Writing on Women Writers

A site for college students to write about women writers.

The Absence of a Mother

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Jamaica Kincaid writes in an excerpt called, “Xuela,” “No love: I could live in a place like this.  I knew this atmosphere all too well.  Love would have defeated me.  In an atmostphere of no love I could live well; in this atmosphere of no love I could make a life for myself” (1053).

Readers are told from the beginning that Xuela’s mother dies in childbirth.  The woman that her father leaves her with, is just a woman that washes his clothes.  This maid does not treat Xuela like her own children; she does not love Xuela and Xuela does not love her.  Xuela is sent to school, where she receives a difficult education.  When her father comes to pick her up from school, his new wife not only hates Xuela, but even tries to kill her.  Clearly, Xuela has grown up in an environment where no love present.

In the video clip below, Kincaid describes how she likes to pretend that she “is all alone in the world” and “bereft of love,” but makes her way through in the end.  This is clearly seen in “Xuela” because as mentioned before no one loves her.

She also goes on to say that hatred is a form of love and when you hate someone it is bending toward love.  This statement can be related back to Xuela because she did not love any of the “motherly” figures in her life, but she says “in an atmosphere of no love I could live well.”  This hatred in a way bends toward love because it led her to find out who she was as a female and furthermore, was able to allow her to express herself emotionally and sexually.

By the end of the story, Xuela may have had a difficult life with no motherly love, but she has traveled this self-discovering journey.  She has accepted her life and claimed her emotional and sexual identity.  Without a mother as a role model and a father who has a little role in her life, Xuela has found an environment that she enjoys.  She is accepting of nature and seems to become one with the atmosphere around her.

At the end of “Xuela,” we see that Kincaid has written about sexual pleasure.  I enjoyed the quote above because I thought it expressed Kincaid’s thoughts well.  To me, it seems as if Kincaid is saying that she cannot believe that the U.S. is trying to free all these other foreign people, when women at home are not free to express themselves sexually.  When Kincaid includes masturbation in “Xuela” it seems as if she is trying to make a statement.  She can write about whatever she wants to write about.  And, when she writes about what she truly believes, then that is when she is free.

Going back to the quote: “in this atmosphere of no love I could make a life for myself,” I can see where Kincaid’s life has paralleled with this statement.  Kincaid may receive harsh comments from critics on what she writes about, but in her difficult atmosphere, she can make a life for herself that she enjoys and accepts.

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