Thursday, April 3, 2008

Putting it all together: Attempted Unification in Song of Solomon

In "Putting it all together: Attempted Unification in Song of Solomon", by Phillip Page, discusses the idea that Milkman is the binding force between the halves of his family. By each side trying to pull him over to their frame of mind, he is drawing them closer together. Milkman is infused with traits from both, but he is eventually pulled closer to Pilate as he discovers his families past, and himself. This essay would apply to my essay on the disintegration of the Dead Family because it shows the conflict between the families.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Song of Solomon

When I finished reading Song of Solomon, I was struck by the lack of self history experienced by the Dead family, and how that lack causes the family to become like their last name, Dead. I was also facinated by the connections between the names of the characters and the characteristics they display. The jump rope poem becomes central to the story, because it is the tale of what happens to Macon Dead Jr.'s (aka Milkman) family. I think their are enough connections here to write a five to eight page paper. I have found a few sources in books from the public library, and I know there have to be resources on this subject online, the only trouble finding them.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

First Paper

Community Support or Madness:
Differences in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and Maya Angelou’s
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

When it comes to child rearing, it has often been said that “it takes a community to raise a child”, while this is a valid philosophy it can also be said that if the support of the community is not there when a child needs it the most, that child can “fall through the cracks” and be lost forever. A child can be abused, even killed, and no one in the community steps forward to help. In both The Bluest Eye and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings the main characters, Pecola and Maya suffer through similar abuses, both being raped by some one who is family or considered close to family, and they share some of the same dreams before the abuse, but one descends into madness while the other rises to lead a normal life. This change is based on the community surrounding the child, its location, and the family environment of the child.
Both The Bluest Eye and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings are set during the nineteen thirties and nineteen forties, a time of economic, political, and social segregation for African American communities, though the extent of segregation in each community differs geographically and socially. Pecola Beedlove is raised in the North, just outside of Cleveland, Ohio. Though the North is not historically considered a hotbed of racism and segregation, segregation and racism did exist. Segregation in the North was more defacto than dejure’: meaning that rather than laws to enforce separations of the races, society enforced the system as a matter of tradition. Though an African-American theoretically could shop in the same stores as whites, most did not as a rule.
Defacto segregation influences many of the activities of the characters in The Bluest Eye. An example of this segregation is when Pecola is invited into the Isaley's by her racially mixed classmate, Maureen Peal. Her friends, Claudia and Frieda, must remain outside for two reasons. They cannot afford to buy ice cream, a sign of economic segregation, and they most likely have been socialized to avoid Isaley’s unless accompanied by an adult or another child that could pass for white.
Defacto segregation also influences Pecola’s deference to the local candy store owner, Mr. Yacobowski. Pecola’s social training in dealing with whites dictates that she speak to them as little as possible, as well as avoiding eye contact. She feels that she cannot speak to Mr. Yacobowski without crossing that invisible segregation line, so she silently points to the candy she wishes to purchase and just as silently hands over her cherished pennies to complete the sale. In exchange, Mr. Yacobowski is disgusted by Pecola’s presence and shows his disgust in his eyes and the tone of his voice.
Slowly, like Indian summer moving imperceptibly toward fall, he looks towards her. Somewhere between the retina and object, between vision and view, his eyes draw back, hesitate, and hover. At some fixed point in time and space he senses that he need not waste the effort of a glance. He does not see her, because for him there is nothing to see. . . “Yeah?” (Morrison 48)
Mr.Yacobowski tone of voice makes it evident that even though he is willing to accept Pecola’s pennies, he is not willing to acknowledge her presence as a human being and cannot greet her with a “Yes” or “Hello”, as he would his white customers.
Appearance was a very important social rule that applied to African Americans in Pecola’s world. This unspoken rule was that the more an African-American persons skin looked like Caucasian skin, the higher the social standing in the African American community. These gradations included mulatto, quadroon, and octoroon; each referring to the amount of “white blood” in the person’s history. Naomi Pabst in “Blackness/Mixedness: Contestations over Crossing Signs” calls this cultural racism: “the "one-drop rule," the law of hypo descent, which denies black/white interracial persons a legitimate claim to whiteness and assigns them to a purportedly lower rung on the heritage hierarchy” (Pabst 54).
This hierarchy places Pecola at the bottom most rung and elevated her classmate Maureen Peal to the highest rung, just below Caucasians. Maureen is described as, “a high-yellow dream child with long brown hair braided into two lynch ropes” (52). In “Seeds in Hard Ground: Black Girlhood in The Bluest Eye”, author Ruth Rosenberg discusses how the character of Maureen helps to reinforce the ideals of “white society” when she explains to Pecola the origins of her name. “Pecola? Wasn't that the name of the girl in Imitation of Life?"… The picture show, you know. Where this mulatto girl hates her mother 'cause she is black and ugly” (Morrison 67). Rosenberg states that “The point being made in this onomastic interplay is that Mrs. Breedlove learned to devalue herself through commercialized fantasies and is teaching her daughter a similar sense of unworthiness.”(440) Mrs. Breedlove’s obsession with white culture and the orderliness of it is evident in the name she gives her child and her later rejection of Pecola for her employer’s blonde- haired, blue-eyed child. Maureen’s comments show how deep is the infiltration of “white” into the everyday life of African Americans. Pecola is named after a movie character that has a similar life, reflecting the unhappiness she feels at not blending into society. At the same time Maureen is reinforcing the social beauty standards and reestablishing her position at the top. Maureen’s appearance is the envy of every darker-skinned little girl in her community, especially Pecola, Claudia, and Frieda; because she looks and has everything they wish they could look like or own:
Patent leather shoes… Fluffy sweaters the color of lemon drops tucked into skirts with pleats so orderly… Brightly colored knee socks with white borders, a brown velvet coat trimmed in white rabbit fur, and a matching muff. There was a spring in her slow green eyes, something summery in her complexion, and a rich autumn ripeness in her walk. She enchanted the entire school. (Morrison 62).
The description of Maureen by Claudia in this paragraph reads almost like the Misses section of a Sears and Roebuck catalog that has been memorized during repeated day dreams. Maureen has the life that Pecola wishes and fantasizes about constantly. Maureen’s appearance leads to differential treatment in the eyes of Maureen’s peers. Girls are envious of Maureen’s treatment by their teachers, the male population of their classes, and the other girls in the class. This is evident when a group of boys are teasing Pecola about her family. Frieda and Claudia rush to her defense, but are outnumbered: until Maureen appears. “Maureen appeared at my elbow, and the boys seemed reluctant to continue under her springtime eyes… They buckled in confusion, not willing to beat up three girls under her watchful gaze.” (66, 67) Maureen’s beauty is at once an asset and a point of contention for the three darker-skinned girls.
The social rule of lighter-skinned as beautiful was also reinforced by the movie stars and singers of the day. Billy Holiday and Eartha Kit as well as Count Baisie and Duke Ellington were light-skinned African Americans with more Caucasian features, in effect, setting the standard for “passing” in white society. There were exceptions to this norm, however. Hattie McDaniel, who was darker-skinned, won an Oscar in 1938 for her portrayal of Mammy in Gone with the Wind, and though she portrayed a slave, she was still the first African American woman to win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Jesse Owens, who defeated Hitler’s “master race” captured gold in four events at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. With few exceptions the majority of role models for African Americans in the 1930’s and 1940’s look very similar to Caucasians.
Passing as white was also reinforced by the movie industry, advertisements, and even the toy industry. African American girls and women were bombarded with images of white beauty. Ultra-white screen stars, the so called “blonde bombshells”, larger than life billboards, even china cups bore the faces of this beauty standard. These white images, coupled with a lack of darker-skinned role models, lead to conflict within African American girls and women. They wanted to be like Shirley Temple and Jean Harlow, to be as accepted and as beautiful as these film stars.
Pecola obsesses about having blue eyes, thinking they will make people love her. She dreams that she will one day wake up, have blue eyes, and look like her idol, Shirley Temple. Her obsession manifests itself in love of the peanut butter taffy confection: Mary Janes. When she can afford them, Pecola buys as many as she can, for when she is eating them it “is some how to eat the eye, eat Mary Jane. Love Mary Jane. Be Mary Jane” (Morrison, 50).
This ritual of eating Mary Janes is almost a form of religion for Pecola. While many in the African American community attend church in order to blend in with the “white” society, Pecola creates her own religion in the worship of whiteness and blue eyes. She prays every night for blue eyes and practices communion by eating Mary Janes: a sign she is consuming the body of white culture.
Pecola’s created religion also marries her longing for blue eyes with the idea that they would somehow make her life better:
If those eyes were different, that is to say, beautiful, she herself would be different. . . If she looked different, beautiful, maybe Cholly would be different, and Mrs. Breedlove too. Maybe they’d say, “Why look at pretty eyed Pecola. We mustn’t do bad things in front of those pretty blue eyes.” (Morrison 46)
Pecola’s longing to have blue eyes like Shirley Temple is influenced by industries devoted to children. The toy and children’s book industry is a prime example of Caucasian centric this time period is. According to Ruth Rosenberg, “Black girls did not exist as far as the publishers of school anthologies were concerned.”(437)
Barbara Dodds Stanford and Karima Amin, authors of Black Literature for High School Students writes “that " 'Whites Only' could have been stamped on almost every literature series for high school students published before 1965" (3). Statistics included in Rosenberg’s essay include those by Nancy Larrick, “who studied 5,206 children's books published between 1962 and 1964, claims that only 349 of those thousands of books include even one black child either in the illustrations or the text. (Rosenberg 435,436) These statistics are tempered by the fact that “6.1 percent which do show a black child, all but a small fraction are ''set outside the United States or before World War II.” (Rosenberg 437) If book published in the nineteen sixties contain so few African American characters, books published in the nineteen thirties and nineteen forties contained far less. These books are almost entirely white, and no other example is more central to The Bluest Eye than the famous Dick and Jane readers.
The Dick and Jane readers play an intricate part in The Bluest Eye. The beginning of the novel gives three samples of the Dick and Jane reader that display a gradual descent into incomprehensibility. Each of these examples represents as different perspective in the novel according to Phyllis R. Klotman, author of “Dick-and-Jane and the Shirley Temple Sensibility in the Bluest Eye”:
The first is clearly that of the alien white world (represented by the Fisher family) which impinges upon the lives of the black children and their families while at the same time excluding them.
The second is the lifestyle of the two black McTeer children, Claudia and Frieda, shaped by poor but loving parents trying desperately to survive the poverty, the Northern cold and Northern style of racism they encounter in Ohio. The Breedloves' lives, however, are like the third- the distorted run-on- version of "Dick and Jane," and their child Pecola lives in a misshapen world which finally destroys her. (123)
The toy industry contributes to the white beauty ideal with a lack of dolls with an African American complexion.
In both The Bluest Eye and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings a character receives a white baby doll that resembles Shirley Temple. Both Claudia and Maya are confused as to just what they are suppose to do this hard, lifeless, plastic plaything and eventually resort to violence against the doll. “I had only one desire, to dismember it. To see of what it was made, to find the beauty, the desirability that had escaped me.” (Morrison 20) Maya recalls “Bailey and I tore the stuffing out of the doll the day after Christmas.” (Angelou 57). Both girls destroy these symbol of white beauty in order to find out what makes these dolls so supposedly lovable and desirable, and to find out how to be as loved and accepted, while at the same time rejecting the stereotype.
In contrast to the veiled openness of the North, the community in the South was much more outwardly segregated than in the North, do to the Jim Crow laws, but also because of tradition. In the Deep South, African Americans kept to their side of town, and were very careful of how they behaved while on the “white” side of town. In I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, everyone knows that the railroad tracks through the center of town are the dividing line between the races in the town of Stamps, Arkansas. This is evident in chapter four of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings when Maya and Bailey must cross the tracks to purchase fresh meat for dinner:
The pleasure fled when we reached the white part of town. After we left Mr. Willie William’s Do Drop Inn, the last stop before whitefolksville, we had to cross the pond and adventure the railroad tracks. We were explorers walking without weapons into man-eating animal’s territory. (Angelou 25)
African Americans are not free to mingle with the whites, but the images of the “white” community percolate through the segregated community, this separation does force the community to look inward and develop its own sense of identity. According to Donald Gibson, author of “Individualism and Community in Black History and Fiction”, “The community is church-centered and most of the members of the community see themselves as related through the institution. Angelou leads an orderly life.”(128) According to Angelou, “In Stamps the segregation was so complete that most Black children didn’t really, absolutely know what whites looked like. Other than they were different, to be dreaded.” (25)
The African American community Maya grew up in was very tight-knit, every one looking out for everyone else.
“People help each other. When times are bad and nobody has much money, Angelou's grandmother, who runs a small Country store, arranges a system of barter. When the wife of an old inhabitant dies, the grandmother takes the widower in without a moment's hesitation. When Bailey, Angelou's brother, does not return home on time from a movie and the grandmother goes out to look for him, a neighbor, simply seeing her on the road, inquires about the difficulty. (Gibson 128).
This closeness is in stark contrast to the community in which Pecola lives. Pecola’s brother can disappear for day, even weeks, at a time and no one goes looking for him. The only form of community spirit in Pecola’s neighborhood is the back fence gossip, the age old system of spreading information, or disinformation as the case may be.
Like Pecola, Maya has dreams that she will one day wake up and be transformed into a blonde haired, blue eyed little girl, and everyone will love and accept her.
Wouldn’t they be surprised when I woke out of my black ugly dream, and my real hair, which was long and blonde, would take the place of the kinky mass that Momma wouldn’t let me straighten? My light blue eyes were going to hypnotize them… (Angelou 2).
Unlike Pecola, Maya’s dream gradually slips away as she grows older and learns from her family and her community that she is beautiful just as she is. Momma Henderson, her paternal grandmother, is the rock foundation that Maya can build her self esteem on. Momma is like the shadow of Mammy from Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. Mammy always worked within the boundaries of her station, stepping out only went it was beneficial to both herself and to her charge and only when there was not another white person around to correct her behavior.
Like Mammy, Momma Henderson follows the social codes in her respect to whites, but she never lets them strike the core of her strength, her faith or her family. She knows who she is and cannot change that, but she also knows how to accept herself, and she teaches Maya the same through her unyielding self-respect, her respect of others in her community, and her self respect in the face of racism, though it takes Maya until adulthood to develop this sense of self.
Momma displays her strength of character in chapter five with the confrontation between Maya, Momma, and the local white trash girls on a warm summer morning. Maya is raking the yard clean of debris when a group of “white trash” girls appear over the hill. Momma Henderson tells Maya, “Sister, go on inside” (Angelou 30). Maya wants to insist that she be allowed to stay, that she could wait on these girls rather than have Momma stoop so low, but she does not, and reluctantly goes inside. These girls begin to imitate Momma Henderson: “One of them wrapped her right arm in the crook of her left, pushed out her mouth and started to hum” (30). As Maya watches through the screen door, angered and frustrated that she cannot do anything about the teasing of her beloved Grandmother, she reflects, “I thought about the rifle behind the door, but I knew I’d never be able to hold it straight, about the .410, our sawed off shotgun, which stayed loaded and was fired every New Year’s Eve night” (30). She does not move to grab either of these items: instead she is held motionless as she continues to watch the drama unfold.
The girls soon tire of imitating Momma and move on to doing jerky dances in imitation of puppets or minstrel shows they might have seen, but one girl, “who was almost a woman”(30), decided on another course of action. As Maya watched through the screen door:
The big girl turned her back; bent down and put her hands flat on the ground-she didn’t pick up anything. She simply shifted her weight and did a handstand. Her dirty bare feet and long legs went straight for the sky. Her dress fell down around her shoulders, and she had on no drawers. The slick pubic hair made a brown triangle where her legs came together (31, 32).
Through all of this teasing and tormenting, Momma Henderson never moved, never raised an eyebrow, and only changed the hymn she was humming to herself. The only words she utters are when the girls begin to leave the yard: “ ’Bye Miz Helen, ’bye Miz Ruth, ’bye Miz Eloise”(32).
Momma does not allow herself to be goaded by these little girls, but she does display her wisdom in the way she tells these young ladies good-bye. By using the “white” idea of African American vernacular in her good-bye Momma maintains these young ladies idea of her and her community as a stereotype of African Americans most often seen in the movies and minstrel or vaudeville shows, while at the same time avoiding the idea of the “Uppity Negro” and saving her family from a possible reprisal from these young ladies’ fathers. The girl’s treatment of her does not affect her sense of self because their imitations are of a stereotype, not the real Momma Henderson.
This incident etches itself into young Maya’s mind. African Americans may have to be subservient to whites in order to maintain the accepted social codes, but through faith and a tight control of emotion, they do not have to let it consume them. Maya learns this lesson early from Momma’s treatment of the white customers that enter her store, to her learning to maintain her sense of self when the white woman she works for wishes to change her name, and with continued support of her family and community she can learn to maintain her sense of self against the white community.
Maya’s life is ideal in Stamps: close to her family and the community, until she is taken to live with her mother in St. Louis by her father. In St. Louis, Maya’s life becomes a bit more like Pecola’s. Maya’s mother pays only minimal attention to Maya and Bailey, her Grandmother Baxter and her uncles offer scant supervision. The community around Maya and Bailey was much more like Pecola’s community. Everyone is intent on their own business and, other than the occasional gossip; do not monitor the movements of the neighborhood children. This allows Maya to slip through the community safety net she has enjoyed for as long as she can remember, with disastrous consequences. “At eight years old she is raped by her mother's lover, who later is murdered.” (Gibson 128). Maya does not fall between through her family safety net entirely, however. When her mother discovers the bloodstained underwear and how battered Maya’s body is, Mr. Freeman is arrested and brought to trial. The judicial system then fails Maya when Mr. Freeman is “let off” the charge of rape because Maya cannot tell the judge exactly what has happened to her because she is ashamed to admit she enjoyed being held by Mr. Freeman, but is sure it would sound as though she was just as guilty as Mr. Freeman and she will lose the trust of her brother and her mother. While the judicial system fails Maya, her family support does not. Mr. Freeman is murdered shortly after the trial, "some say he was kicked to death," by her mother's uncles.” (Gibson 128), but Maya is not left unscarred, both physically and mentally. “For months following the incident Angelou is unable to talk” and “Though Maya and Bailey are excited by many aspects or urban life, they feel out of place, in a strange and alien environment. Maya welcomes the return to Stamps.” (Gibson 128). Stamps is the one place in which Maya has a sense of well being, a feeling of security in knowing that Momma and every one else in the community will be looking out for her.
Pecola Breedlove does not have the benefit of such an uplifting life experiences from family and community like Maya does. Because she is left to her own devices by parents who simply do not care or cannot care. Mrs. Breedlove ignores Pecola preferring the joys of her work and the perfect white child, the Fischer girl.
“When the little pink-and-yellow girl begins to cry, Pecola's mother comforts her with tenderness: “‘Hush, baby, hush. Come here. Oh, Lord, look at your dress. Don't cry no more. Polly will change it' "(p. 85). For her own child she has harsh and bitter words of rejection: "'Pick up that wash and get out of here, so I can get this mess cleaned up"' (ibid.). Through her mother's blurred vision of the pink, white, and golden world of the Fishers, Pecola learns that she is ugly, unacceptable, and especially unloved.” (Klotman 124)
With her parents ignoring her, other respectable members of the community are not willing to step up and teach her this skill of filtering white influence, Pecola’s only role models become the prostitutes that live in the apartment upstairs and the books and movies of white culture. She becomes infatuated with white society; she cannot learn to outgrow the dream of one day being like Shirley Temple.
When her father rapes her, Pecola does not have the support that Maya had from her uncles, Momma Henderson, and the southern community provides. Her home, which should have been a safe haven, is instead the scene of her violation. The community, which should have rallied around her instead, resorts to back fence gossip about how nasty and shameful the incident is. The only “help” she receives is from the local eccentric, Soaphead Church. He “grants” her wish for blue eyes and Pecola whole hearted believes it is true. According to Kathleen Woodward, author of “Toni Morrison, Televisual Culture, and the
Cultural Politics of the Emotions” discusses the shame aspect of Pecola’s rape: because Pecola has no emotional safety net and the community has no interest in supporting her:
Pecola sinks into madness, touched by the deluded notion that she has magically been granted her wish to have blue eyes and that she is now exquisitely beautiful in the eyes of white America. A living reminder of the shameful failure of her community to protect her, she grows older as the years pass by. But she will never grow up. She has been irreparably stunted. We are given to understand that she will live out her life wandering on the edge of town until she dies, a pariah sifting through garbage. (Woodward 218)
In conclusion, Pecola becomes the scapegoat for all that is wrong in the community. Those around her can feel better about themselves because at least they are not like poor, crazy Pecola Breedlove. If Pecola had received the support Maya received from her family and community after being rape, she may have been able to maintain her sanity. In the end:
“The point is not that it is better to live in the South than in the North, or that people who live in the nonurban South are happier, better off, better adjusted than those who live in the urban North. The point is rather that community is better than isolation, that the communal character of the rural black southern circumstance is better than the fragmented, fractionated, individualistically oriented character of the urban North. (128).
Both Pecola and Maya are victims of their families and communities lack of attention, but Maya was descent was stopped in time to allow her to grow up normally. Pecola Breedlove slipped through this safety net and became the community scapegoat and mental case. In each of these cases the family and the community does make a difference in the life of a child and can be the difference between community support and madness.

Works Cited
Angelou, Maya. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. New York.
Bantum Books Publishing, 1970.

Gibson, Donald B.. “Individualism and Community in Black History
and Fiction”. Black American Literature Forum, Vol. 11, 4.
Winter 1977):123-129. Feb 5, 2008.

Klotman, Phyllis R. “Dick-and-Jane and the Shirley Temple
Sensibility in the Bluest Eye”. Black American Literature Forum.
Vol. 13, 4 (Winter 1979): 123-125.
http:// Jan 29, 2008.

Kuenz, Jane. “The Bluest Eye: Notes on History, Community, and Black
Female Subjectivity”. African American Review. 27, No. 3, Women’s Culture Issue. (Autumn 1993): 421-431. Jan 29, 2008.

Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye. New York. Plume Publishing,

Pabst, Naomi. “Blackness/Mixedness: Contestations over Crossing
Signs”. Cultural Critique. 54 (Spring 2003): 178-212. Feb 4, 2008.

Rosenberg, Ruth. “Seeds in Hard Ground: Black Girlhood in The
Bluest Eye”. Black American Literature Forum. 21 (Winter 1987): 435-445. Feb 2, 2008.

Stanford, Barbara Dodds, and Karima Amin. “Black Literature for
High School Students”. Urbana: NCTE, 1978.

Woodward, Kathleen. “Toni Morrison, Televisual Culture, and the
Cultural Politics of the Emotions”. Cultural Critique.46, Trauma and Its Cultural Aftereffects. (Autumn 2000): 210-240. Feb 4, 2008.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Toni Morrison's Sula

The second novel that was assigned for my independent study was Sula. This novel was a bit of a departure from The Bluest Eye, but in many ways the title character, Sula, reminds me of what could have happened to Pecola if she had not gone mad following the rapes and the miscarriage of her own father's child. Rather than turn her anger and angst inward at the small slights hoisted upon her, Sula lashes out at the world through her reckless behavior, she becomes a traveling prostitute of sorts after recieving a "college education", but her reckless behavior cost her one of the things she held most dear, her childhood friend Nell. Sula and Nell are like two halves of the same person, they share everything, until Sula sleeps with Nell's husband and is caught in the act. Sula seemed to think that because she and Nell had shared every else in their lives, right down to the guilt of having accidentally drowning a local youngster called Chicken Litte, that this would be one more thing that they would share. Sula also becomes, like Pecola, a scapegoat for the community, anything that goes wrong can be blamed on her, absolving the rest from having to solve their problems. Pecola is blamed for bringing the unwanted attention from her father, and Sula is blamed for every accident, injury, or misfortune that occurs. With her death, and the accident at the tunnel on National Suicide Day, the community must look for other outlets for their blame, or else blame themselves.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Role Playing as Art in Maya Angelou's "Caged Bird"

In Role playing as Art in Maya Angelou’s “Caged Bird”, author Myra K. Murry discusses the growing up in the segregated south and the roles the characters in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings have to fill in order to keep the social order and their lives.
“In Marguerite's world, rigid laws govern every aspect of a child's life: there are laws for addressing adults by proper title, laws for speaking and more for not speaking, laws about cleanliness and obedience, and about performance in school and behavior in church. (3)” These laws are meant to protect children and the community at large. It is thought that is an African American follows these rules, they feel that they cannot be harmed by the white community. Maya and all the character’s follow the rules, Momma remains stone faced, humming, while she is insulted by the local white trash girls, Uncle Willie does his best to straighten up and present a whole body to perfect strangers. Murry goes on to finish by talking about how art, in this case the Angelou’s writing, can save Maya from being repressed.
This essay is helpful in looking at the community surrounding Maya in order to show the lack of community support around Pecola in The Bluest Eye.

The Daughter's Seduction: Sexual Violence and Literary History

In “The Daughter’s Seduction: Sexual Violence and Literary History”, author Christine Froula talks about the how a daughter can become a victim of the father, and the exchange of power between the two. The daughter’s power is stolen, leaving her in a fixed state, while the father increases in power and keeps that power by forbidding the daughter to tell anyone she has been violated. The daughter is made to believe that she will not be believed or that her telling will cause the breakup of her family, in short using guilt to keep her silent. Froula cites Frued saying “Freud developed his "seduction theory"-the theory that hysterical symptoms have their origin in sexual abuse suffered in childhood, which is repressed and eventually assimilated to later sexual experience.(629)” She continues with a short history of the Frued’s theory on the seduction theory. She does not get into the discussion of I Know why the Caged Bird Sings until page 635. She discusses the rape of Maya by her mother’s boyfriend, Mr. Freedman and the terror that telling the truth and having her family turn against her, or lying and sinning against God and still losing her family because she told a lie. Maya withdraws and refuses to speak after her uncles seek revenge on Freeman and kill him. Maya believes that her words killed him and it is only after memorizing a two thousand word poem by Shakespeare, Rape of Lucrece. “Maya's feat of memory signals a double seduction: by the white culture that her grandmother wished her black child not to love and by the male culture which imposes upon the rape victim.” Froula goes on to say that, Maya is doubly seduced, first by her “father” figure, and then by the images of white society. She doesn’t really go into much detail about his, but quickly moves on to discuss The Color Purple.
I do feel that this essay will help to make my argument in the similarities between Pecola and Maya, as well as the differences in family support of the victim.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Black Naturalism and Toni Morrison: The Journey away from Self-Love in The

In "Black Naturalism and Toni Morrison: The JOurney away from Self-Love in The Bluest Eye", author Patrice Cormier-Hamilton, dicusses the how the idea of loving one's self for who you are is damaged by the social standards around us and that without the proper support, one can lose that sense of Self-Love. In mentioning The Bluest Eye, Hamiltion is trying to show how the "blackness" has been adapted to fit the society. She takes the idea that while naturalism maintains that one's identity is reaffirmed and molded by the community, she takes it one step further, that a person is shaped more by themselves than those around them, a psychological perspective that I have not encountered before, but seems to make some sense. Pecola wants blue eyes, to be white, because she as internalized this set of values and is now in conflict with herself because she cannot imitate her values.
This essay, though confusing at times, is helpful in understanding the pyschological idea of being one "race", but longing to be like the other. I feel that I will be able to use this essay as a foil to bounce Pecola's assimilation off of May Angelou's non-assimilation in I know Why the Caged Bird Sings.