Annie John, Kincaid’s 1985 novel, contains a description of the death of Annie’s Uncle Johnnie. When he fell ill, his mother was convinced that traditional (obeah) medicine was the way to cure him, while his father preferred Western medicine. His father got his way.
For two years, Uncle Johnnie lay in bed, each day looking rosier and rosier. Then one day he died. On the day he died, he had never looked better. When he died, a large worm bored its way out of his leg and rested on his shinbone. Then it, too died.
Kincaid’s later book The Autobiography of my Mother from 1996 contains a very similar scene, this time concerning the death of Alfred, the half-brother of the book’s protagonist, Xuela.
And so my father’s son lay, his body covered with small sores, his entire being not dead, not alive… His father believed one remedy would cure him [Western medicine], his mother believe another [obeah]…
This boy died. Before he died, from his body came a river of pus. Just as he died, a large brown worm crawled out of his left leg; it lay there above the ankle, as if waiting to be found by a wanderer one morning. It soon dried up and then looked as if all life had left its body thousands of years before.
Both suffered long diseases, there was a conflict in whether they should be treated by Western or traditional medicine, and when they died a worm emerged from their leg. Kincaid has stated that her work uses many experiences from her own life. Does this death scene derive from a real-life experience?