37 pages 1 hour read

Bernardine Evaristo

Girl, Woman, Other

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2019

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Chapter 3Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 3, Section 1 Summary: “Shirley”

Shirley King starts her career as a young, ambitious teacher ready to change minds at Peckham School for Boys and Girls. She notices that the classrooms are stocked with maps of the world that depict “Britain rival[ing] Africa in size, a testament to the colonial cartographers who got away with it for centuries” (219). As the only girl among her siblings and with two brothers who have accomplished less in life, Shirley feels an extreme pressure to succeed to please her parents, Winsome and Clovis. She goes head-to-head with outspoken senior teacher Penelope Halifax to express her opposing teaching pedagogy: While Penelope feels many of the school’s students are beyond hope, Shirley believes in equality and blames a society that has told them they are failures.

Shirley often rants about Penelope to her handsome, supportive husband Lennox. Lennox recalls beginning to wear suits outside of school to avoid racial discrimination. Shirley admires Lennox’s good temperament and ambition. She appreciates that he gets along with her childhood friend Amma, whom she views as odd. She recalls the early days of her friendship with Amma. Amma is initially the shy one of the two, but Amma—whose parents are “educated socialists,” whereas Shirley’s are not educated or political—winds up a confident “maverick.

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Related Titles

By Bernardine Evaristo