Mama Day And Daughters Of The Dust

1017 words - 5 pages

Mama Day and Daughters of the Dust

For emigrants of any country it is difficult to maintain the individual culture of their homeland while assimilating to the ways of the new country they have entered. For slaves of the 19th century, the acculturation process was a necessity. If they did not conform to the Western way of life, they would perish. However for some slaves, their geographic location sequestered them enough from the European worldview that they could continue to practice their own culture and religion. Most of these groups were found off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia, the exact location of two important African-American narratives – Daughters of the Dust and ...view middle of the document...

The narratives share two main themes of which all other themes can be derived. One is the struggle between the lifestyles and values of the mainland and the islands and the second is a belief in logic and science versus intuition and African folklore.

For both stories the island is an integral part of the story, almost becoming a character unto itself. The nature of an island is such that it has its own personality and dynamic, which is appropriate since it is physically dislocated from the mainstream. One of the differences between island life and "other" life in Mama Day is reflected in medical practices. Mama Day has her own way of healing that sharply contrasts to the mainland, especially when she consults Dr. Smithfield. However, there is a certain respect to be found in each of their methodologies. “Although it hurt [Smithfield’s] pride at times, he’d admit inside it was usually no different than what he had to say himself – just plainer words and a slower cure than them concentrated drugs.” This dichotomy would not have been able to survive had Mama Day lived on the mainland. This non-scientific way of approaching problems is also seen with Nana Peazant. She uses voodoo and superstition to solve problems and heal wounds. For the families in both narratives, their respective islands not only serve as a place to live but also serve as their connection to Africa. Yellow Mary expresses this belief in Daughters…. Similarly, although Cocoa has moved to the city, her essential identity remains in Willow Springs. The island is the "base" from which her city life emerges, and it appears that her city life, as yet, lacks depth and meaning. She has left home, but she has yet to find out who she is in her own world, the sign of complete adulthood or maturity. Conversely, Yellow Mary has had more travelling experience than most of her family, and yet she returns to her true home in the Sea Islands. The Ibo Landing of Daughters … and the Willow Springs of Mama Day could very well have been the same island.


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