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Mrs M.Vijayalakshmi, MA. M.Phil. M.Ed. PhD., ABSTRACT The present article focuses on Gloria Naylors representation of Afro-American womans experiences within a highly discriminatory and oppressive society Naylor explores the female mystique through a series of sturdy female protagonists in her novels. Key words African-American women, Matriarchal assertiveness. INTRODUCTION Gloria Naylor is perhaps best known for her novels. The Norton Anthology of African American Literature says One of the first African American women writers who have studied both her African ancestors and the European tradition, Naylor consciously draws on Western sources even as her writings reflect the complexity of the African American female experience. Gloria Naylor, a celebrated African-American novelist. Her fiction depicts how black women struggle to survive and succeed in the oppressive world of racism. Naylor is a revolutionary artist, who feels that only a revolution in consciousness can save the black community from imminent disaster. One of the recurring themes explored in Naylors work is the special bond that can exist between women, whether out of common experience or of shared history. Gloria Naylors The Women of Brewster Place, Linden Hills, Mama Day, Baileys Caf, reveal the special bond that exists between women characters, including the women of different generations. In these novels, Naylor presents the feminine atmosphere of life how far motherhood ultimately devours all their passions and desires. This motherhood nurtures all her sensibilities to live in a marginalized society where women can never be independent. Naylors first novel, The Women of Brewster Place, is a celebration of the riches and diversities of the black female experience. She focuses on seven women who commit a victory by simply managing to survive in an impoverished and threatening neighborhood by bonding with each other and finding refuge. This novel is noted for its portrayal of Black Womens relationship and their search to quench their quest for identity. Naylors focus in this novel has been on seven women who belong to different class and have different backgrounds but come into contact with one another at a place named Brewster Place. These women have a strong bonding with each other which helps them to endure the brutalities of urban life and supports them to survive despite crushing poverty, personal tragedy and threatening neighborhood. The black women in her novel Baileys caf suffer sexual exploitation and violence at the hands of both black and white men. The exploitation begins from child prostitution and sadomasochistic pedophilia to female genital mutilation. Gloria Naylor tries to project black womens predicament in America and delineates the way they become aware about themselves and their life. She stresses that African Americans must maintain their identity in the world dominated by whites. Thus, living in Brewster Place partly defines who the women are, and becomes an important part of personal history. Naylor attempts to create a microcosm of black female experience in America. She gives voice to women of different backgrounds who are forced to move from one place to another for different reasons. These women are robbed of their self-confidence, their ability to make choices and live a life of freedom and dignity in the beginning, but gradually with the help of their indomitable spirit and strong will, consistency and solidarity, these women realize their potentials to fight against oppression of all type. Though these women are not always victorious, they have resistance to fight back and assert their own individuality emerging as stronger human beings. This journey of black women is not only a physical movement from one place to other but also a psychological journey from victimization to self-consciousness, from suppression to self-assertion. Naylor uses Brewster Place to provide one commonality among the women who live there. The women all share the experience of living on the dead end street that the rest of the world has forgotten. It is on Brewster Place that the women encounter everyday problems, joys, and sorrows. Naylor maintains that community influences ones identity. While the women were not literally born within the community of Brewster Place, the community provides the backdrop for their lives. MOTHERHOOD Throughout history, motherhood was described as the womans basic mission, profession, and an inseparable part of her nature. Women are supposedly drawn into motherhood by their inner instincts which at the same time guarantee their childrens healthy growth and development. This natural ability makes the woman the best possible educator. Naylor believes in the power of motherhood .Motherhood was equated with femininity. It was considered the most beautiful and the most natural profession for the woman, as were the relations within a heterosexual family which could not be avoided or concealed. In Brewster Place a friendship based shared experience of black womanhood exists sometimes in the form of the mother-daughter relationship. Naylor has given a picture of motherhood that appears to be good, but also discovers the dangers underneath it. Naylors novel is about how the women cope, living in a mens world, and in a white world. MOTHERHOODS CALAMITY Some of her novels portray the horrors intertwined in the role of motherhood. Naylors mothers are fond of their children, and overprotective of them. The overprotection of children results in the calamity of motherhood. All the mothers of Naylor face this horror of motherhood which she clearly illustrates through her characters. If her women cannot live together in unity and in respect, they cannot survive. They develop the ability to tolerate which alone would lead to success of their lives. Their lives are enriched by the presence of everyone. For the black women, the role of mother-child bond emerged as a very strong one. Mattie and Ciel from The Women of Brewster Place, Willa Prescott Nedeed from Linden Hills, and Bernice from Mama Day represent the horror of motherhood due to overprotection. These mothers are over protective of their children and their care is more that they live their lives for their children. As a result, when the children run away from the house or when they die, the mothers feel desperate, and they no longer feel a need to live. SISTERHOOD Naylor captures the strength among women. The womens movement has brought them more recognition. Naylor takes it a step further in portraying that her women characters also have the power to heal. Inheriting the literature and tradition of Zora Neale Hurston,of Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison, of Alice Walker, Audre Lorde, Ntozake Shange, amongst other giants of the contemporary African American, Naylor clearly subscribes to and builds upon a belief that a sisterhood of women generates the strength to absorb and neutralize the poisons which leak into lives and communities. The women become neighbors, then confidence and finally sisters. Their world, Brewster Place, becomes a microcosm of the black community in general. Each woman and her experience are part of the experience of the black community. Because each woman has different skills, insights, experience, all the needs of the woman can be met by someone or some group when one needs help, she knows that she can count on others, but especially Mattie. Throughout The Women of Brewster Place, the women support one another, counteracting the violence of their fathers, boyfriends, husbands, and sons. For example, while Mattie Michael loses her home as a result of her sons irresponsibility, the strength she gains enables her to care for the women whom she has known. She provides shelter and a sense of freedom to her old friend, Etta Mae also, she comes to the aid of Ciel when Ciel loses her desire to live. It is the bond among the women that supports the continuity of life on Brewster Place. Many of Naylors women are protective of one another, the strong shielding the weaker ones. The women characters in Linden Hills, however, are physically isolated in houses and separated by status distinctions. The possibilities for sisterhood here are temporal and historical than spatial and contemporary. Willa Prescott in Linden hills share her sisterhood with the deadly wives of her husband in the basement when she was kept along with her son. VIOLENCE FACED BY THE WOMEN. Mattie as a typical young woman is brought to an abrupt halt by her fathers brutal attack on her for refusing to divulge the name of her babys father. From that episode on, Naylor portrays men as people who take advantage of others. The men in her novels exhibit cowardice, alcoholism, violence, laziness, and dishonesty and brutalism, the final act of violence, the gang rape of Lorraine, underscores mens violent tendencies, emphasizing the differences between the sexes. In Linden Hills Luther Nedeed a tycoon brutally suspects his wife Willa Prescott of having a white colored son and prisons his wife and new born son in the basement. ALIENATION AND LONLELINESS Victims of ignorance, violence, and prejudice, all of the women in the novel are alienated from their families, other people, and God. For example, when Mattie leaves her home after her father beats her, she never again sees her parents. Then her son, for whom she gave up her life, leaves without saying goodbye. Throughout the story, Naylor creates situations that stress the loneliness of the characters. Especially poignant is Lorraines relationship with Ben. Having been rejected by people they love or want to love, Lorraine and Ben become friends. Lorraines horrifying murder of Ben serves only to deepen the chasm of hopelessness felt at different times by all the characters in the story. BLACK HERITAGE AND FEMALE IDENTITY African-American women suffer both from racial discrimination and gender atrocities. In this manner, the black women in America are made victims of triple jeopardy racism, sexism, and classicism. Naylor wants people to understand the richness of the black heritage. She uses the community of women she has created in The Women of Brewster Place to demonstrate the love, trust, and hope that have always been the strong spirit of African-American women. Based on women Naylor has known in her life. The characters convincingly portray the struggle for survival that black women have shared throughout history. In Mama Day, both the contemporary and the historical bonds between women are found. Here female community becomes empowered by natural forces and religious tradition in the coastal island community of willow springs. If the choice is between the soul and success she wants the black community to select the soul. Naylor uses each womans sexuality to help define her character. In The Women of Brewster Place Mattie spends her life loving and caring for her son and denies herself. Etta Mae spends her life moving from one man to the next, searching for acceptance. She believes she must have a man to be happy. Ciel keeps taking Eugene back, even though he is verbally abusive and threatens her with physical abuse. Cora Lee does not necessarily like men, but she likes having sex and the babies that result. Lorraine and Theresa love each other, and their homosexuality separates them from the other women. The Linden Hills women are generally thought to be rather privileged women of the middle or upper-middle classes CONCLUSION Naylor is perhaps the most insistent of contemporary feminists African American writers in protesting that men are as much victims of the system as women. Gloria Naylor novels portray multiple protagonists and their struggle within the patriarchal oppressive environment. Naylor sends strong message of instruction directly to the black audience that women of all races and cultures have experienced similar circumstances. Naylors work contains space, structure, flow, direction language of the mind and spirit. Naylor is a tragic artist who feels that only a revolution in consciousness can save the black community from imminent disaster. REFERENCES Montgomery, Maxine Lavin. The Fathomless Dream Gloria Naylors Use of the Descent Motif inThe Women of Brewster Place.CLA Journal36.1(1992) 1-11. Print. , ed.Conversations with Gloria Naylor. Jackson University Press of Mississippi, 2004. Print. Naylor, Gloria.The Women of Brewster Place.London Sphere Books, 1982. Print. Whitt, Margaret Early.Understanding Gloria Naylor.Columbia University of South Carolina Press, 1998. Print. Goldstein, William. A Talk with Gloria Naylor. Publishers Weekly. September 9, 1983 36. Print. Y, dXiJ(x(I_TS1EZBmU/xYy5g/GMGeD3Vqq8K)fw9
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