The story A Walk To The Jetty is the eighth and final chapter in the novel Annie John by the Antiguan writer Jamaica Kincaid, who was writing from her own experiences of moving to the United States at the tender age of 17. The protagonist of this story, Annie John, is also shown to be moving to England from Antigua to pursue her studies of becoming a nurse. The story is an internal exploration of restlessness and discontent within a young woman, who is being forced by her parents to marry a stranger.
A Walk To The Jetty | Summary
The story is told by Annie John, a 17-year-old who is leaving Antigua to study nursing in England. She shows that she has no intention of visiting Antigua again. The night before she leaves, she introspects about her life and her falling and deteriorating connection with her parents while she lies in bed. She is desperate to leave and get away from this life. The three leave for the jetty where she will take a launch out to the ship in the morning after a hearty breakfast and numerous good-byes. She is shown associating significance with everything she sees and is reminded of her past.
When they get there, she tries not to think of her old fear of slipping through the jetty’s planks. When she considers never returning home to Antigua, she is unsure of whether to laugh or cry. She considers whether she is making the right choice but decides to go through with it as she is leaving in the launch while sitting between her parents and gripping their hands tightly. Their goodbyes are heartfelt, but Annie John questions whether her mother’s reaction should be mistrusted. As is customary, she goes up on deck to wave to the departing launch that is transporting her parents back to land. After that, she goes back to her cabin and lies down.
A Walk To The Jetty | Analysis
The story begins with the words, “My name is Annie John.” The repetition of her own name later in the story again emphasizes her need to have a separate identity from her family, to have independence. Annie desires freedom and independence, and for that purpose, she even decides to leave her homeland, even when she hates to do so. By showing abhorrence towards England but seeing that she has no choice but to go to that country, it firmly puts into perspective her strong will to follow her own path in life.
“I did not want to go to England, I did not want to be a nurse.”
These lines show that even if a woman wants to do something else in life, there aren’t a lot of options for her to choose from. Annie did not want to get married off to a strange man by her parents, but that didn’t give her any other options but to go study nursing in England. The headstrong nature of Annie didn’t allow a complete sacrifice of her autonomy and thus she chose the lesser of the evils.
In contrast to her views during the majority of the book, Annie’s attitude toward herself and her parent’s changes in the final chapter. She looks forward to being away from her parents and her past so that she can establish her separateness and individuality, which now seems to be an utter necessity for her. On the final morning, when she awakens, she discovers that her parents’ identities have filled her house to the brim, leaving no room for her identity. It’s not her identity that spreads through the house but her parents. To be able to express herself freely, free from any bounds, Annie needs to locate a new home of her own. However, there is always a nostalgia for her homeland while still being pragmatic about her need and yearning to leave it.
In this chapter, Annie has a split awareness due to her yearning for separation and her nostalgia. Her parents are mourning Annie’s leaving during breakfast while the neighbors swing by to wish her luck on her journey. Annie interprets her parents’ joyous disposition as a sign that they also think it is time for her to move on. Despite her outward friendliness, Annie secretly harbors disgust. Annie believes that Gwen has turned into complete silliness as she bids her farewell. The disparity between the two girls is further highlighted by the fact that Gwen is shortly to be married while Annie completely rejects the idea of marriage, as she said to her parents.
She recognizes her history in every sight. But Annie wants to leave a place where everyone takes for granted that they are familiar with her past. She will be able to create new opportunities by leaving her family’s territory. Many colonial people, whose histories and identities were frequently shaped by those who colonized them, experienced Annie’s desire to remake her past in accordance with her own terms. Annie has had a solid colonial education and training, yet she departs the island with clothes and jewels that have been blessed by an Obeah woman. She will be free to reinvent herself as she sees fit once she is in England, free from the constraints of those around her.
In this chapter, the sea once more serves as a metaphor. When Annie first arrives at the jetty, she is afraid of falling through its planks and into the water that is home to blue-green eels. She almost panics at the thought of being alone, but she gathers herself as she walks to the boat and looks out at the crystal-clear water surrounding her. In this interpretation, the water seems once more to be a cleansing substance that will change Annie as it brings her to England, not unlike baptism.
In the novel’s concluding sentences, the imagery that the vessel is being emptied suggests another interpretation of the act of giving birth on a boat. The ocean’s salt water will carry her in a metaphorical second birth to a new life distinct from her motherland, just as she left the salty amniotic fluid of her mother’s womb. Although Annie’s final moments with her mother are absolutely heartbreaking, it seems totally appropriate for Annie to be leaving as she does. She has now realized that she is a unique individual. She will be reborn as a result of her metaphorical journey over the ocean, and she will arrive to start over in the new nation of England.
“Everything trembled as if it had a spring at its very center.” The story ends on a note of introspection and hope for the future. There is a future in sight that will be free of restraints, although not free of obstacles. However, Annie had spring in her core, and finally, the winter of living in the shadows of her parents was over.