Book Review

Words 800

Paule Marshall’s Praisesong for the Widow (1983) contains mythical and rhetorical techniques that portray African American families and communities as areas where power is divided throughout members despite age and gender, none of which are located solely in the patriarchy, Prominently, though there exists for Americans of every ethnic background, a general pressure to hold on to the traditional family setup, people who are not African American absolutely recognize and acknowledge their own version of the fictional family as constructive influence, possibly believing these behavior without the racial origins. Additionally, the positive elements of “alternative” and multiple versions of their family that comprise:

  • Extended groups of relatives outside the nuclear mother, father,
  • Sibling group who live in one dwelling or in close-knit communities;
  • Fictional relationships consisting of unrelated people who are treated as almost relatives by virtue of loyalty and love.

The book reveals that communities are made up of people who share common bloodlines, beliefs, morals, economic and other methods of support, and live in close intimacy; that the African Diaspora, the scattering of African people from their individual homelands created by slave trading, and its legacies has influenced contemporary African American family ideologies and their arrangement; that as an institution the family is flexible setup.

Paule Marshall’s Praisesong for the Widow depicts nuclear families that abandon their working class familial and communal legacies in favor of achieving personal success as a middle-class African American family. Jerome and Avey Johnson structure their marriage because Jerome is primarily responsible for their finances, the power exists in him exclusively, and Avey fulfills the role as nurturing wife and mother who agrees to her husband’s demands. Only after Jerome dies, Avey looks at her life and attempts to change her choices. In this novel Marshall stretches the definition of community to include a character’s comprehensive background so that when the central character, Avey Williams Johnson, journeys in search of her historical and familial roots, she finds herself not only examining her own choices, but also searching through nations, islands, and continents to trace the cultural unison that joins the black people of the Sea Islands of the southern United States to the African people of the Caribbean and by implication to all Diaspora people.

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