Toward Wholeness in Paule Marshall's Fiction

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University of Virginia Press, 1995 - Literary Criticism - 173 pages
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Internationally known and long praised by contemporary African-American novelists, Paule Marshall is now being recognized as a major American writer. Her fiction - Brown Girl, Brownstones (1959), Soul Clap Hands and Sing (1961), The Chosen Place, The Timeless People (1969), Praisesong for the Widow (1983), Reena and Other Stories (1983), and Daughters (1991) - explores the ways in which dual cultural heritages can fracture the psyche of black world communities and black people of African ancestry. This first book-length treatment of Marshall's work is both an examination of her writing and its place in the tradition of African-American women's fiction and a study of black American and Caribbean literature and culture. Joyce Pettis explores the intersecting patterns of race, class, and gender oppressions that exacerbate the problems engendered by the fractured psyche in Marshall's major characters. Pettis identifies the fractured psyche as feelings of incompleteness, vulnerability, alienation, indirection, displacement, diffusion, and spiritual isolation. Among its consequences are disruption of family unity, negative perceptions of oneself in the world community, and an absence of Afrocentric values in a materialist culture. Attempting transcendence of these oppressions gives rise to sustained struggles for wholeness that distinguish Marshall's characters.

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About the author (1995)

Joyce Pettis is Associate Professor of English at North Carolina State University.

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