The Jamaica Kincaid We Don’t Want to Understand
Hail King Kincaid, for she is ferocious uncompromising honest and brave. Jamaica Kincaid spends a lot of her time dispensing what a critic so precisely put, awful truths; truths people use a lot of time trying not to concede. Understanding this Jamaica Kincaid takes us on a journey of discovery. We did not intend to travel on or wanted to, but once there we are familiar with the scenery. already though we’ve never been there before; however our existence now, depended on our familiarity with said scene, then.
In “The Autobiography Of My Mother” Jamaica Kincaid has us on this road. Strange at it may seem Jamaica Kincaid’s autobiography of her mother is similar to the autobiography of my mother, your mother, our mothers, of mothers past and mothers to be. For, in revealing Xuela’s story that starts with her mother death. Jamaica Kincaid’s story is the story of her mother. Kincaid’s mom’s story like Lamarckism or osmosis unveils itself in Kincaid’s amniotic fluid, like the colonial history of her beloved island is exposed to Jamaica Kincaid in a foreign land. Xuela did not have to live on that little island or meet her mother. They’re consequences of her upbringing. Like genetic evolution or ideology repeated over and over; her identity her island pride revealed in another country; a set of contradictions and ambivalence that come to define, or mess with, our lives.
But what is so awful about that. Well, this is the exciting part. Kincaid is sexual, very sexual without apology or shame. A big deal, because sexuality like’s a lot of contradiction, interlopers, shame, and guilt. Present themselves in all matters sexual hell-bent on defining us. Their presences are Kincaid’s nemesis. There to be conquered with Kincaid’s empowering sexuality. Shame and guilt make their turn up in “Girl” for criticizing the preadolescent daughter for squeezing bread. And for being the kind of person for whom the baker will not let squeeze the merchandise. Criticized for playing marble in a skirt. Criticized for the way, Xuela wears her hair or Lucy’s smells.
Kincaid’s mother like her island’s morality is there to include her. And if you pay attention they will show awful truths. Not just in your life but that of your mother. However unremitting, Kincaid is showing a need for love with her willingness to include. This quest for love will ultimately define her. Like her little island. And her dead mother. obtainable only in the arms of someone else’s husband to be conquered. Or in a foreign land and signs: the white man, white lady; also to be captured by this woman who arrived on a banana boat.
Xuela Claudette Richardson, our protagonist, is sensual like Kincaid. She revels in sexuality exposed in her unloved life. What Xuela seeks in her sexuality is the feeling she is missing. A nemesis, not a lover. She is looking for someone to love or, hate; Her sexuality like the Phoenix rises from the ashes of her mother, like all of us. Kincaid “accept that we’re living in incredible contradictions and ambivalence”. Xuela is lonely without her mother and father. And she substitutes that loneliness with a sexual appetite. She is hungry, but she is aware of her hunger. And she takes control. She is not overwhelmed by sex; she embraces sex as a friend a companion whose company she enjoys, a trollop like “mother like daughter”. Like the death of her mother she comes to terms with sex, it’s natural.
And control Xuela does. She describes her lover: “He was like most of the men I know, obsessed with an activity he was not very good at…” Xuela is not in need of sex, the activity. She is in need of sex, the feeling; a feeling misplaced in contradictions and disappointments – her mother. With sex, Kincaid is a conqueror. Why did mother had to die? But her mother is alive, alive in her, revealing herself in causalities of Xuela’s life.
For Xuela had “long ago came to recognize this as perhaps an unremitting part of the way I am and so I looked for a man who could offer relief from this sensation”. Kincaid tells us this story, as she is about to separate her breast with its pointed fruit purple nipples she writes are in a state of continued sensation. Xuela needs a man to suck her nipples to relieve the irritable feeling. Kincaid is taking control conquering like her mother.
While Xuela was alone caressing herself. She purposely retained her hands In the hair between her legs. She remembers a man. The man she knew, a man she dreamed of, a man who was away, a man she wanted on top of her. Not the man currently on top, for he is not at all the person she dreamt of laying on top of her. For that dream belong to another woman’s husband. And it made sense that she wants this other woman’s husband, benign though it maybe it is a conquest. And Xuela like Kincaid is a conqueror.
Emotionally and physically Xuela is on the attack. Her little island, colonized by Britain. Guarded against innuendoes of uncivilized creatures only fit for banana production. The colonizers metaphorically represented with a white skin wrapped in English culture will be vanquished. Kincaid rages against the Colonial spirit, “a spirit that lives on in hierarchies of skin color. Moira, her lover’s wife came to symbolize the epitome of colonial culture. She was pleased to be of the English people. It’s where she drew her sense of identity complete of charitable sympathies for others with contradictions, and many complaints. She too will be vanquished.
Like Kincaid’s provincial West Indies style. The Jamaican dancehall queen, the one called Lady Saw who boasts: ” I Got Your Man, And You Can’t Do Anything About It / You May Think He Is Coming Back To You But… I Doubt It / Don’t Make No Sense, You already Call Ur Man, Try To Work Out It /’cause I Got Your Man, And You Can’t Do Anything About It”. Kincaid, however, is worldly and brutal with her attacking, already deadly. In describing Moira, Kincaid gives an accurate accounting of the vain selflessness of colonialism. She Moira, a lady “a combination of elaborate fabrications, a collection of external, facial arrangements, and body parts, distortions, lies, and empty efforts”. Moira is far above the ordinary woman who moans during sex and grunts when excreting. Unladylike Xuela is a woman, shared and indistinguishable from the next. Lady Moira far from sympathetic to others is a contradiction and ambivalence of self-hate of dehumanization and false sympathies, a liar to herself.
Blunt, brutal shameless is Kincaid, and wow Selfish, at the minimum with her protagonist Xuela. In describing her sex with Phillip. At the moment, it started to wane, and she was not a prisoner of that early and basic feelings, orgasm, and sex. At the time when Phillip was attenuating to her pudenda. Her mind wonders to Roland for a new source of pleasure- Wow! Kincaid’s honesty is so not human. And one of those awful truths well, genuinely human truths. Again, Kincaid hints at the influence of her mother in dealing with the pleasures in her life. For he Ronald was a married stevedore the same kind of men as her father; He too will be conquered symbolically.
Not that conquering is easy. For him to be conquered she most first, love honestly, truthfully. For Ronald serves as an basic emotional symbol. Xuela aware of the consequences asserts: “who would betray whom, who would’ve captive, who would be captor, who would give and who would take, what would I do”. And what she does, is take no prisoners, brutality, honestly: “for I could not have loved Ronald the way I did if he did not love other women.” She said this after Ronald’s wife slapped her upside her head – hard! To which Xuela replied without bitterness, “I consider it beneath me to fight over a man.”
And in the middle of a “fight” Xuela gives perspective. While her clothing is rented, her mind is on the sensation of Phillip sucking her nipples. Encouraging her breast, dividing herself in two. For Xuela could not decide which feeling she wanted to rule over the other. One breast into Phillip’s mouth or the sensation of the saliva evaporating on the one that just left his mouth. In the middle of a fight! With a heavy handed married West Indian woman whose is hell-bent on keeping her man. already producing a list of names, of another woman who presumably she’d slapped. Undaunted Xuela declares she possesses herself. Phillip will be another on her list; and that his wife’s anger, like her Sunday best, and intentions are misplaced.
Again Kincaid is right. Like Phillip’s wife, we are misguided. Whose ambivalence sees her conquering a husband fighting over a man. A man, a misdirected symbol of her fear. Lost and found in “The Autobiography Of My Mother,” her mother. Xuela is right of course. It is you that you have to Possess. The people we encounter are there to help us navigate this unfamiliar ground now. Familiar to us, then. Like angry lovers, they show nothing for they too are on the same quest of discovering their mothers in their autobiography sometimes loving it, sometimes hating seldom telling the awful truth.