Self Identification and Sel Empowerment in Kincaid's Autobiography of my Mother

2555 Words 11 Pages
Jamaica Kincaid’s Autobiography of my Mother is the story of Xuela Claudette Richardson, the daughter of a Carib Indian mother and half Scot-half African father, set in postcolonial Dominica. Narrated by a 70 year old Xuela reflecting back on her life, the novel touches upon themes of maternal loss, paternal abandonment and rejection through society, and how they affect her search for self identification amidst a loveless existence. My goal in this essay is to describe how Xuela’s search for identity is interlinked with her quest for power in a post colonial setting, this power being of a personal nature rather than a political or social one.
My arguments include the impact of loss of her mother, effects of post colonialism, her attempt
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Her father insists on providing Xuela with an education. The experience of going to school does not turn out to be a pleasant one, for she is constantly mistreated by her teacher and fellow classmates on account of being the only girl and a Carib one at that. Xuela’s first encounter with her own power occurs when her teacher sends to her father the letter she has written explaining her unhappy situation. Even though Xuela addressed the letter to her father she never meant for him to read it. However, on receiving the letter her father rescues her and takes her home to live with him and his new wife. Xuela realizes that by addressing her situation she can change it and that she alone has to power to affect or change her life. “I had through the use of some words, changed my situation; I had perhaps even saved my life. To speak of my own situation to myself or to others, is something I would always do thereafter” (Kincaid 22).
Xuela learns the power behind quiet resilience in the home of her stepmother. She deals with her stepmother’s hatred towards her with a stoic, unflinching practicality, refusing to become a victim of the cruel treatment directed towards her, at the same time being careful enough to not reduce her own situation to a point that would evoke sympathy from her father, thereby intensifying her stepmother’s hatred. This teaches her how to hold

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