Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 11 : 4 April 2011
ISSN 1930-2940

Managing Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
         A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.
         Lakhan Gusain, Ph.D.
         Jennifer Marie Bayer, Ph.D.
         S. M. Ravichandran, Ph.D.
         G. Baskaran, Ph.D.
         L. Ramamoorthy, Ph.D.



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Images of Motherhood in African-American Literature -
A Focus on Alice Walker's Meridian

Christine Gomez, M.A., Ph.D.
Angeline.M. M.A., M.Phil.

Alice Walker

Images of Mother in Life and Literature

"Motherhood", is one of the dominant postmodern feminist themes which the writers like to highlight. A study of the images of mother in life and literature is the major concern of modern women writers. Motherhood is the core human relationship in a family. African-American mother has found motherhood as a source of strength in emotional fulfillment and a strong sense of bonding.

One of the important roles of the woman in her family is her role as a mother. The mother begets and brings up the new born child and involves herself in building up the basic personality of the child. This makes the mother "the preserver and builder of the new generation" (Sashi Jain 145)".The mother has the capacity to install old values and tradition to the new generation thereby providing a strong cultural base for the young generation. Great honor and prestige is obtained by a woman as a mother for motherhood is the cherished ideal.

Description of African-American Mothers

The African- American women were designated as "Mammy", Matriarch", "Mamma", "Superwoman." The women authors work toward dismantling traditional stereotypes of Black Motherhood, particularly the Black superwoman stereotype, and, thereby, ultimately redefining Black womanhood. Alice Walker In her search for mother's Gardens says "black women are called, in the folklore that so aptly identifies one's status in society, "the mule of the world," because we have been handed the burdens that everyone else-everyone else-refused to carry.

We have also been called "Matriarchs," "Superwomen, "and "Mean and Evil Bitches." Not to mention "Castrates" and "Sapphire's Mama. (237)".

Women Victims

In African-American culture during her slave past she is thought to keep the family in order. She is strong representing the power of a work horse, invulnerable to diseases. She does all the households chores, as washerwomen, wet nurse, and does her domestic work. She looks after the toddlers in the white master's house. The women were victims to the white masters who often violated her sexually. The white masters were attracted towards her for she was believed to be strong and sexual and nothing would deter her strength. The male unable to guard his wife often manhandles her. So she was not only the object of her white master but also the men of her race as well. So the African- American turns to her children for emotional support and fulfillment. There is lack of communication between her and her husband who shows his anger and frustration to her.

Concern with the Status of Women in the Family and in the World

African-American women writers are concerned with the position of women in their family and her social status in the world at large. The African- American woman in spite of facing problems in life like unequal status derives satisfaction in one aspect of life which is motherhood. This helps her to face struggles in life and emerge from their stereotype roles to assert their individual self. The black Madonna image has disappeared from Africa she is no longer recognized as field mother or earth mother still she remains an epitome of motherhood.

Alice Walker

This is only the beginning part of the article. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE IN PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION.

Christine Gomez, M.A., Ph.D.
Retired Professor of English
Holy Cross College for Women
Tiruchirapalli 620 002
Tamilnadu, India

Angeline.M., M.A, M.Phil.
Assistant Professor
Department of English
PSGR Krishnammal College for Women
Coimbatore 641030
Tamilnadu, India

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