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Junot Diaz’s The Cheater’s Guide to Love Vs. Jamaica Kincaid’s Girl

“The Cheater’s Guide to Love,” written by Junot Diaz in 2012, tells the story of a cheater who struggles to get over the fiancee he cheated with, while “Girl,” written in 1978 by Jamaica Kincaid, simply mentions what a girl is expected to do and act like; both texts were published by The New Yorker. Within the two texts, the narrator addresses the reader himself, making the reader the main character, and includes what thoughts he or she should have, creating a strong emotional bond for the reader. Even though the stories might not be relatable to the reader, the informal tone addressed to the reader allows him or her to understand the thoughts and feelings of the character.

A plot where a man cheats on his fiancee with over fifty women and takes over five years to get over her, only to find himself writing a book based on what his ex-fiancee made him regarding his cheating habits is unlikely to be relatable, making it less interesting to the reader; however, because it is written in such a way that the narrator addresses the reader directly, the reader automatically feels more connected to the character and gets caught up in the story. The overall tone is very informal, making it seem as if the narrator is simply retelling the story to the reader, as seen in “Your girl catches you cheating. (Well, actually she’s your fiancee, but hey, in a bit it so won’t matter.)” (“The Cheater’s Guide to Life”) where it is clearly addresses to the reader. This tone and way of writing allows for the reader to fully understand the message of the story and to see the effects that one action can have upon years and years of one’s life.

Although both texts use a similar approach in using the narrator to speak directly to the reader, the tone and the writing is different; “The Cheater’s Guide to Life” is much more of a narrative, which includes a plot and the character’s feelings, while “Girl” is simply a series of things a girl should know how to do, interrupted by italics where the girl, who is supposed to be reader, thinks or talks back. This difference in tone highlights the fact that “The Cheater’s Guide to Life” seems like a memory and delivers the message of what actions can do in the long run and that “Girl” represents what women were seen as “good for” at the time and how they were treated.

Written in the late 70s, “Girl” is a perfect example of how women were expected to behave. Because the story is not one with a narrative, it is instead a series of sentences giving orders as to what a woman should do, it shows the condescendence that women had to deal with on a daily basis. For example, “Wash the white clothes on Monday…cook pumpkin fritters in very hot sweet oil;…this is how to sew on a button;…this is how you iron” (“Girl”) are only a few lines from the text and show that they are only orders and advice, but that is all the text is. “Girl” uses a lack of narrative and uses direct orders and tips to the reader to make him or her feel the way a woman would have felt at the time. It allows the reader to understand how women were spoken to. The few times where the reader says something, which is portrayed in italics, such as “but what if the baker won’t let me feel the bread?” (Girl), also shows that women were not allowed to talk back and that if they spoke up, they would likely get shut down. The first time the character, who is the reader, speaks, she is ignored. The second time, previously quoted, is replied to by “you mean to say that after all you are really going to be the kind of woman who the baker won’t let near the bread” (Girl). But because the reader feels affected by what is being said because it is addressed to the reader, he or she has a deeper emotional connection to it and understands the message that women’s lives were seen as lesser than men’s.

Overall, both texts use a specific type of writing to address the reader in order to make the story more personal and more relatable, no matter the story; by creating very little distance between the narrator and the reader, it is easier to understand the message of the texts and their intended meaning.

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