37 pages 1 hour read

Bernardine Evaristo

Girl, Woman, Other

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2019

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Themes

Human Connectivity and Interdependency

Content Warning: This section of guide includes discussions of anti-gay prejudice, racism, and violence, including domestic abuse and rape.

Evaristo uses the vast complexity of Black British womanhood as an example of human diversity. The structure and interlocking narratives of Girl, Woman, Other imply an overarching theme of human connectivity and interdependency. As Evaristo unspools the fate of each character, the reader understands that one character’s life trajectory would not be possible without several other characters. This weaving of storylines posits that humans are always connected, however tangentially. These connections build over the course of the novel, culminating in Penelope’s discovery of her birth mother as Hattie, which both exposes and assuages her prejudices. “[W]ho cares about her colour?” Evaristo writes. “[W]hy on earth did Penelope ever think it mattered?” (452). Penelope’s narrative arc embodies the idea that bonds of family can assuage the sting of prejudice.

However, this tree-branch narrative structure also highlights the negative aspects of human interconnectivity, most pronounced by Slim’s discovery of Hattie’s ancestors accumulation of wealth through the slave trade. Upon Hattie’s father’s death, Slim discovers Hattie’s paternal relatives’ contribution to the very industries that enslaved and exploited his ancestors, as Evaristo inquires into the inherited traumas and lingering effects of colonialism.

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Related Titles

By Bernardine Evaristo