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The novel Annie John is about the ten years old girl. The story develops over the period of six years. The novel touches the very important, though still unexplored topic of the relationships between the parents and the children. The main theme here is the relationship between the mother and the daughter, how tender they can be, and how easy everything can be spoiled. Annie John shows us how difficult it is to be a teenager. A girl, Annie, wants to be independent, though her way to independence is pretty rebellious. Through the course of the novel we can see lies, misunderstanding, suffering, and depression. The novel covers the diverse issues and has deep psychological meaning.  

Key words: novel, independence

Relations between Children and Parents

Annie John is a novel written by Jamaica Kincaids in 1985. She is a Caribbean novelist and most of her works are autobiographical. Actually, Annie’s life is very similar to Jamaica’s.

The novel is about a girl, her struggle for freedom and independence, and her search of the individuality. During the whole plot of the story, we can observe her behavior, feelings, and relationships that she establishes. The main theme of the novel is the relationships between parents and children. The style of the novel is symbolism. The story is full of the hidden signs; for example, red color symbolized freedom, trunk is a designation of a memory of her mother, and white shoes mark independence.

The story starts in paradise. The girl, Annie, is a ten year old and she lives with her parents, who love her. She possesses the best clothes, and is going to obtain the best education with the help of her parents.

The plot is based on Annie’s relationships with her mother. At the beginning of the novel, the author tells us in details about their relationships. Annie always thinks that she has the best mother ever. Her mother was smart and wise. They spend a lot of time together. They do shopping, her mother teaches her how to buy cheap and quality products, how to choose clothes, and so on. During summer vacation, Annie was inseparable with her mother. Mrs. Johns lets her sleep in, sometimes they take a bath together. Annie is always afraid of fact that in the future she will leave her mother. She is not able to imagine her life without her mother. Annie describes her relationships with mother as a paradise. Indeed, at the beginning of the novel the relationship between Annie and her mother is tender and warm.

However, parents are mother and father, so we have to elaborate on that as well

Annie loves her father, but their relationship is rather usual, like that of a daughter and a father. They do not have something unique, as Annie and Mrs. Johns have. There is only one moment, when her father tell Annie a story of his childhood. His parents moved to South America, in a word they left him, so he moved to his grandmother. Once he woke and found her dead. Annie cried every time, when she heard this story. Annie felt bad for her father, since he was alone in his childhood. This cry was manifestation of her love and sympathy (Mistron, 1999).

The name of the next chapter is “The Circling Hand”. One day Annie returned from school and found her parents making love in bed, her mother’s hand circling on her father’s back. Annie was angry that her parents did not pay attention to her. She was jealous that her mother paid some attention to her father.

If to consider this issue from the psychological point of view, then the experts maintain that jealousness has negative influence on the child’s mentality. The child usually creates an ideal parent in his/her head, like Annie did with her mother. She had to realize that Mrs. Johns has also a husband in her life. Annie wanted to get all attention of her mother; unfortunately, it was impossible, since sometimes parents have to spend time together without children, for example, in bedroom. Most children do not understand that they cannot get all parents’ attention. From that moment, the relations were changed. She decided that her mother was polluted by sex  (Mistron, 1999). Annie found a new friend, Gwen, to become inseparable with her. They spent time together and shared their secrets with each other. They became a pair. Annie used Gwen as a substitute, it became clear that she would not spend so much time with her mother, as she did earlier.

Mrs. Johns was her mother and friend in one face, she tried to replace love of her mother with the friendship. However, after some time Annie started getting bored with Gwen, so she found a new friend, the Red Girl. It was the contrast of Annie. The Red Girl was taking bath once a week and her clothes was ripped. On the other hand, Annie was taking a bath every day and she has the best clothes and shoes. However, despite this physical difference, Annie felt freedom with that girl. She began to lie to her mother in order to spend more time with the Red Girl. The Red Girl was the girl that Annie was not, that is why she was so excited about being friends with her (Mistron, 1999).

The relations between Annie and her mother were getting worse and worse

There was an accident in the store, when Annie tried to pick up some clothes, and her mother thought that she was flirting with boys, though she was not. The boys were teasing her, and she had thoughts that she was ugly and awkward. Instead of seeing Annie for the lonely girl, her mother told her that she was a “slut”. Annie answered “like mother, like daughter”. After that incident, their relations were disintegrated. After it, Annie started thinking of moving to another country.

At the beginning of the novel, Annie did not want to leave her parents; lately, she grew up. She wanted to create her own world, where she could be independent, because she wanted to feel freedom.

During the whole novel, we watch the problem of children and parents. This problem had always existed, exists, and will exist, because there is no universal solution to it. Usually it begins when a child becomes a teenager, Annie was 15 when the problems started. According to the psychologists’ conclusion, in this period children want to be independent. We can clearly see the confirmation to this statement in the novel, as Annie was trying to create her own identity, she was searching for the individuality, and her acts were pretty rebellious. She was a little thief and liar; moreover, she sang dirty songs. These are the examples of the teenagers’ behavior. They all show the rebellious nature of a usual teenager of that age period.

Annie had a conflict with her mother and obviously, it had had a negative influence on her. She asked her father to make her a trunk. Mrs. Johns had a trunk and Annie loved to hear stories from it. This trunk, just like baths, was something saint between the mother and the daughter. However, as she insisted to have her own trunk, she claimed full rejection of her mother.

Annie was depressed for a long time. She felt a heavy black ball inside her body. Annie compared herself with the young Lucifer and got mental disorder. Annie was sick for a while. Her mother was taking care of her, feeding and bathing her. The parents never left her alone, except for the one day, when her mother went to the market. Annie had a delirium and destroyed all photographs depicturing the body parts of her parents’ faces and herself. She wanted to forget the past when she lost control of her life.

During her illness, there was a rain

When Annie recovered, she became taller than her parents. She grew up. Rain was also a symbol. It was a symbol of cleansing her body from her teenager issue and admitting her being an adult.

At the end of the novel, she decided to move to England in order to get an education as a nurse. This moving means escaping from her old life and from her parents. Annie finally grew up and became a real person. Annie achieved her goal by moving to England and it was a beginning of the new life for her.

The novel describes teenagers’ problems: establishment friendship, relationship with parents, and physical changes. We can also consider this novel as the feministic one. Indeed, it is a story of a girl, who became a woman. However, it also depicts the complicated relationships between the mother and the daughter.

The novel is realistic and touching. It is worth reading for both generation: parents and children. Both of them can learn a lot from this novel, so that the generation gap can be narrowed.

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