Writing on Women Writers

A site for college students to write about women writers.


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Jamaica Kincaid


In Kincaid’s story “Xuela” it explores the life of a girl who never gets to see the face of her mother due to her mother’s maternal death. She is then given to the woman who did her father’s wash Ma Eunice.

“Ma Eunice was not unkind: she treated me just the way she treated her own children—but this is not to say she was kind to her own children. In a place like this, brutality is the only real inheritance and cruelty is sometimes the only thing freely given. I did not like her, and I missed the face I had never seen; I looked over my shoulder to see if someone was coming, as if I were expecting someone to come, and Ma Eunice would ask me what I was looking for, at first as a joke, but when, after a time, I did not stop doing it, she thought it meant I could see spirits. I could not see spirits at all, I was just looking for that face, the face I would never see , even if I lived forever.” (1045).

Xuela  is looking for more than just her mother’s face. She is also looking for her own identity in a way.  A mother is someone who is an important figure in one’s life. They are apart of their children and their children are a part of them. With Xuela it seems that without knowing the face of her mother she truly can never know what a motherly love is. That is why when she is with Ma Eunice she truly cannot break down this barrier and let Ma Eunice’s motherly love in.  Although, Ma Eunice’s love was not really love at all, but more of a kindness.

Later on in the story her father comes to get her and he has remarried and she is to now live with him and his new wife.

“I opened my eyes soon after to see the face of my father’s wife not too far above mine. She had the face of evil. I had no other face to compare it with; I knew only that hers was the face of evil as far as I could tell. She did not like me. I could see that.” (1053).

With her father’s new wife she has no trust at all. She can see that unlike Ma Eunice this woman is not going to be so kind. Even when given a beautiful necklace she chooses not to wear it and hide it on a dog. This nice gift eventually kills the dog.  Xuela who does not have a mother and feels as though a piece of her is missing. Until this face of her mother is revealed to her and this piece of her is returned she will never find happiness. No matter if this step mother was kind to her or not she truly would never have any true feelings of love for any mother figure. Her mother who died is the only one she could ever love and since she is gone so is the love that Xuela has to give.

Even in today’s world, in 2013 Kincaid’s story can relate to any child who’s mother has passed away whether it was a maternal death or a death while the child was at a young age.  They have a sense of loss and missing identity. Never being able to see the face of their mother. Always looking and imagining what that face looks like and how their mother would of acted.  Then, having to deal with other women being put into that maternal role of a mother figure for them.




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