This short story tells the readers about the life and hardships of Antiguan people. The flow of advice from the wise experienced mother to her young daughter has drawn my attention with its omnitude. She speaks about everyday things on keeping the household, about sewing and ironing clothes, about right ways of growing vegetables etc. knowledge of which seems to be necessary for living regarding their lifestyle. And on par with that she teaches her daughter to behave like a lady, teaches her wisdom about relationships. This passing down of knowledge on all of the aspects of life from mother to daughter makes me think this family lived in really bad conditions making these teachings necessary for survival.
What fascinated me the most was not what mother said to her daughter, but how she did it. Concerning that all of the things taught were really useful and necessary, the way she speaks creates a really oppressive feeling. Mother’s concern about her daughter not becoming “the slut I know you are so bent on becoming” (Kincaid 4) along with the knowledge of medicines which induce abortion makes me think that she herself led the dissolute way of life when being young. And now, in drawing attention to this, she applies more to herself than to her daughter.
The overall way of mother’s speech makes me feel that she hasn’t got good relationships with her kids and having experienced hardships just flakes out on her children. Her advice is often caustic and demanding. She teaches her daughter to be perfect not out of her desire for the daughter to live a happy life but out of her disgust for her own present life. She wants to implement in her daughter the perfect woman which she herself could not be. The last line in the story really sets all the periods, when daughter despite all mother’s teachings still doesn’t believe in becoming “the kind of woman who the baker won’t let near the bread” (Kincaid 5).
Kincaid, Jamaica. At the Bottom of the River. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1984. Print.