mattered. It would all end in
nothing, death. (117)

This statement suggests that those who put their faith in abstractions such as history and

heritage will always lose to those exert their will in the moment.

Xuela illustrates the yielding of power from the individual to Alfred, and Alfred's

blindness to any other ideologies [narratives]-besides his own ends-as she narrates a

scene in which a man named Lazarus comes to ask Alfred for hurricane supplies that the

government has entrusted Alfred to distribute. Although Alfred is supposed to dispense

the free supplies to those who need them, he only gives them for free to those who have

power and can afford them and to just enough of the poor people to avoid getting in

trouble with the government. Usually when he offers them to the poor, he charges

amounts that are exorbitant or prohibitive. Lazarus comes to Alfred for nails and goes

away empty handed because Alfred lies that he does not have any. Xuela writes that in

Lazarus, whose red hair suggests that he also is a result of African and Scots intermixing,

"too the event of the African people meeting the hyphenated man had taken on such

subtlety that any way he chose to express himself was only a reminder of this: a happy

song for him would be all about the idea of freedom, not a day spent lying on the sand

near the sea in aimless pleasure" (188). The difference between Alfred and Lazarus is

that whereas Alfred does what he needs to in order to get ahead, and thinks of freedom as

his ability to exert power in his community, Lazarus has no power in the community.

That Lazarus would feel happy thinking about "the idea of freedom" rather than a "day









spent...in aimless pleasure" suggests that he will never achieve freedom, since what he

thinks of as freedom does not require his own physical satisfaction. Alfred's freedom

relies on his ability to maintain power and work toward his own ends.

In this scene, Kincaid shows that Lazarus was defeated indirectly by history, but

the direct and immediate cause of his defeat was his unwillingness to assert himself, in

the face of Alfred's primacy of self. Xuela makes the argument that her father will always

be the victor because he lives for the short term: he makes decisions that allow him

satisfy his desires to the fullest extent before he dies, while he creates a mystique around

himself that compels others to never interfere with his desired end. The microcosm of the

Caribbean community that this interaction between Lazarus and Alfred represents

suggests that because colonial values and ideologies are internalized, no Caribbean

community can be assumed to be safe or valuable for Caribbean individuals until some

method is found to exorcize internalized self-denial. In this event, Xuela argues that re-

visioning history will only distract individuals from the need to fix effects of that history

of uneven mixing unless it also presents a model for individuals to recognize the

importance of their own selves and desires. The model of Alfred is not a model for

agency that will heal the Caribbean community, since it is, in fact only a reaction to the

injustice in the community. His will leaves no room for the desire of others, and he

refuses to cede any power to anyone, even those such as Lazarus who are clearly

powerless. Alfred does inspire in Xuela an understanding of the ability of desire to win

power, but Xuela tempers this desire with a desire for justice. Both desires are executed

in way that creates an effective but subtle resistance, to match the "subtlety" of the result

of the meeting between Africa and Europe in the Caribbean.









As they focus more on the political possibilities of Kincaid's writing, critics such as

Veronica Gregg and Diane Simmons are beginning to acknowledge Kincaid's critique

against colonial discourse and even the Caribbean community in Autobiography of My

Mother. Still too often, their writing points to a totalizing emptiness of Xuela's life that

obscures the value in Kincaid's intervention, and the justice she works for even as she

works for self-preservation. Diane Simmons writes in her article "Coming-of-Age in the

Snare of History" of this emptiness:

In Kincaid's earlier work, her girls Annie and Lucy still believe they can free
themselves from the power relationships into which they were born. They still seek
a form of love and nurture-even if it is only self-love and self-nurture-that does
not, finally, erase them, replacing the self with a set of characteristics that define
the deepest levels of subjugation. But with Kincaid's novel, The Autobiography of
My Mother, Kincaid's girl no longer hopes for the freedom to build an authentic
self. In a work that reviewers have called "inhuman" and "almost unbearable"
(Schine), "bitter" and "repell[ant]" (Kakutani), Kincaid portrays a world in which
the coming-of-age girl is hopelessly trapped in history. There is nowhere to turn but
to revenge, nothing to nurture but a heart that is cold and closed. (Simmons 107)

Simmons' assertion that Xuela will be unable to build an "authentic self" is predicated on

her assumption that Xuela does not nurture or love herself and that she is motivated only

by revenge. Similarly, Gregg, one of Kincaid's most sympathetic readers writes, "The

protagonist articulates, even as she embodies, the workings of a powerful but empty

system through which the dominant history, language, and knowledge of the West Indies

have been construed" (Gregg 935). These arguments suggest that Kincaid is a product of

this system of dominant discourse, which is true, but it would be wrong to conclude that

her embodiment of this system leaves Xuela herself empty; on the contrary, she never

loses sight of herself.

Early on, Xuela stumbles on her ability to use to her advantage her lack of

attachment to make things happen in the way that she wants them to, and because of this









experience, she learns the importance of recognizing and asserting her own desires. Her

colonial school teaches her to write letters by copying model letters "of someone whose

complaints or perceptions of joys were of no interest to [her]" (Autobiography 19). This

enforced modeling of the individual's narrative position as writer of an approved

narrative is another example of colonial narrative pragmatics, working to create colonial

subjects. But Xuela takes the knowledge that she learns about letters and writes letters to

her father about how miserable she is. Her father is given the letters by the teacher, is

moved by them and brings Xuela to live him. Of this experience she writes,

I did not immediately recognize what had happened, what I had done: however
unconsciously, however without direction, I had, through the use of some words,
changed my situation; I had perhaps even saved my life. To speak of my own
situation, to myself or to others, is something I would always do thereafter. It is in
this way that I came to be so extremely conscious of myself, so interested in my
own needs, so interested in fulfilling them, aware of my grievances, aware of my
pleasures. (22)

Xuela learns that she needs to examine her own will and express it to make things happen

and that her expressions do not always need to truthfully represent her feelings, but that

they can be used as a tool. The letters that spurred the changes that brought about her new

life were not sincere, since she had been actually writing them for her mother, but

addressed them to her father not intending that he would see them. From then on, she

learns that it is to her benefit to seduce her narrators by talking to effect action or

guarantee her safety rather than speak truth. And she continues to navigate her new life

using this principle, getting much practice from her family situation. Xuela writes that her

stepmother tried to kill her with obeah because she was envious. Xuela outlines her

calculations about how she can appear pious so that her stepmother would not become

more jealous, and her description of the amount of calculation in this endeavor fills an









entire page which ends with "I negotiated many treacherous acts of deception, but it was

clear to me who I really was" (42).

Despite the misery and ineffable cruelty in the community, it would be to ignore

the message of Kincaid's writing to think of Xuela as a helpless and miserable victim.

Xuela writes, "the impulse to possess is alive in every heart... I chose to possess myself'

(Autobiography 174). Although she suggests that the need to possess is unavoidable, her

decision to possess herself resists victimization by her society, as it she resists victimizing

other colonial subjects. The misery that critics often emphasize leaves a reader wondering

why Xuela would be so adamant about ending her family line, yet would resist

oppression so tirelessly, living until her seventies. Her principle of self-possession

suggests that Xuela does feel that her own life is important. She does not want to end her

life, and more importantly, she experiences pleasure, and experiences pleasure in

possessing herself:

I came to know myself, and this frightened me. To rid myself of this fear I began to
look at a reflection of my face in any surface I could find: a still pool on the
shallow banks of the river became my most common mirror. When I could not see
my face, I could feel that I had become hard; I could feel that to love was beyond
me, that I had gained such authority over my own ability to be that I could cause
my own demise with complete calm. I knew, too, that I could cause the demise of
others with the same complete calm. It was seeing my own face that comforted
me... I loved my mouth; my lips were thick and wide, and when I opened my
mouth I could take in volumes, pleasure and pain,...no matter how swept away I
would become by anyone or anything, in the end I allowed nothing to replace my
own being in my own mind. (100)

Her profession shows the extent to which Xuela values her self and is able to take

pleasure in herself and the world, although at first, this knowledge of herself frightened

her because of the power that mastery requires. Above all, Xuela watches out for her own

good. When she finds out that she is pregnant, she feels stifled, and chooses to abort the









child because she does not want it and could not love it. The self-assuredness, stoicism

and precision with which Xuela controls her fertility is startling, and could be confusing

to critics who adhere to the primacy of motherhood and the community as healing factors

in the community.2 Indeed the unwillingness of Xuela to have children stands in stark

contrast to Clare in No Telephone to Heaven who is infertile and is refused at an adoption

agency. Despite society denial of granting Clare a "legitimate" parenthood through

allowing adoption, Clare suggests that her actions with the group of guerilla soldiers are

on behalf of the children of Jamaica, who are her figurative children that she loves (Cliff

195). It is interesting that even though critics seem to be veering from standard

assumptions about the importance of motherhood, community and nation in the

Caribbean as they recognize Kincaid's resistance in Autobiography of My Mother, they

are only able to imagine this rejection alongside a complete surrender to misery and

emptiness.

Regardless of the corruption of society, Xuela is able to protect herself and

maintain control in situations that seem like hopeless consequences of an unfair history.

When critics ignore the pragmatics of these situations, Xuela's success within the plane

of events of the novel is lost and Autobiography of My Mother is written off as a "sad

book" (Simmons). Xuela alludes to the possible readings of her marriage to Philip when

she writes that her half-sister is awed at Xuela's ability to marry a white man, but Xuela

writes "that Philip was empty of real life and energy, used up, too tired even to give

himself pleasure, that I did not love him, never occurred to her; it never occurred to her


2 Donna Perry emphasizes community in the relationships of women in the Caribbean: "for the woman of
color, her mother and the women in her family and/or community provide strength, self-confidence, an
individual and communal history, and heavy dose of reality. For whatever the tensions these characters
encounter at home are minor annoyances compared to their oppression in a racist culture" (Perry 138).









that my marriage represented a kind of tragedy, a kind of defeat" (Autobiography 212).

Because of the history of domination suffered by indigenous women in the Caribbean

inflicted by desires of colonizing men, one might argue that the marriage between a Carib

woman and a white man is a tragedy as it reinscribes the colonial domination of the Carib

woman.3 Here, Xuela claims the opposite-her marriage represents tragedy because she

masters Philip, where colonial discourse would seek to uphold the illusion of mastery that

white people have over those of Carib and African heritage. The difference between the

historical situation of the victimized indigenous woman and Xuela's victimized husband

is Xuela's ability to enact desire-Philip is too old to take any pleasure in himself or in

Xuela and so it is her desire and not his that is the controlling factor of their relationship.

In fact, they move to the mountains to live among the aging community of Caribs where

Xuela gains complete control of his relations with the outside world. Xuela writes of his

inability to live without her: "He now lived in a world in which he could not speak the

language. I mediated for him, I translated for him. I did not always tell him the truth... I

blocked his entrance to the world in which he lived; eventually I blocked his entrance

into all the worlds he had come to know" (Autobiography 224). Her choice to control

Philip's life makes Xuela seem vengeful and controlling.

Simmons connects Xuela's relationship with Philip to all the children that she

aborts in the years that have passed and sums up the revenge Xuela takes on Philip:

"Thus stolen from himself, he becomes 'all the children' Xuela 'did not allow to be born'

[224]. For she is sterile, too; her revenge upon him, her destruction of his world, is her



3 Kathryn Elizabeth Morris writes in 1. ri,, History: Decolonizing Strategies in Caribbean Women's
Literature that the "indigenous woman is seen as the paradigm and symbol of a conquered people, one that
has been opened and penetrated (53).









only offspring" ("Snare" 116). She and other critics are repelled by what they construe as

Xuela's desire for revenge. But examining the narrative pragmatics that surround the

situation that connects Xuela, her aborted children and her relationship with Philip

elucidate the way that this revenge is not the inevitable result of a woman "trapped in

history" as Simmons suggests. Rather than simple revenge, her actions are founded on

the importance of putting herself first (a principle which she holds to despite the

surrounding emptiness) as well as her desire to shield children from the colonial

oppression that leads her to choose to divert violence from these children to Philip. It is

not that vengeance is her offspring; rather, the colonial system taught mastery where it

should have taught nurture. She has learned well that mastery and self-desire above all

are the tools she needs to survive, and that only through these tools can she work to

control who the victim of her mastery is. She can only identify and perform her

conception of justice, protecting her children through aborting them, through self-

mastery: the relentless execution of her own desires.

Xuela says of her aborted children that it is not that they were dead, they just were

"not to be at all," establishing first the three eventualities of the moral decision she is

faced with on finding that she is pregnant with a "child [she] could not love and so did

not want" (89): giving the child life, giving the child death, or acting so that the child

would just not be. But she fantasizes about what would happen if she allowed her

possible children to live in the following extended quotation:

I would never become a mother, but that would not be the same as never bearing
children. I would bear children, but I would never be a mother to them. I would
bear them in abundance... I would bear children, they would hang from me like
fruit from a vine, but I would destroy them with the carelessness of a god. I would
bear children in the morning, I would bathe them at noon in a water that came from
myself, and I would eat them a night, swallowing them whole, all at once. They









would live and then they would not live. In their day of life, I would walk them to
the edge of a precipice. I would not push them over; I would not have to; the sweet
voices of unusual pleasures would call to them from its bottom; they would not rest
until they became one with these sounds. I would cover their bodies with diseases,
embellish skins with thinly crusted sores, the sores sometimes oozing a thick pus
for which they would thirst, a thirst that could never be quenched. I would
condemn them to live in an empty space frozen in the same posture in which they
had been born. I would throw them from a great height; every bone in their body
would be broken and the bones would never be properly set, healing in the way
they were broken, healing never at all. I would decorate them when they were only
corpses and set each corpse in a polished wooden box, and place the polished
wooden box in the earth and forget the part of the earth where I had buried the box.
It is in this way that I did not become a mother; it is in this way that I bore my
children. (97)

I quote this section at length to suggest the gruesome possibility of Xuela's

motherhood-the words in this section flow with such fervor that it seems inevitable that

this type of monstrous motherhood would result if Xuela allowed a child to be born. Her

fertility, indicated by children hanging off her like fruit, is poisoned by her inability to

love. This living death that she envisions for her children is reminiscent of her own life,

and possibly worse because it describes a mother actively enforcing the pain where Xuela

was abandoned to feel the pain of being "frozen in the same posture" she had been born

in, looking toward the loss of her mother, a wound which would never properly heal.

Xuela's children would feel all the pain of a distant mother, except Xuela would be alive

to actively create the distance and betray her children to a world determined by the cycle

of colonial violence. In light of the possibility of bearing a life that would be more like a

death, she decides that her children are simply not to be. She refuses to "mother" her

children, even though she would herself bear the violence and knowledge of the pain of

this refusal of motherhood.

It is my argument that it is Xuela's choice to take responsibility to refuse to enact

violence on her children that makes her more a mother than her step-mother is to her









step-sister, or more a parent than her father is to her. Her self-mastery and self-possession

do not lead her to disregard those in her community who mean her no harm. In fact, when

it does not interfere with her self-possession, Xuela, actively helps those in her

community. Xuela cares for her step-sister's child until it dies for lack of love, since her

step-sister could not love it. Because she actively seeks to reduce the violence induced by

colonialism, she wills her children not to live, while bearing the weight of the violence

within her that threatens to turn monstrous by devouring those who depend on her.

Because Alfred was Xuela's model for self-desire and talking for effect, it is

important to point out as well another difference in the motives of the two. Xuela seems

at all times self-aware of the outcome that she desires as well as the effect on those

around her, she is forever aware that her convictions, emotions and desires should be the

master of her expressions. Whatever actions she must take to effect her desire in the

world cannot touch her inner desire and personhood. On the other hand, the desires of her

father create a mask:

The man... existed... but the person they saw was an expression of my father's
desires, an expression of his needs; the personality they were observing was like a
suit of clothes my father had made for himself, and eventually he wore it so long
that it became impossible to remove, it covered completely who he really was; who
he really might have been became unknown, even to himself." (Autobiography 54)

Where Xuela maintains control over her desire, Alfred is bound by a mask that

encapsulates the original desire for power and ends up controlling him. No longer is a

person, able to feel, at the root of the action. The colonial violence has taken over and

despite Alfred's status as a policeman, he can admit no justice outside of the self-

legitimating power of the colonial mask.









The mask began as a matter of convenience: "My father had invented himself, had

made himself up as he went along; when he wanted something, he made himself meet the

situation, he made his cut fit the jib" (53). Because he uncompromisingly sought power

through the channels of the colonial system, that system formed him and his desires. This

self-love is different from Xuela's, since Xuela's has a self where Alfred no longer does.

Xuela's self-love is not easy; she suggests that it is not recommended, as it isolates the

self from the expression, making any work against outward power an uphill battle. But as

her self-love is the one thing that has kept her safe, her behavior does represent a

possibility. To outline the mechanics that underpin her behavior, I would like to examine

the narrative pragmatics of her actions.

Xuela has attested to the inability of women in the Caribbean to love and nurture

their children, and even though she is able to survive by keeping her desires at the heart

of her existence, she knows that she will be unable to avoid inflicting the colonial

inheritance of violence and destruction on relationships. Yet, she still desires to be cared

for. Of her marriage to Philip, she writes that it allows her to think of her life with

romance and to think well of herself at night. Revenge-a situation of retaliating violence

for violence-is certainly a response that Lyotard would consider a reaction: a doomed

action that acknowledges the power of an enemy by acknowledging the rules of the

"game" he suggests. It seems that Xuela's relationship with Philip, though violent and

destructive, is not exactly vengeful. If the reader thinks of colonial discourse as a

narrator, the violence and destruction that the subjects learn from it is the narrative. This

narrative of interpersonal violence has been set in motion, to be repeated in endless

chains of narrators and narratees, receiving and in turn inflicting violence. Kincaid writes









"In a place like this, brutality is the only real inheritance and cruelty is sometimes the

only thing freely given": the narrative of violence is too hard to stop and will be absorbed

by all subjects involved (5). As a point of comparison with No Telephone to Heaven, the

inability to purge violence from the community in Cliff s narrative resulted in the

betrayal of Clare's guerilla group, and in the guerilla group's violence toward the

Hollywood narrative.

It is unfair to judge Kincaid as selfish based on her re-enactment of this violence.

More importantly, it is shortsighted to ignore the way that despite the intractable cruelty

and misery, Xuela is able to take stock of the situation, calculate the way in which her

needs can be fulfilled, and redefine motherhood by refusing to become prey to the

colonial narrative of violence in order to prevent innocents from encountering the

violence of the community. One might argue that whereas the narrator in this situation is

colonial discourse, Philip is the one who is punished. But Xuela does assert that everyone

in the society is guilty of giving violence or is a victim to it. Philip has assumed the role

of the narrator, parroting the narrative of colonial discourse. Xuela reminds us as well

that he was "of the victors, and so much a part of him was this situation" (Autobiography

217). Although it would be better to break the cycle of violence-that which Xuela writes

is impossible-Xuela is able to switch the narratees of the violence that she must

necessarily enact, and protect her unborn children. Because Kincaid creates a character

that is so willing to take responsibility for her self and her life, she is able to create the

character and solution on the same plane. Xuela becomes the narrator of her own

narrative and the plane of discourse coincides with the plane of events. Whereas Clare

must be mediated in No Telephone to Heaven by the narrator's voice, because she does









not survive to tell her own story, Xuela's conversational tone and the frequent meta-

textual interruptions remind the reader constantly of her narrative control over the whole

text. Autobiography of My Mother is written from Xuela's point of view, with her limited

but precocious knowledge, and Xuela's responsibility for her own story comes only with

her own mastery of the art of speaking to effect her own safety and desires.

Autobiography of My Mother shows how Kincaid orders the effects of history on

the individual situation on a utilitarian basis of self recognition of need that reflects

Lyotard's concept of pagan narrative pragmatics; she asserts the responsibility of the

individual in making the decision to validate history and its discourses, or to refuse to do

so in order to become the narrator of one's own life. Whereas the importance of history to

the present has been one of the main themes of Caribbean literature, the pragmatic

method of speaking for effect is useful as well in determining how to represent history.

Autobiography of My Mother suggests that the individual must make history relevant by

acting as the victim who does not assert himself or as the victor who asserts his own will

and desire at every opportunity. And Kincaid's recognition of "history" follows the same

utilitarian rule of relevance. Xuela writes, "The past is a room full of baggage and

rubbish and sometimes things that are of use, but if they are of real use, I have kept them"

(205), highlighting Kincaid's underlying assumption about the relevance of history to the

present: she rejects the idea that an individual must dig up and re-vision history to gain

agency. Rather, she argues that those things that are of value to her are generally the ones

that she has kept.

When history, or the past, has been useful to Kincaid, she acknowledged it.

Kathryn Morris' .\kA, 1ug History has done impressive research documenting the Carib









Leap. She writes that in Grenada in 1650 or 1652 according to different accounts, a group

of Caribs leapt off of what became known as Morne Sauteurs to resist being taken by

French soldiers. She suggests that this was known as the Carib leap in folktales and that it

was understood as a refusal to be dominated by western society (Morris 49). It does seem

that Kincaid draws upon this "historical" event as an analogy for the resistance of the

Carib society to assimilation in this novel. More tellingly about Kincaid's "use" of

history, the reader hears an echo of history in the way that Xuela's refusal to mother

children into oppression suggests the abortions reported in slave societies. But these

analogies evolve naturally out of Xuela's situation-Xuela's formulation of her

experience and the integration of history into her life seem so natural because she is not

integrating history into her life. Rather, history is all around as the collection of ideas and

behaviors that are passed on to her, but most of what the readers sees is Xuela's self.

Morris writes that Kincaid's use of the Carib Leap "represents an emerging national and

historical consciousness" (Morris 59). However, Kincaid's positioning herself on the

brink of oblivion, then not jumping off actually contests the willed death of the Carib

Leap, and emphasizes her refusal to be part of a race or nation. Xuela writes the

indigenous woman into existence because it is her mother rather than out of responsibility

to examine the deepest layers of her history. Any feelings that Xuela has or action that

she makes comes out of her experience. Imposing Kincaid's ordering history or

intertextual relationships to other authors who are writing resistance literature would not

make sense within the plane of action of the novel.

As becomes clear from this section, a practice of narrative pragmatics through

which individuals can negotiate categories of nation and community, heritage and history









needs first a theory of will or desire. If individuals are to act and speak with the desired

effect in mind, they must first know how to acknowledge and trust their desire and

themselves. Lazarus, the gravedigger who asks Xuela's father for nails but cannot

imagine a day spent in aimless pleasure, stands in stark contrast with Xuela who writes,

"My impulse is to the good, my good is to serve myself. I am not a people, I am not a

nation" (216). In Autobiography of My Mother, Xuela happens upon this will to bring

about her interests because she does not have a mother, and so is not driven to gain the

love that is not love among people who are taught to mistrust each other. The next section

will take up Annie John in which Annie John, the main character does have a mother and

fights a hard-won battle to gain the agency that allows her to trust in herself so that she

can make decisions that resist her mother and colonial discourse's intrusion into her

family.

Jamaica Kincaid's Annie John also negotiates community, nation, history and

heritage. This chapter introduced the value of analyzing the narrative pragmatics in

Kincaid's work and explained that Autobiography of My Mother has been read as a book

without hope, but might instead be understood as a pragmatic model for action. The next

chapter will take up Kincaid's earlier book, Annie John, in which Kincaid's critique of

colonialism is more subtle and often understated in criticism. The difference in reception

between Annie John and her later books A Small Place, Autobiography of My Mother,

and My Brother suggests that there is a need to re-examine Annie John to discover the

subtlety of Kincaid's resistance and see how her methods can be understood
















CHAPTER 3
"AND I HAVE MADE A VOW NEVER TO BE FOOLED AGAIN:" NARRATIVE
PRAGMATICS AND THE FORMATION OF SELF AND DESIRE IN JAMAICA
KINCAID' S ANNIE JOHN

Although the resistance that Jamaica Kincaid's main character Annie offers in

Annie John is more subtle than Xuela's resistance in Autobiography of My Mother, these

two heroines both resist colonial discourse, and use similar strategies to do so. The most

noticeable connection between Annie John and Autobiography of My Mother is the

similarity of the main characters. Kincaid has suggested that all of the main characters in

her novels represent herself, so they are linked through her. In addition, Xuela and Annie

have the same name as their mothers. More importantly, we see at the end of Annie John

a younger Xuela: their personalities seem similar in their confidence in themselves and

their detachment from their communities. Although Xuela describes herself as

emotionally detached from her community from the moment she was born, Annie grows

into her detachment. This detachment seems to coincide with the loss of the mother from

the daughter's life, through death in Autobiography and a more figurative but self-

mandated distancing in Annie John. Whereas the early death of Xuela's mother frees her

from maternal domination to act in her own best interests, Annie must first overcome her

mother's domination.

This chapter will explain Annie's initial contestations of colonial discourse and

her attempts at resistance to colonial domination in terms of Lyotard's pagan narrative

pragmatic technique of speaking to create the desired effect. This method is particularly









appropriate to Annie John because it puts in context the use of language to manipulate

what Annie learns from her mother and experiments with herself at the beginning of the

novel. It also explains the necessity and permanence of the detachment of her feelings

from her expression of those feelings in the end of the novel. From this learned

detachment, Annie gains the confidence to become her own narrator, as Annie John

develops into an autobiography as if written by a self-assured young woman who has

taken responsibility for her narrative, similar to Autobiography of My Mother. Yet, critics

have been less sure about the relevance of Kincaid's methods in Annie John for

Caribbean individuals.

Donna Perry has suggested that Annie and her mother's relationship are

representative of the tension in all mother daughter relationships, and so characterize

Kincaid's writing as more relevant to a general feminist critique than postcolonial one.

Jane King, stressing the importance of community and nation to the Caribbean individual,

has argued Annie cannot be a suitable model for resistance since she wants to escape

from Antigua. Neither of these readings has been able to explain the crisis of identity that

Annie experiences near the end of the novel or the strange occurrence of her

grandmother's arrival to help her through the illness from Dominica on a day that no

steamer was scheduled to come.

I will present a reading of Patricia Mann, whose theory of micropolitics

introduces a theory of agency that discusses the importance of desire in action as well as

how acting without desire can create feelings of meaninglessness. I will argue that the

debilitating depression that entombs Annie can be explained in terms the misalignment of

desire and action that Annie is taught by her mother and that her mother in turn has









learned from colonial discourse. During Annie's hallucinatory illness, she is able to

conjure a proxy for the lack of female guidance in her surroundings. Finally, I will

discuss the criticism of Annie John to show that despite Kincaid's negotiation of the

effects of colonialism on the family and individual agency in Annie John, this resistance

is invisible to critics who expect resistant texts to parrot modernist concepts of the nation.

Because Kincaid does not seem to engage western modernism, she is able to slip under

the radar of colonial discourse and resistance discourse alike and create an effective

model of individual action featuring narrators who are able to desire and act with

intention.

Jamaica Kincaid places the main character and namesake of the novel Annie John

on the island of Antigua. Her life with her mother and father become a type of primal

scene for the Caribbean female who is assimilated to colonial discourse through family

relationships. Kincaid testifies to the problem of familial relations in the Caribbean when

she says in an interview: "the relationship between the mother and daughter mirrors the

relationship between 'Europe' and the place that [Annie is] from" (Kincaid qtd. in

Alexander 45). Even though mothers throughout the world are expected to have power

over their daughters, motherhood in Antigua and other British colonies is haunted by the

more abstract power of the Queen Mother, the Queen of England. This queen mother

dominates the colonies politically, economically, and culturally, while claiming to be the

model for both identity and motherhood-in effect stifling the emergence of a Caribbean

identity. Alexander writes that mothers in Caribbean literature tend to either re-enact this

domination on their daughters, stifling their daughters' identities, or if the daughters resist

their domination, respond by distancing themselves from their daughters, leaving the









daughters to find other models of womanhood. Because of the alternate distance and

suffocation, those daughters who resist assimilating to their mothers' identities find it

hard to be confident of their own identities.

It is important to track Annie's resistance to her mother's demands for her to

assimilate to her values, since Annie's resistance to her mother provides an analogue for

other Caribbean resistance literature with concerns about assimilation to the European

worldview, or creolization. In Chapter 1, I mentioned Veronica Gregg's exploration of

the importance of figures such as obeah to critics of Kincaid's writing, and I also

mentioned Simon Gikandi's suggestion that the desire to fertilize Caribbean writing with

figures of the repressed Afro-Caribbean 'other' is one of the bases for Caribbean writing.

Autobiography ofMy Mother shares with these writers resistance to assimilation in her

refusal to be drawn into a European value system. The foregrounding of the Carib woman

who is written into history makes Autobiography seem more polemical, but Annie John

must also resist assimilation. The difference between Annie's and Xuela's childhood is

dependent on difference in their familial relationships; and this itself suggests that the

mother-daughter relationship is a political issue. But the politics involved need to be

viewed through the identity formation that Annie learns through her mother.

Identity formation and the role of the mother in it might be explicated in terms of

Jacques Lacan's "Mirror Stage." I will introduce this concept and show how we might

adapt it using Lyotard's concept of narrative pragmatics to the describe Mrs. John's use

of narrative to model Annie's colonial identity to her and Annie's use of narrative to

resist and misrepresent herself through lying. According to Lacan's model, infants learn

to structure their identities through a series of misrecognitions. An infant sees her image









in a mirror and must recognize that it is herself but that she is more than the image-that

although she can see the image as a replica that looks complete and solid, as it does to

other people, her "true" identity lies within and cannot be represented in such a solidified

form. This primal recognition and misrecognition sets the precedent for the ability of all

of us to see images and people, such as parents, as models for our own identities.

Because Annie is unable to be the mirror image of her mother because her mother

is light-skinned with European features and Annie has darker skin with more Afro-

Caribbean features that become more pronounced as she reaches puberty, Mrs. John

creates models of an acceptable identity in language and narrative for Annie. The first

indication of the ways in which Annie is expected to model herself on her mother is their

shared name. Annie John is named after her mother, Annie John but takes on the

nickname Little Miss, a name indicative of her parents' expectation that Annie will grow

up to become just like her mother. But more telling than this "mirror image" of a name

for Annie to grow into, Mrs. John tells Annie stories about when Annie was growing up.

Annie writes that her favorite childhood activity was to examine, together with her

mother, the memorabilia that defined her history. Annie writes of her mother, "as she

held each thing in her hand she would tell me a story about myself. Sometimes I knew

the story first hand, for I could remember the incident quite well; sometimes what she

told me had happened when I was too young to know anything and sometimes it

happened before I was even born" (21). Even when she was old enough to remember a

certain story, it is gratifying for her to hear it told back to her by her mother.

The manipulation that is at the heart of this language modeling comes to light when

the reader juxtaposes on one hand the idea of Jamaica Kincaid as Annie, constituted by









this semi-autobiographical novel, Annie John, and on the other, the idea of Annie

preferring her mother to tell her history. I suggested in Chapter 1 that Caribbean writers

such as Michelle Cliff have taken on the project of renegotiating their relationship with

writing about the Caribbean, taking back the position of the narrator from colonial texts.

In Annie John, Annie is confronted very early with her mother telling her about her life,

and the problematic of the novel becomes whether Annie John will grow up into Annie

John, the self who writes the novel, or Mrs. Annie John, her mother who tells her history.

This problematic becomes clear only once the reader learns to see the struggle as the

struggle for narrative and meaning, where meaning becomes the self that Annie is trying

to become. The dynamics in this struggle can be recognized as well in Lyotard's pagan

narrative pragmatics.

Lyotard argues that the struggle for power is always one that requires a narrator to

assert a narrative and that requires the narratee to believe it. So, Mrs. John presents Annie

a story of Annie's life, and Annie's decision to believe it or not will lead Annie to either

accept that her self is the self described to her by Mrs. John's stories, or to deny the self

that Mrs. John describes, instead telling her own story about herself. At the beginning of

the novel, Annie feels comforted by her mother's telling of her history. She loves the

attention that her mother gives her and the implication that they are mirror images. That

she does not believe her mother's stories about her becomes clear by the end of the novel,

eponymously named Annie John, and narrated by Annie John. But how Annie John takes

the narrator's responsibility for the narrative is more complicated than in Autobiography

ofMy Mother because Annie's self is not as clear to her. That she is attached to her

mother and motivated by her attachment to her-first in the form of love, then as









hatred-rather than her own desires becomes an obstacle in applying the theory of

narrative pragmatics to colonial societies. Lyotard asserts that it is wise to speak in order

to achieve the desired effect. But in order to hypothesize that effect, an individual must

be clear about interpreting her own desire and translating that desire into action. Annie

begins as Lazarus in Autobiography of My Mother, unable to align motivation and action,

except in her motivation to be loved by her mother.

As Annie reaches adolescence, Mrs. John distances herself. Mrs. John's

performance of their connection used to allow Annie to say, "As we sat in this bath, my

mother would bathe different parts of my body; then she would do the same to herself'

(AJ 14). However, when Annie reaches adolescence, her mother insists that Annie is too

old to depend on her identity being modeled to her through a bodily analogy with her

mother. Annie looks into a mirror to notice that puberty has widened her nose and

darkened her skin. The colonial system in the Caribbean over-determines women's

bodies: Mrs. John's European features are privileged because they indicate properness,

and Annie's darker features are not privileged because they suggest African and inferior

traits (Alexander 52). She is haunted by her inability to become the mirror image of her

mother. She begins to make up stories that deny the growing gap between her mother and

herself and that attempt to stave off her increasing feeling of the fissure between her self

and her mother, whom she used to depend on as her self.

At school, she is pleased with the schoolteacher's assignment to spend the morning

in "reflection" and write an autobiography. According to the teacher's description of her

assignment, examining oneself naturally leads to autobiography, the writing of oneself

into a unified whole. Annie says, "I got up and started to read, my voice shaky at first, but









since the sound of my own voice had always been a calming potion to me, it wasn't long

before I was reading in such a way that...the only sound to be heard was my voice as it

rose and fell in sentence after sentence." Her initial anxiety is evidenced by her shaky or

fragmented voice, but she regains composure as she speaks herself into wholeness.

Annie's "autobiographical" story is one that expresses fear at losing her mother. The

event in the story is only a part of the larger story of a recurring dream that Annie has, in

which her mother is sitting on a rock in the ocean but does not come when she calls. She

rewrites the story so that her mother reassures her and, "the memory of the dark time

when I felt I would never see her again did not come back to haunt me" (44). This is

contrary to the separation that happens in her nightmare, and that is happening in her

waking life. Her fabricated narrative is another coping mechanism that allows Annie to

ignore her lack of a structuring identity. The uncertainty in her story and the gaps in her

speech are smoothed over as the sound of her autobiographical voice in its integrity

reassures her that she is whole. Although this is certainly an example of speaking for the

effect, Annie is just barely keeping afloat, and is not yet strong enough to resist outside

pressure. The purpose or effect of the stories she is telling is to make herself feel whole

and keep functioning as an individual, although her self is still very much entangled in

her attachment to her mother.

Annie does learn to appropriate storytelling in order to experiment with identities

that are not supported by her mother. She lies about playing marbles, an activity not

deemed proper for girls. She lies to spend time with a friend who her mother does not

like. One day, her mother questions her whereabouts after she comes home late, having

spoken to Mineu a male friend: "It would please me to hear an excuse from you." This









statement, in effect asks Annie to create an excuse for her tardiness when Mrs. John

knows very well what Annie was up to. Annie complies, telling Mrs. John a story about

her devotion to school: "I said something about being kept late for extra studies. I then

went on to say that my teachers believed that if I studied hard enough, by my sixteenth

birthday I might be able to take final exams and so be able to leave school" (102).

Annie's meta-textual comments of"I said something about...I then went on" highlights

the use of her story-telling to deceive. Mrs. John again asks for an excuse: "Perhaps if I

ask again this time I will get a straight answer" [my emphasis] (102). Mrs. John is asking

for an answer that is both truthful and upright. She has internalized the colonial mentality

that associates the black female body with unrestrained sexuality (Alexander 52), and so

she questions her daughter's choice to have a conversation with a boy. She calls Annie a

slut, her prejudice akin to a re-colonization of her daughter. Annie replies, "like father

like son, like mother like daughter" (AJ 102). In this response, Annie refuses to cave to

her mother's wishes for her to become lady-like and proper. She has claimed for herself

the narrative position over Mrs. John by taking Mrs. John's technique of modeling

identity on language, but twisting the mechanism so that Mrs. John is now implicated by

Annie's stories.

Even though Annie has manipulated narrative pragmatics to assert dominance over

her mother for a moment, she has leaned on the colonial discourse that implicates the

mother if the daughter is improper. This would be a valid strategy of gaining narrative

dominance if she did not believe the analogy and need the security of an imposed

relationship between herself and her mother. Instead, her suggestion that mother and

daughter are alike indicates that she is not yet free from the need to equate the identity of









the mother and daughter. Annie will not be able to develop her own identity until she can

embrace an individuality that can support making decisions and can tell stories that are

not defined by what will keep her out of trouble with her mother, or merely make her feel

better, but instead is what Annie wants to say.

But Annie does not have a sense-of-self that will allow her to make decisions that

support her feelings and desires. Although she uses the syllogism of the colonial

discourse to imply that her mother is a slut because of her relation to Annie, she might

have found the nerve to call her a slut outright, as Annie hints that Mrs. John's

relationship with her parents was just as stormy as Annie's relationship with Mrs. and

Mr. John. Mrs. John moves to Antigua from Dominica because her parents would not

tolerate her living on her own, because it would tarnish her moral image and theirs.

Regardless of Annie's instincts about her mother's hypocrisy, she participates in

committing actions against her own best judgment for the sake of her mother:

My mother brought me my lunch. I took one smell of it, and I could tell that it was
the much hated breadfruit. My mother said not at all, it was a new kind of rice
imported from Belgium, and not breadfruit, mashed and forced through a ricer, as I
thought... I ate my meal. The more I ate of it, the more I was sure that it was
breadfruit. When I finished, my mother got up to remove my plate...My mother
said, "You just ate some breadfruit. I made it look like rice so that you would eat it.
It's very good for you, filled with lots of vitamins"...When she laughed, her mouth
opened to show off big, shiny, sharp white teeth. It was as if my mother had
suddenly turned into a crocodile. (AJ 84)

This passage is important for a few reasons: first, it is the point at which Annie is at

the depths of disillusion before she descends into a depression. Second, in light of novels

such as Audre Lorde's Zami: A New Spelling of My Name and Michelle Cliff s No

Telephone to Heaven in which foods of the Caribbean are incorporated into the story in

ways that are symbolic of the fertility of the islands, Annie's rejection of breadfruit is









surprising. In light of Kincaid's constant reminders that neither the Caribbean community

nor the family is to be considered "safe" for the individual out of naive attachment to the

Caribbean, the inclusion of breadfruit as the contested food only seems realistic. One

might almost be tempted to make an analogy between Annie's experience and the

experience of children everywhere who do not want to eat what their parents want them

to, but that would be a mistake. Annie's eating the breadfruit that she hates represents

violence to the body and the core of her feelings. She disbelieves her own certainty that

she is eating breadfruit in order to accommodate her mother. She eats it anyway, only for

her mother to laugh off Annie's feelings of betrayal. Even though Mrs. John seems to

want Annie to grow up, she has rejected her bodily integrity, as well as her ability to act

on her own knowledge.

At this point, it is interesting to make a comparison between Annie and Xuela.

Having seen a classmate drown while swimming out to meet a naked woman who

appeared in a river and then disappeared, Xuela writes of her schoolmates who also saw

the woman: "they no longer believe what they saw with their own eyes, or in their own

reality. Our experience cannot be interpreted by us; we do not know the truth in it... I

believed in that apparition then and I believe in it now" (Autobiography 38). Annie at this

point seems to be in the same position of disbelieving her experience that Xuela's

classmates were in in this passage. Xuela, however resisted the insistence of her father

that belief in her own experience was impossible. She writes that she did believe: "But it

was not to him that I insisted on the reality I knew" (50).

Patricia Mann's concept of agency can help us understand what is keeping Annie

and Xuela's classmates from telling their own stories, and why it seems like they have no









agency to believe what they have seen with their own eyes. She defines agency as the

ability to perform an action out of motivation, responsibility or expectation of reward (7).

The aim of her book, Micro-politics, is to outline the rubrics for a new American society

that is based on "engaged individuals" which she suggests should take the place of the

western concept of the liberal individual. She argues that though in theory, the concept of

the liberal individual includes women as being equal, the reality has always been that

they were "incorporated selves" whose agency was defined by responsibility in the

private sphere, while their husbands were free to act based on motivation (desire) or

expectation of reward (capital) (125). She makes the argument that women under western

liberalism have always had the agency to be "incorporated selves" to the male individual.

In fact, women had a responsibility to perform the personal services that kept the liberal

man able to maintain his position in the world to conduct transactions in the way of

expending desire and collecting capital as a disinterested individual (46). And in theory,

these women were assumed to have the desire-to want-to perform these personal

services including bearing and rearing children. The importance of all of this for this

paper is that Mann outlines a concept of agency that explains that agency cannot be

created or destroyed; it can only be misplaced or misdirected.

The problem comes when an individual has a responsibility to do something

without the desire (which she calls motivation). Mann writes that responsibility-the

feeling that one ought to do something-without desire or reward is oppressive. If a

person acts, that person must have agency; but all types of agency are not equal. This

concept of misplaced agency links the ideological control of western colonialism-the

control over narratives-with the self-doubt that leads to the inability of the individual to









act in her own self-interests since narrative domination leads to the inability of the

individual to formulate a sense of self. The cycle is self-reinforcing, but Kincaid's texts

suggest that the narrative domination of history can be broken if the individual can re-

align what she feels like she ought to do with what makes sense to do for her own desire

or profit.

Annie needed her mother's confirmation that the food was, in fact, breadfruit

before she could know for sure. One could argue that Annie is not able-that she does

not have the agency-to decide to believe her own sensory experience. But it would be

more useful to see the ways in which she has merely been trained to trust herself only

when that self is supported by its connection to her mother, who in turn was trained to

trust herself only when that self is supported by colonial discourse. She had been able to

weather her mother's designation of her as slut-value judgments like that might be hard

for a young girl to dispute or to recognize as irrational. Her mother convinced her to

betray her own senses, and this betrayal is an acute threat to the self. In order for Annie to

mature, she needs to realign her agency with the will of an identity that she can depend

on. For a brief moment, her senses become detached from reality so that the image of her

mother turning into a crocodile is based completely on her subjectivity and causes the

first departure from the realism portrayed in the book. Even though she is enraged and is

again rewriting the narrative of her mother as she did when she implied that Mrs. John is

a slut, Annie is now connected to her mother through hatred rather than love or desire for

attachment, and is unable to take control of hatred as a narrative.

Walking home from school shortly after the breadfruit episode, she looks at her

reflection in a store window, and the window projects back to her an unwelcome image.









She first notices her head and eyes, which were too big and wide open. Her plaits stuck

out under her hat and her image made her think of The Young Lucifer, a painting of

Lucifer, just thrown out of heaven, "standing on a black rock all alone and naked... His

skin was coarse, and so were all his features. His hair was made up of live snakes, and

they were in a position to strike" (94). Although Annie emphasizes a mutual dejected

loneliness in the image of Lucifer, her identification with Lucifer can be understood to

foreshadow an eventual alliance. Lucifer has a long history of resisting the imposed

standards of propriety that Western society values, and it is with this resistance in mind

that he is cast in another of Jamaica Kincaid's semi-autobiographical novels, Lucy, in a

more revelatory light. Lucy's mother says, "I named you after Satan himself. Lucy, short

for Lucifer." To this Lucy narrates, "I went from feeling burdened and old and tired to

feeling light, new, clean. I was transformed from failure to triumph. It was the moment I

knew who I was" (Lucy 152). In Lucy, Lucifer is a powerful model and is in Annie John

as well even though Annie does not yet know that she can adopt his image as a model for

resistance.

Kincaid juxtaposes this image of Lucifer on the rock with the nightmare that Annie

has had previously of her mother sitting on the rock in the ocean, so Lucifer represents a

surrogate mother as well-or perhaps another more resistant side of the "saintly" Mrs.

John that she is hesitant to show to Annie. Simone Alexander writes about Kincaid's use

of"othermothers" as models of resistance in Kincaid's work. She notes that

"othermothers" are common within Caribbean female coming-of-age novels: "the

surrogate or othermother is not as emotionally intertwined with her surrogate daughter as

the biological mother, and this minimal distancing seemingly gives her a better, wiser,









and less emotion-driven perspective on the mother-daughter relationship" (Alexander,

49). They often are able to initiate the adolescent woman into sexual maturity without

caring about being deemed morally backwards. Alexander says that Ma Chess, Annie's

grandmother, serves this purpose. Annie begins menstruating, and. this is the final marker

of her passage into womanhood. Although Lucifer becomes for her an othermother image

of value for rational identity formation, she sees in him loneliness instead of resistance.

She is still unable to break free of her mother and colonial prejudice against the black

female body, which she has now undeniably acquired. Since before she was born, her

body has been overdetermined by her mother and colonial prejudice. She literally does

not know what to do with her self. She falls into a depression that puts her in a dream-like

state because she cannot pass into womanhood without a rebirth to an othermother who

will break the equation between the mother who mothers her and the mother that stifles

her identity by imposing colonial discourse, and Annie's attachment to both.

For this purpose, Annie will use the image of her grandmother, Ma Chess. In

reality, Annie's hallucinations grow more severe as her senses become more detached,

subjective, and therefore based on a nascent self still in need of love and reassurance.

Annie sees her mother's shadow but assumes that she is Ma Chess because of the worried

mother's enactment of special care. Annie often indicates that Mrs. John is hypocritical,

having one set of rules for herself and another for Annie. This suggests that Annie

suspects that Mrs. John is more resistant to colonial discourse than she lets on. She splits

Mrs. John into two so that she can use the resistant images of Mrs. John as Lucifer or the

feisty Ma Chess that are productive to her identity formation without having to deal with

the unproductive image that tricks her and subjects her to colonial interference. Mrs. John









is unable to allow Annie independence for fear that Annie's behavior will bring shame to

her. Annie's manifestation of her mother as Ma Chess is more able to cope with the

demands of patriarchal hegemony-Annie notes that her version of Ma Chess has

nothing to do with Mr. John who Annie feels in competition with for her mother's

affection. Ma Chess can lie down next to Annie at this time of transition, and the women

can share an emotional connection without regard to the supposed sexual impurity of the

black female body. Ma Chess gives Annie the symbolic birth that Mrs. John is not strong

enough to give her when Annie is well and testing her limits. Annie is able to narrativize

Mrs. John so that she can get the mixture of bodily and identity affirmation that she needs

to support an identity that rejects the limitations that colonial discourse, through over-

determination of the black female body, puts on Annie's ability to create her own

meaning.

Annie comes out of her depression and decides to leave Antigua, but not before

asserting her new fully formed identity. She is now is an expert at creating her own

stories, designed to have an effect on others rather than disguise for herself her own

feelings of incompleteness. She writes

Why, I wonder, didn't I see the hypocrite in my mother when over the years, she
said that she loved me and could hardly live without me, while at the same time
proposing and arranging separation after separation, including this one, which
unbeknownst to her, I have arranged to be permanent? So now I, too, have
hypocrisy, and breasts (small ones), and hair growing in the appropriate places,
and sharp eyes, and I have made a vow never to be fooled again. (133)

She may tell truths or lies, but knows exactly what she wants and will only say or act in

ways that effect her own desires. Of her decision to leave, she writes that she wanted to

get away from the stories told her about her, and that her decision cannot be based on

words: "If I had been given years to reflect and come up with the words of why I felt this









way, I would not have been able to come up with so much as the letter 'A.' I only knew

that I felt the way I did, and that this feeling was the strongest thing in my life" (134).

Whereas words and narratives can be used for their effect on others, Annie has

learned that her own desire and motivation will lead her to trust her own judgments and

that these desires do not have to be explained to anyone-an insight which Xuela has at a

very early age. Because Xuela is not initiated into a family community that erodes her

sense of self and ability to resist, she learns all too quickly the lesson that Annie must

learn only after great struggle in detaching herself from love that is also oppressive, and

the lesson that is at the premise of Lyotard's "Lessons in Paganism:" "We have always

already been told something, and we have always already been spoken. We are weak and

the gods exist because we didn't win" (137). There is no ability to institute a community

narrative without recreating hegemonic control of the narratives that individuals can

express. Kincaid suggests that individuals make their own desires their end so that when

communities-like clouds-form and disperse, the ultimate "rationality" behind

individual's participation in them will be the motivations of those individuals who are

wise enough to manufacture both strategic alliances and strategic dissimulations and are

suspicious enough to be wary of being fooled.

A final note about Kincaid's intervention into criticism of resistance literature in

the Caribbean: In the introduction, I set out to show that although critics have been

puzzled or frustrated by Kincaid's lack of responsibility to the Caribbean, the community,

nation, history and heritage, this resistance to responsibility is precisely her point. Patricia

Mann's theory for promoting agency on the micropolitical level aims to minimize action

undertaken solely out of a feeling of responsibility. Mann argues that unless an individual









acts with a sense of motivation (desire) or expectation of reward, the action will be an

oppressive one. According to Mann's model of creating engaged individuals by aligning

action, motivation and reward, there is a danger in the search for a formula for "agency"

or "subjectivity" in the Caribbean. This danger is looming (in the case of critics who

disregard Kincaid) in the criticism of Caribbean individuals who are expressing some

aspect of the Caribbean condition without careful critique of the assumptions that lead to

that critique. Literary analysis must be careful to never stipulate a universal for how

agency is created that does not place desire at the very heart of it, lest an individual feel

responsible to uphold it rather than desire to use it in a way that makes sense to her. This

would model a false notion of agency, while in reality masking a more deceptive type of

oppression. It is because of Kincaid's observance of individual desire and motivation

above all that allows her to create novels that display the power of her self-assured

women.

Kincaid's writing does break out of the Caribbean modernist and nationalist

expectations for creating agency. Although it stands to reason that critics would be wary

of postmodern critique as another grand-narrative of western discourse, Lyotard would

suggest that these critics should be wary, but they should also take advantage where they

can. He writes:

Opportunity is the mistress of those who have no masters, the weapon of those who
have no arm, and the strength of the weak, amen. It is not simply a contemporary
and unexpected relationship between powerful established narrative apparatuses
and the interference of a strange little history, a minor history which momentarily
nonplusses them. So, alternate between harassing the State and harassing capital.
Attack them by attacking their pragmatics. And if it is at all possible to do so, use
one to attack the other. ("Lessons" 152)







71


In the end, Kincaid's intervention is not the equation between the mother and Mother

Country, nor the suggestion that individuals should think about the effects that history has

had on the community, nor even that resistance is in every action. Neither pledges of

allegiance to the nation nor the community will save the individual from a living death of

re-enacted oppression. The revolutionary message of Kincaid's writing is that the power

to resist will only be found in engaged individuals who act to bring about a desired

outcome.
















LIST OF REFERENCES

Alexander, Simone A. James. Mother Imagery in the Novels of Afro-Caribbean
Women. Columbia: U of Missouri P, 2001.

Bloom, Harold. "Introduction." Modern Critical Views: Jamaica Kincaid. Ed.
Harold Bloom. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 1998.

Cliff, Michelle. No Telephone to Heaven. New York: Plume, 1996.

Eagleton, Terry. Literary Theory. Minneapolis:The U of Minnesota P, 1998.

Edmondson, Belinda. "Race, Writing, and the Politics of (Re)Writing History: An
Analysis of the Novels of Michelle Cliff." Callaloo 16.1 (Winter 1993):
180-191.

Foss, Bob. Filmmaking: Narrative and Structural Techniques. Los Angeles:
Silman-James, 1992.

Gikandi, Simon Writing in Limbo: Modernism and Caribbean Literature. Ithaca:
Cornell UP, 1992.

Glissant, Edouard. Caribbean Discourse. Trans. J. Michael Dash. Charlottesville:
UP of Virginia, 1999.

Gregg, Veronica Marie. "How Jamaica Kincaid Writes the Autobiography of her
Mother." Callaloo 25.3 (2002): 920-937.

Hutcheon, Linda. A Poetics ofPostmodernism: History, Theory, Fiction. London:
Routledge, 1988.

Kincaid, Jamaica. Annie John. New York: Farrar Strauss & Giroux, 1985.

----- Lucy. New York: Plume, 1991.

----- Autobiography of My Mother. New York: Plume, 1997.

King, Jane. "A Small Place Writes Back." Callaloo 25:3 (2002): 885-909.

Lacan, Jacques "The Mirror Stage" ed. Hazard Adams and Leroy Searle Critical
Theory Since 1965. Gainesville: UP of Florida, 1986.









Lyotard, Jean-FranCois. "Lessons in Paganism." Ed. Andrew Benjamin. The
LyotardReader. Maiden: Blackwell, 1989.

----- The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Minneapolis: U of
Minnesota P, 1984.

-----Peregrinations: Law, Form, Event. New York: Columbia UP, 1988.

MacDonald-Smythe, Antonia. Making Homes in the West/Indies: Constructions
of Subjectivity in the Writings of Michelle Cliff and Jamaica Kincaid. New
York: Garland, 2001.

Mann, Patricia S. Micro-Politics: Agency in a Postfeminist Era. Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota P, 1994.

Morris, Kathryn Elizabeth. \kA lng History: Decolonizing Strategies in
Caribbean Women's Literature. Diss. University of Miami, 2002. Ann
Arbor: UMI, 2003.

Perry, Donna. "Initiation in Jamaica Kincaid's Annie John." Modern Critical
Views: Jamaica Kincaid. Ed. Harold Bloom. Philadelphia: Chelsea House,
1998

----- "Jamaica Kincaid" Backtalk: Women Writers Speak Out: Interviews. New
Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1993.

Richards, Constance. "Nationalism and the Development of Identity in
Postcolonial Fiction: Zoe Witcomb and Michelle Cliff." Research in
African Literatures 36.1 (2005): 25-33.

Simmons, Diane. "Coming of Age in the Snare of History: Jamaica Kincaid's
Autobiography of My Mother. The Girl: Constructions of the Girl in
Contemporary Fiction by Women. Ed. Ruth O. Sexton. New York: St.
Martin's P, 1998.

---- Jamaica Kincaid. New York: Twayne, 1994.

Williams, Joseph J. Psychic Phenomena of Jamaica. New York: Dial, 1934

Wolfreys, Julian. The Continuum Encyclopedia of Modern Criticism and Theory.
New York: Continuum, 2002.















BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

Lindsey Collins was born in Tampa, Florida. She graduated from Brandeis

University in 2002 and began graduate school at the University of Florida. She will

graduate in August 2005 with her master's degree in English with a concentration in

postcolonial studies with a focus on Caribbean literature. She will be attending the

University of Florida in the Fall, continuing work on a doctoral degree in English.