Annie John : Chapter 6
Text: Kincaid, Jamaica, Annie John, Farrar Straus Giroux, 1985.
Summary of Chapter Six: Somewhere, Belgium
When she turns fifteen, Annie is unhappy, but she knows it is not about anything in particular. She is in a deep depression. Everything in her life is sour. Gwen tries to interest her in marriage to her brother, Rowan, and alarmed, Annie drops Gwen. She tries to be secretive and as different from her mother as possible. Her mother accuses her of being bad, a liar, a thief, a slut. They each have two faces; one for company in which they are devoted mother and daughter; and one between themselves as enemies. She has a recurrent dream of herself chanting that her mother is trying to kill her, and she is trying to kill her mother. In their native culture, such dreams are taken seriously, so she is very fearful of her mother.
At school, Annie is put with older girls who are not friendly but competitive. She thinks the girls vain and dull. Even her old friend Gwen can hardly hold her attention. Instead, she dreams of going to Belgium, inspired by the life of her favorite author, Charlotte Bronte, whose Jane Eyre is her favorite book.
She feels more and more separate from others. She sees a reflection of herself in a store window that shocks her; she is black and ugly, like a picture she saw of Lucifer cast out of heaven. Boys on the street tease her. One of them is an old playmate, Mineu. She remembers their childhood games in which he always played the dominant male roles while she was his lackey. When she comes home, her mother has seen her in the street with the boys, and assuming she was flirting, calls her a slut. Annie feels a huge pit open between them.
She goes to her room where every piece of furniture was made for her by her father. She sees her mother's trunk, however, that she gave to her daughter for her to keep her mementos, and she weeps, missing the mother she has lost. She asks her father to make her her own trunk to collect her things in, and the mother understands the gesture.
Commentary on Chapter Six: Somewhere, Belgium
There is a central comparison in this chapter between Charlotte Bronte's heroine, Jane Eyre, and the narrator, Annie. She wants to live in Belgium as Bronte did, so her mother can never find her. Loss of the mother is central to Jane Eyre with Mrs. Reed as the bad mother substitute who tries to ruin her life. Annie would have identified with Jane Eyre, the lonely but independent orphan, who struggles to be herself instead of what others expect her to be. The separation between Annie and her mother comes to a climax as the mother thinks Annie has been running around with boys. Annie is becoming a woman.
The irony is that Annie seems uninterested in boys. When Gwen wants her to marry her brother Rowan, Annie stops hanging around with Gwen. When she sees Mineu in the street she only remembers their childhood games where he abused her. Both of these incidents are foreshadowing of the fate of marriage expected of her. She does not find it to her liking.
Annie and her mother are the same height now, and have the same black mood, probably depression. Annie describes her depression as a black ball within her. She sees the black cloud around her mother too. Annie knows how to strike back at her mother, picking the symbolic trunk to attack. The mother's care for her daughter is shown in the way she used her own trunk to store her daughter's mementos over the years, saving them with pride. The trunk is symbolic of her motherhood. Annie throws it out and asks her father to make her her own trunk. She announces thereby her own independent life. Annie in a sense has to cut loose from her mother to be an adult, but she feels she cuts off her own hand. Mother and daughter are frequently described as just alike, in looks and in tastes. Now there will never again be unity between them.