Narrative Women in Context

Examines the effects of the absence of a mother figure in works by Jamaica Kincaid, Virginia Woolf, and Toni Morrison.

When looking at literature as a symbolic representation of society, the absence of a mother figure within the narrative may have a direct correlation with the portrayal of society as strictly patriarchal. The paper shows that in Jamaica Kincaid’s The Autobiography of My Mother, the loss of Xuela’s mother and alienation from her father reflects an alien and abusive society that leaves no room for her as an individual. For Rachel, in Virginia Woolf’s A Voyage Out, the almost complete sublimation of a mother figure and the overtly abusive, brutish properties of her father seem to be correlated with a reference to the English society during the Imperialist years. The paper shows how the narrator and heroine, Pecola, from Toni Morrison’s novel, “The Bluest Eye”, wants to disengage herself from the society of her parents and be accepted into the white culture.
“Percola’s only ‘mirror’ to her self-worth is a systematic devaluation by the world, as seen in her parent’s treatment of her and the constant ridicule from other school children because of her dark skin, poverty and ugliness. The black boys in the neighborhood torment her with a verse they compose to belittle her “‘Black e mo…Yadaddsleepsnekked (191). White attitudes toward blacks are exemplified in Pecola’s interaction with the storeowner, Mr. Yacobowski: She looks up at him and sees the vacuum where curiosity ought to lodge. And something more. The total absence of human recognition – the glazed separateness (42). Without the support of a recognition with her community, Pecola becomes extremely vulnerable to the traumas of being beaten and rejected by her mother, raped by her father and then losing the baby.