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Annie John

Jamaica Kincaid

Important Quotations Explained

Chapter Eight: A Walk to the Jetty

Key Facts

"My mother and I often took a bath together. Sometimes it was just a plain bath, which did not take very long. Other times it was a special bath in which the barks and flowers of many different trees, together with all sorts of oils, were boiled in the same large cauldron."

Annie describes this scenario in the beginning of the second chapter, "A Circling Hand." The initial portions of this chapter describe Annie's early childhood with her mother. Annie views that early world as a paradise in which her mother and she were completely united. The ritualized baths were particularly intimate scenes during which the mother and daughter almost joined their bodies back together, as they had been before Annie's birth. Since Annie desires to stay permanently united with her mother, these moments of bathing represent some of her happier times with her mother. As the novel continues, Annie's ability to enact the intimacy that these baths created will fail. Annie spends the majority of the book fighting against the idea that she and her mother are separate people.

"I was sure I could never let those hands touch me again; I was sure I could never let her kiss me again. All that was finished."

Annie John makes this statement towards the end of the second chapter, "A Circling Hand." Earlier in the day, Annie had rushed home from Sunday School excited to tell her mother about a prize that she had won. Instead, she had found her parents making love. In particular, she had seen her mother's hand tracing a circle around her father's back, a motion that provides the title to the chapter "A Circling Hand." Because her mother's hand was involved in a sexual act, Annie now wants to fully reject it. Annie sees her parents' sexuality as a means by which they exclude her. In particular, she feels that her mother has completely betrayed her by forming a union with her father. For Annie, her mother has fully neglected and betrayed her through her sexuality and therefore their mother-daughter relationship was permanently changed. Annie's anger at the existence of her parents' sexuality will continue throughout the novel.

"Gwen and I were soon inseparable. If you saw one, you saw the other. For me, each day began as I waited for Gwen to come by and fetch me for school"

Annie makes this statement in the beginning of Chapter Three, "Gwen." Annie and Gwen have become best friends at school. Annie uses her relationship with Gwen in an effort to mollify the pain that she feels over being betrayed by her mother. Annie realizes that her mother and she might not always be together, so she finds another, Gwen, with whom she can cling on to. Her relationship with Gwen also serves as a means of revenge against her mother. Since her mother has chosen Annie's father over Annie, Annie will choose Gwen over her mother. Furthermore, Annie keeps her relationship with Gwen a secret, thereby trying to establish power over her moth. Annie constantly describes how much she loves Gwen and they share all their secrets, but at the same time this relationship exists solely as a substitute to Annie's failing relationship with her mother.

"What just deserts, I thought, for I did not like Columbus. How I loved this picture—to see the usually triumphant Columbus, brought so low, seated by the bottom of the boat watching things go by."

Annie makes this statement in Chapter Five, "Columbus in Chains." She has become bored in his history class because she already knew the lesson, so she flipped ahead in the book and found a picture of Columbus in Chains. Annie never before had known that Columbus fell out of favor with the Queen and returned to Spain in chains. Although she is supposed to revere Columbus, the image of him in chains makes her happy because it seems a just reward to the man who brought colonization to her island. Annie thoughts about Columbus are connected to her opinions about slavery. Annie thinks that Africans would not have colonized Europeans the way that Europeans colonized Africans. She finds the fact that Columbus returned to Europe locked at the bottom of a boat, much in the way that slaves have been brought to the New World, to be completely fair and even humorous. Annie proceeds to deface the Columbus in Chains picture in her history book by writing "the great man can no longer get up and go" under it. Annie's writing serves as a revision to her colonial education, which fails to properly instruct her in the true, brutal history of Antigua.

"I could hear the small waves lap lapping around the ship. They made an unexpected sound as if a vessel filled with liquid had been placed on its side and was now emptying out."

This quote comes at the very end of the final "A Walk to the Jetty" chapter and it is the final statement of the novel. Annie is on the boat that will take her to Barbados, from where she will then head to England. After waving goodbye to her mother, she is lying on her bed in her cabin listening to the water move. The way that she describes the water evokes her final separation from her mother specifically because its terminology parallels that of giving birth. Like the uterus, the waves sounds like a "vessel filled with liquid"; furthermore, it sounds like the vessel is "emptying out" as the ship moves away. The watery sounds of the ship are taking Annie John away from her mother just as the act of birth once did. The salty water again plays an important symbolic role. In this second rebirth, Annie John emerges as an independent separate self who will now fully make her own way in the world.

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