What Is the Summary of “Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid?

Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl” is a poem about a mother who is trying to give advice on life to her daughter. The mother hopes to help her daughter become a capable, wise woman. She also hopes to save her from bad relationships and from becoming what she calls a slut.

In “Girl,” the mother gives her daughter several tips on maintaining a healthy home by correctly doing chores, such as laundry, cooking and cleaning. In one section of the poem, the mother teaches her daughter how to make medicines and catch fish. The mother warns her daughter that relationships between men and women are often hard and sometimes don’t work out. She goes on to scold her daughter about certain behaviors she is going to need to change, so she does not appear to be a slut.

The poem is one long sentence with semicolons that break up each piece of advice that the mother gives her daughter. The daughter interjects a few times in the course of the discussion to ask questions or stand up for herself against her mother’s accusations about her bad behavior. The poem does not have a plot and is more a stream of consciousness than a story.