Annie John's Farewell Breakfast: A New Criticism Paper on a Passage from Jamaica Kincaid's novel "Annie John"

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Joshua Cook Cook 1

Professor Iglesias

ENG 340

18 September 2007

Annie John's Farewell Breakfast: A Close Reading

As Annie John sat to eat with her family before her journey to Britain, some things have obviously never changed. The family is still seated the same as they always have been, Annie John still shifts her head to watch her parents eat, and it is a very common breakfast for special occasions. However, there is one particular thing that has changed greatly. Annie John now has resentment towards her mother despite the fact that her mother only wants the best for her.

This resentment towards her mother is very evident in this breakfast passage. Annie John describes the way her mother eats as being similar to a donkey (136). The thing that is so intriguing about this is that a donkey can be used to describe a "stupid, silly, or obstinate person" (Dictionary.com

Unabridged) which portrays a very vivid picture of resentment towards her mother. Annie John also says that she was looking at her parents "with a smile on my face, but disgust in my heart" (136). To have a feeling of disgust with someone or something is a very strong description. To be disgusted is defined as a "feeling of loathing or nausea" (American Heritage Dictionary). This description is not one that is at all pleasing. To say that the very sight of her parents causes Annie John to feel disgusted shows extreme evidence of Annie John's resentment

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of her mother. This resentment seems to stem from her mother's "young lady" vision (136).

However, this "young lady" vision of Annie John's mother does not seem to be one that would breed resentment. Annie John's mother seems to be full of pride when it comes to Annie John. Annie John's mother has nothing but praise for Annie. Annie John says that her parents were in a "festive mood" (135). Festive is defined as being joyful or merry (Dictionary.com Unabridged). Annie John also says that her mother went on and on about what a good time she would have in her new life, what a wonderful opportunity this was for her, and what a lucky person she was (136). This type of attitude towards Annie John does not seem to be one that would bring resentment from Annie John, in fact, it seems most like an attitude of praise. It seems like an idea of wanting what was truly best for Annie John in her new life.

This same idea of wanting what was best for Annie spilled over into Annie's mother saying that she would not be surprised if Annie wrote home some to announce an engagement to be married. This was just a continuation of the pride that Annie's mother had in Annie John, but for Annie it seemed to be the straw that broke the camel's back, if you will. These ideas of Annie John's mother were simply the ideas of what ladies do at a certain point in their life, and she expected no less from Annie John. These ideas were also what caused Annie John to finally vocalize her resentment towards her mother and her "young lady" vision.

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The previous descriptions of Annie John's that portrayed her mother as someone "stupid, silly, and obstinate" that brought disgust to Annie John were simply internal expressions of Annie John's resentment of her mother's "young lady" vision. Annie John

had managed to keep these feelings of resentment towards her mother inside her. This was described by Annie John in the passage when she said she looked at them with "a smile on my face, but disgust in my heart" (136). The smile on her face was a depiction of conformity on the outside, but the disgust in her heart was a sketch of bottled up bitterness towards her mother. The boiling point that brought forth an outward expression of Annie John's resentment was ultimately obtained toward the end of the passage when Annie John's mother suggests that she would not be surprised if Annie John wrote home soon to tell them that she was to be married soon (136). Annie John exclaimed "How absurd!" This exclamation of apparent anger was a long awaited outward expression from Annie John. This vocal, dramatic portrayal of resentment to her mother is genuinely brusque. The very meaning of absurd suggests that Annie John felt that her mother's suggestion was "utterly or obviously senseless" (Dictionary.com Unabridged). This use of the word absurd by Annie John drives home, very strongly, to Annie John's mother that her daughter disagrees with her "young lady" vision and has even developed a great deal of resentment towards her because of this vision.

Internal feelings of resentment eventually lead to a quite potent and violent outspoken expression of Annie John's resentment of her "stupid, silly, and obstinate" mother who brings "disgust" to Annie John at her mere presence. This resentment that was once bottled up by Annie John as she showed a smile on her face was ultimately

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brought out into the open. It became very apparent that Annie John had become quite resentful of her mother despite the loving nature of her mother.

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Works Cited

Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. 17 Sep. 2007.

<Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/absurd>.

Kincaid, Jamaica. Annie John. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1997: 135 - 136.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition.

Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 17 Sept. 2007. <Dictionary.com http://

dictionary.reference.com/browse/disgust>.

Kincaid, Jamaica. Annie John. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1997: 135 - 136.