Posted: August 11th, 2023

Need an example of analysis of the baby doll by scott mcclanahan


The short stories Girl by Jamaica Kincaid and The Baby Doll by Scott McClanahan have their main themes as gender norm and their effects on the youth. Kincaid writes of femininity’s expectations in the Antiguan culture from a daughter’s perspective listening to her mother’s instructions. On the other hand, McClanahan shows the burdening weight of society’s expectations of boys through a fourth-grader who dressed up like a baby doll. Both stories are defined by their culture, which shows that gender norms are more of customs than biological elements.

From a grammatical perspective, Girl is only one sentence long because Kincaid separates the mother’s series of instructions with semicolons. There are only two interruptions from the daughter when she jumps to her defense. The instructions could be from one setting or a compilation of different conversations between the mother and the daughter. From her detailed explanation of the reasons for her argument, it is clear that the mother has her daughter’s best intentions at heart “this is how to love a man, and is it does not work there are other ways, and if they don’t work don’t feel too bad about giving up” (Kincaid 2). However, she comes across as condescending and insulting, especially when she constantly refers to her daughter as a slut.

The mother’s advice is practical and helpful to the daughter if she wishes to become a key member of society. From her detailed instructions, one can extrapolate that domestic prowess was a woman’s legacy and a respectable daughter was a mother’s. The story is not only a conversation between the particular mother and daughter. It represents conversations between mothers and their daughter through generations in the culture, and the mother in the story expected the daughter to have it with her own when the time comes. Read The Gift of the Magi for a comparison. The mother’s advice to her daughter is based on the societal place of the woman. For starters, a woman is only important to society if she is a wife. Most of the instructions are on performing wifely duties “wash the white clothes on Monday and put them on the stone heap” (Kincaid 1). The family is also a key factor in the projection of gender norms. The daughter is expected to practice these duties at her home “this is how you iron your father’s khaki shirt so that it does not have a crease” (Kincaid 1). Her sweeping and cooking chores are also likely performed at her parent’s house before moving to her matrimonial home.

Another key factor of a woman is her sexuality. It walks hand in hand with the value of a woman’s virginity before marriage. The mother teaches her how to hem a skirt not to become the slut she is apparently bent on becoming. The mother calls her out on several inappropriate sexual behaviors, such as singing cultural songs on Sunday school. She tells her to walk like a lady and not talk to boys even if only giving directions. Although her phrasing of words is insulting, the mother only wants to protect her daughter’s sexuality and, consequently, her place in the community. Her advice ranges from house chores to how to relate with other people, whether or not the daughter likes them. In that long sentence, the mother is imparting the culture of the community onto her daughter.

The Baby Doll addresses the same idea of gender expectation but using different writing styles. Although the story is mainly about what is expected from a man, it is intertwined with femininity expectations. It shows how disgraceful it becomes when anyone crosses these gender boundaries. McClanahan names his protagonist after himself, probably because it an experience he went through. The young Scott was too naïve and honest to see the problem in dressing up like a baby doll. At his age, “[he] knew you had to be careful doing these kinds of things” (McClanahan 2) because he had once seen the disapproval on his uncles’ faces when he got a Barbie for his birthday. Another comparison is found in Animal Farm writing examples.

Like the mother in Girl who reminded the daughter that she was not a boy, teases and blatant disapprovals reminded Scott that he was not a girl. It is a shameful thing in both societies to cross gender boundaries. Parents and students alike made fun of Scott’s costume because “it’s a boy dressed up as a girl” (McClanahan 6). Similarly, the mother made sure the daughter knew that certain games were for boys “don’t squat to play marbles-you are not a boy, you know” (Kincaid 2). Both societies believe that it is the parents’ job to guide children to their respective gender customs. While it may be interpreted that the mother was supportive of individual decisions that cross gender boundaries, her intentions were somewhat selfish “I always wanted a girl” (McClanahan 8). However, the father, like Scott’s uncles, was openly against it, “My dad shook his head with another “That boy’s not right.”” (McClanahan 5). Similarly, the mother in Girl took it upon herself to reprimand the daughter’s boyish behaviors before they manifested into something disgraceful. In that vein, both stories highlight parents’ poor communication skills in correcting their children’s mistakes. It leaves the children more broken than fixed, yet the parents seem to be completely oblivious.

The two stories shed light on how society views genders and the flaws that come with such views. Aside from that, they indirectly address sexuality and parenting issues and how they apply to the respective genders.

Works Cited

Kincaid, Jamaica. Girl. San Francisco Examiner, 1991. 

McClanahan, Scott. The Baby Doll. Two Dollar Radio, 2013.

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