“As she told me the stories, I sometimes sat at her side, leaning against her, or I would crouch on my knees behind her back and lean over her shoulder” (Chpt. 1, p. 22).
As a child Annie is close to her mother, who tells her stories of her birth and of the family.
“What should I do, finding myself in a world of new girls, a world in which I was not even near the center?” (Chpt.3, p. 41).
Annie becomes a teen, goes to a new school, and is suddenly not the center of her mother's world. Instead, she must make her way among strangers.
“Sometimes seeing my old frail self in a girl, I would defend her; sometimes, seeing my old frail self in a girl, I would be heartless and cruel. It all went over quite well, and I became very popular” (Chpt. 3, p. 49).
Annie is given responsibility by the teachers because she is smart. She is not always compassionate to the other girls, which she freely admits without apology. At home she feels helpless, but at school she is a leader and can inflict what she likes on others.
“I took winning for a sign of the perfection of my new union with the Red Girl. I devoted my spare time to playing and winning marbles” (Chpt. 4, p. 60).
Annie begins doing things her mother will not approve of so she can make her own life. She plays with a dirty, red-haired girl who does rebellious things such as climb trees and play marbles. Annie becomes a marbles champion because it is forbidden.
“Perhaps she wanted to be in England, where no one would remind her constantly of the terrible things her ancestors had done; perhaps she had felt even worse when her father was a missionary in Africa” (Chpt. 5, p. 76).
Annie thinks the one white English girl in their class feels guilty for the crime of slavery imposed on the people of the West Indies by the English.
“But no sooner were we alone, behind the fence, behind the closed door, than everything darkened. . . Something I could not name just came over us, and suddenly I had never loved anyone so or hated anyone so” (Chpt. 6, p. 88).
Annie cannot account for her contradictory feelings about her mother. One minute, in public, she adores her, as before, but in private, the hatred and rivalry overwhelm her.
“When the case got to court, Mineu played judge, jury, prosecutor, and condemned man, sitting in the condemned man's box. Nothing was funnier than seeing him, using some old rags as a wig for his part of the judge, pass sentence on himself; nothing was funnier that seeing him, as the drunken hangman, hang himself” (Chpt. 6, p. 97).
Annie describes the domineering behavior of the boy she played with in childhood as he took all the parts in the play and left her to be the servant or the crying mother. This incident helps to explain her lack of attraction to boys. She is a leader around girls but a marginal figure in a male world.
“I could see her shadow on the wall, cast there by the lamplight. It was a big and solid shadow, and it looked so much like my mother that I became frightened. For I could not be sure whether for the rest of my life I would be able to tell when it was really my mother and when it was really her shadow standing between me and the rest of the world” (Chpt. 6, pp. 106–107).
Annie describes a blackness in each of them that aggressively attacks the other. When she asks her father to make her her own trunk, a direct insult to her mother, she sees the mother's shadow and no longer can tell whether her mother is something other than the shadow between them.\
“We began our meetings with the whole troop standing in the yard of the Methodist church, forming a circle around the flagpole, our eyes following the Union Jack as it was raised up; then we swore allegiance to our country, by which was meant England” (Chpt. 7, p. 115).
Annie's sense of irony grows as she grows older. She understands the falseness of being a black Antiguan pretending to be a Brownie saluting the English flag as the flag of her country.
“And so now there they are together and here I am apart. I don't see them now the way I used to, and I don't love them now the way I used to. The bitter thing about it is that they are just the same and it is I who have changed” (Chpt. 8, p. 133).
On Annie's last day in Antigua before sailing to England, she reviews her life and is relieved she does not have to be with her parents anymore. She has fallen out of love with them and does not plan on ever coming back. She has the revelation, however, that perhaps they did not change toward her as she thought. Perhaps they did not betray her, but it was she who changed.
Annie John : Top Ten Quotes