Annie John | Study Guide

Jamaica Kincaid

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Annie John | Plot Summary

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Written in episodic form, Annie John tells the story of a young girl's coming of age in Antigua. When the novel opens, 10-year-old Annie John lives an idyllic life with her two doting parents. She adores her mother, basking in her mother's attention and eagerly learning about the details of her mother's daily life. Additionally, Annie obsesses over death, particularly the death of children. She visits funerals uninvited, trying to understand what happens to people when they die. When a schoolmate dies and the overwhelmed mother cannot perform funerary duties, Annie's mother bathes and prepares the corpse for the service. Annie fears her mother's touch for weeks.

Things begin to change as Annie reaches puberty. Her mother becomes distant, insisting Annie learn to be an individual rather than a "mini version of me." Annie doesn't understand why her mother pushes her away and deeply resents their changed relationship. She starts a new school and quickly proves herself at the top of the class. She bonds with many of her classmates, particularly Gwen, with whom she becomes inseparable. As Annie bonds more closely with her friends, she distances herself further from her mother, whom she now views as "a serpent." Over time Annie starts to get bored with Gwen and begins spending her time with the Red Girl, someone her mother previously forbade her to socialize with. They meet daily at the lighthouse to play marbles and innocently explore sensuality. Annie's mother discovers her daughter has been playing marbles, another thing she forbade, and takes away Annie's hidden collection. When Annie gets her first period, she stops traveling to the lighthouse.

Time passes and Annie's behavior becomes more mischievous, although no one really minds because she continues to perform well in school. Annie feels abandoned by her parents, who don't seem to notice her distress. Annie feels torn between wanting to confide in and be comforted by her mother while simultaneously hating her. She begins to daydream about escaping to another country, starting fresh with a new identity, perhaps in Belgium. As her depression grows, Annie falls ill with an inexplicable fatigue that renders her bedridden for three months. Her grandmother, an obeah woman who practices magic, arrives to care for Annie during her sickness. When the rainy season ends, Annie's illness disappears as mysteriously as it arrived. She climbs out of bed a new woman. She has grown both physically and emotionally and is more determined than ever to escape the island. Shortly after, Annie says goodbye to her childhood and boards a boat to England where she will begin nursing school.

Annie John Plot Diagram

ClimaxFalling ActionRising ActionIntroductionResolution2134675


1 Annie has an idyllic childhood.

Rising Action

2 Mother insists Annie make her own identity.

3 At school Annie befriends Gwen.

4 Annie befriends the Red Girl.


5 Mother calls Annie a slut during a fight.

Falling Action

6 Annie falls mysteriously ill.


7 Annie moves to England.

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