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Plot Summary and Analysis of the Heroine in 'Annie John' by Jamaica Kinkaid

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MG is an air warrior with a distinguished career and now a corporate advisor, writer, and intrepid traveler and novelist



There are some books like old wine that mature with age and capture the imagination of literary buffs as time passes. One such book is Annie John, a haunting and provocative story of a young girl growing up on the island of Antigua. It is a classic coming-of-age story of a young girl and the end result is the loss of childhood.‘

Annie John’ is a novel written by Jamaica Kinkaid in 1985. The book has eight chapters which were published separately in The New Yorker. Later they were collected and published in book form. Jamaica Kincaid was born on May 25, 1949, in Antigua. She was christened Elaine Potter Richardson, but left the island at the age of seventeen for America and has not looked back after that.


The book -a study in relationships

The novel ‘Annie John covers diverse issues like mother-daughter relationships, lesbianism, racism, depression, education, and native superstitious knowledge in the field of medicine. Though the chapters were published separately the book does not lack cohesion.

The book is the story of a girl named Annie John from the age of 10 to 17 when she escapes to England to become a nurse. The story delineates the love of the girl for her mother. Earlier at the age of 10, she sees death in all its morbidity when a hunchback girl dies. She rushes to attend the girl’s funeral and forgets to bring the fish home for dinner. She is punished by being forced to eat her meal outside under the breadfruit tree.

Annie and her Mother

Annie spends a lot of time with her mother. They even bathe together with herbs thrown in the water as recommended by the Obeah woman. Annie is close to her mother, who she thinks is a very beautiful woman. One day she returns early and sees her mother and father making love. Annie feels rejected as she is not part of the union. In particular, she starts feeling that her mother is a very selfish woman.

Annie starts attending school. She becomes friends with a girl named Gwen and eventually starts loving her. The two spend a lot of time together and walk home every day. The relationship with Gwen does not last as Annie befriends another girl from a lower class called Red Girl. She moves away from Gwen and finds solace in the company of Red Girl.

Further relationships

Annie feels the Red Girl is the epitome of freedom and she adores her. She starts petty thievery to buy presents for Red Girl and lies to her mother, so she can meet up with Red Girl every day. Annie starts menstruating and that has a profound effect on her life.

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Annie achieves good grades in school and as a reward for her intelligence, she is moved to a higher class. She moves away from both the Red Girl and Gwen. In class, she feels bored and goes ahead to read the history book. She learns that Christopher Columbus was put in chains by the Queen. She sees a picture of Columbus in chains and writes below the picture ’The Great Man Can No Longer Move’. This is not appreciated and Annie is sent to the Principal of the school, who punishes her by removing her as prefect, as well making her write Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost. This punishment she has to accept.

Annie and her Mother: Second Phase

Annie returns home expecting to be comforted by her mother, but this does not happen and she starts hating her mother. It becomes clear that Annie is suffering from some kind of mental depression. This leads to her estrangement from friends and family. She suffers a mental breakdown and is confined to bed for 3 months. She is treated by both the doctor and the obeah woman, but eventually, her grandmother comes and cures her with her knowledge of obeah remedies.

Annie recovers, but she is alienated from everything around her. She realizes she has to move on and leaves home to attend a nursing school in England. Her parents escort her to the boat. She remembers her past life and feels there was a warmth there, but the time has come for her to move on. The novel thus ends on a positive note

Last word

The novel is beautifully written and explores the inner feelings of a girl’s heart. In a way, it resembles the life of Kinkaid herself. The character of the heroine could be a carbon copy of Kinkaid herself. The author presently lives in Bennington Vermont in the USA with her husband and children. She has achieved significant success and during the summers, is a Professor of African and African- American Studies in Residence at Harvard University during the academic year.

© 2013 MG Singh


MG Singh (author) from UAE on March 20, 2014:

Thank you maniatita for reading and commenting

manatita44 from london on March 20, 2014:

Interesting story and one worth reading, I'm sure. Loving thoughts.

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