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Comparing Families in Song of Solomon, Push, and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

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    One of the objectives of this seminar is to "observe the images of the individual, the family, and alternative families in the writings and experience of minority groups(objective 6a)." The families of the African American subjects in these writings present abnormality and dysfunction. Normalcy, seen in common nuclear families, is absent in the minority families we have read about thus far. The protagonists, Precious, Milkman, and Linda, are shaped by their dysfunctional relationships with their parental figures.

The abnormality of the mother and child relationship is apparent in the minority families in these writings. The mother figures seem to have misguided hopes for their children. We see this in "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl". Jacobs writes, "...often does she wish that she and they might die before the day dawns(350)." She also tells us, "Alas, what mockery it is for a slave mother to try to pray back her dying child to life! Death is better than slavery.(392)." The mothers would rather wish death upon their children or themselves in order to prevent pain and separation caused by slavery.

Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison, presents an image of an unnatural, extended time of maternal bonding. In this novel, Ruth breastfeeds her son, Milkman, until he is about four or five years of age. Ruth breastfeeds Milkman for this unnaturally lengthy amount of time because it makes her feel like her son is a part of her. Breastfeeding him gives her immense pleasure and satisfaction. However, she hides her indulgence from the rest of the family until Freddie the janitor catches her. She knows it is wrong, but it makes her daily life bearable.

In contrast, Sapphire's novel, Push, depicts the bond between the m...


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... see her as a human being to be treasured as a father should treasure his daughter. She tells us, "My fahver don't see me really. If he did he would know I was like a white girl, a real person, inside. He would not climb on me forever(32)."

These writings, joined by the dysfunction in the families, present an insightful image of the individual and the family of African Americans. Precious, Milkman, and Linda gained strength and courage through their trials of abnormal, sometimes abusive upbringings. Each scar, whether it was mental or physical, was a lesson learned.

Works Cited:

Brent, Linda. "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl". The Classic Slave Narratives. Ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. New York: Penguin Group, 1987.

Morrison, Toni. Song of Solomon. New York: The Penguin Group, 1977.

Sapphire. Push. New York: Vintage Contemporaries, 1996.

 


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