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Annie John | Study Guide

Jamaica Kincaid

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Annie John | Quotes


I then began to look at my mother's hands differently.

Annie John, Chapter 1

This quotation foreshadows the change in Annie's relationship with her mother. Annie fears her mother's hands after seeing her handle a corpse but cannot yet imagine how she will recoil from her mother's touch as a teenager and eventually leave Antigua to escape her mother's presence.


My mother and I often took a bath together ... how important I felt to be with my mother.

Annie John, Chapter 2

This quotation sums up the paradise in which Annie lived as a child. She and her mother had an intimate relationship. Annie felt immense pride just being with her mother. Because Annie loves her mother so deeply, their changed relationship blindsides her.


You just cannot go around the rest of your life looking like a little me.

Mother, Chapter 2

When Annie is 12, Mother insists for the first time ever that she and Annie buy different material for their dresses. Annie is devastated, and this statement causes a seismic shift in their relationship, which will never recover.


Instead of saying some squelching thing ... she dropped her eyes and walked away.

Annie John, Chapter 2

Annie accidentally witnesses her parents having sex. After, Mother snaps at her to busy herself, and Annie snaps back with a cutting retort. The fact that Mother walks away instead of punishing Annie shows their changed relationship: they are no longer parent and child; they are equals vying for power.


It wouldn't be long before ... they would be thorns in my side.

Annie John, Chapter 3

Annie knows that before long her teachers at the new school will become "thorns" in her side, likely because of a misunderstanding. Because the teachers are all named after British kings, the statement suggests criticism of colonialism and its "misunderstandings" of native culture.


She wasn't paying attention to me, for she didn't know that I had missed her.

Annie John, Chapter 3

In the dream where Annie and her mother are separated at Rat Island, Mother doesn't respond to Annie's distress because she doesn't know what her daughter is feeling. The same is true in real life: Mother cannot respond to Annie's pain because the gulf between them is too wide.


Parting was all but unbearable.

Annie John, Chapter 3

Annie grows close to her school friend, Gwen, after her relationship with Mother deteriorates. In reality Annie's relationship with Gwen is a superficial replacement for the intimacy she shared with her mother that cannot be replicated.


Look at the way she climbed that tree: better than any boy.

Annie John, Chapter 4

When Annie first meets the Red Girl, she is struck by how the girl doesn't follow social or gender expectations. The Red Girl represents the wild native culture that has been erased through colonialism, yet Annie still feels drawn to it.


Oh, to think of a dangerous, horrible black snake on top of that beautiful head.

Annie John, Chapter 4

When Annie won't tell her mother where the marbles are hidden, Mother tells her a fable of the time a black snake coiled in her fig basket as a lesson about deception. Initially, Annie feels heartbroken that her mother carried a heavy snake on her head and almost reveals the location of the marbles. Quickly, however, she realizes her mother is manipulating her, and she feels deceived.


How we laughed as their cries of joy turned to cries of sorrow.

Annie John, Chapter 4

Annie fantasizes about watching a cruise ship of wealthy passengers sink as it nears Antigua. This highlights her desire to protect her island from colonizing forces that threaten to erase her culture. This statement mirrors her glee in Chapter 5 at Columbus's arrest.


The Great Man Can No Longer Just Get Up and Go.

Annie John, Chapter 5

Annie pens this epitaph under an image of Christopher Columbus's being brought back to Spain as a prisoner. Annie delights in his image because she hates Columbus for the effects colonization has had on Antigua.


I would kill my mother if I had the courage.

Annie John, Chapter 6

Annie's sense of betrayal over her mother's changed attitude has grown so serious she now wishes her mother dead, which would have been unthinkable to her in Chapter 1. This shows how quickly Annie's relationship with Mother has soured, and how desperate Annie is for change.


Until this moment ... I loved you best.

Mother, Chapter 6

After a fight in which Mother calls Annie a "slut" she essentially states that she doesn't love Annie anymore. This is the worst thing Annie could hear. The result of this devastating statement is Annie's debilitating illness and emotional rebirth.


None of the people in the wedding picture ... had any face left.

Annie John, Chapter 7

In a fit of hysteria during her illness Annie tries to wash family photographs and ends up scrubbing out her parents' faces. This act symbolizes Annie's leaving her old life behind and creating a new identity for herself, away from her parents' control.


I'll always be your mother and this will always be your home.

Mother, Chapter 8

Before Annie leaves for England, her mother gives an emotional goodbye in which she speaks the words Annie has longed to hear. With distance between them Annie has been given the opportunity to once again love her mother.

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