Discuss The Life Journey Undertaken By Avey Johnson As She Searches For Herself, In the novel "A Praise Song for the Widow" by Paulie Marshall.

Essay by fatz_07University, Bachelor'sA, November 2005

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As an epigraph to the section entitled "LAVÉ TÊTE," the third section of her novel Praisesong for the Widow, Paule Marshall uses a brief quotation from a poem by Randall Jarrell: "Oh, Bars of my ... body open, open!" (148). It is in this section that Avey Johnson, the novel's protagonist, becomes aware of her body as a repository of memory, as a place where physical sensation echoes emotional feeling. This awareness is pivotal in Avey's progress from a state of denial to acceptance of her heritage. This essay aims to explore Marshall's construction of a fictional body as a site of cultural expression and memory. Avey's body communicates to her what she has taught her conscious mind to ignore: her disconnection from her own sense of herself and from the African-American and Caribbean heritage which is a crucial part of that self. Through the processes of extreme physical discomfort, illness, purging, healing, bathing, and dancing, Avey is able to make an emotional journey that restores her awareness of her cultural inheritance.

This paper aims to examine the way the body functions in the text not only as an indicator of personal consciousness, but also as a metaphor for African people's cultural disinheritance created by the African diaspora. It also aims to draw attention to the disparity presented in the novel between acknowledging the body as an avenue of expression and yet wanting to escape its limitations. This essay will inform the reader of the great Journey Avey will embark upon to recapture who is and where she is from.

I feel, however, that the novel portrays Avey's emotional and physical rebirth, as also a way of raising important questions about the cultural identity of African and Caribbean Americans. It is disconcerting to suggest that it is possible to...