Rediscovering the Ancestral Figure in the Age of Materialism: Paule Marshall’s Praisesong for the Widow, and Gloria Naylor’s Mama Day
Ayanna N. Smith
Thesis DT 3.5 1996 S642
ix, 122 leaves; 28 cm.
This thesis analyzes the representation of the ancestral figure within Paule Marshall's Praisesong for the Widow (1983) and Gloria Naylor's Mama Day (1988). In addition, the Afrocentric focus of this project prompts a discussion of Marshall and Naylor within the context of literary griots. One of the paramount issues that this thesis addresses is the ultra conservative socio-economic climate of the 1980's, particularly concerning the communal implications for African-Americans. In order to interrogate the problematic issue of material values supplanting the spiritual values within the African- American community, this inquiry provides a brief literature review of the written response of eight contemporary African- American novelists who produce texts throughout the 1980's. The findings of this present study indicate, however, that both Paule Marshall and Gloria Naylor transcended the literary imagination of their counterparts, and offer a holistic representation of the ancestral figure as a paradigm for resolution, reconciliation, and salvation for the African- American community.
Both Praisesong for the Widow and Mama Day are further addressed in terms of three theoretical constructs-cultural identity, cultural memory and cultural ritualistic process. Moreover, this analysis traces the evolution of the spiritual journeys made by both of the culturally malaised female protagonists featured in these ancestral texts. Furthermore, this thesis explores the way in which Marshall and Naylor depict the ancestor as a conduit for cultural regeneration. This thesis concludes by discussing the various continuities and differences that are found within both novels, while also providing a final analysis of the cautionary message that Marshall and Naylor impart.