Mama Day Essay, Research Paper
The entire structure of Mama Day is fitting to the telling of multiple love stories entertwined. Like the most heartfelt episode of Seinfeld ever Gloria Naylor doesn?t tell a love story, but rather lays out in detail the events of everyday life for all of the central characters. In the process the love stories of the characters are all told at once. The most obvious example is the relationship between George and Cocoa (arguably the main love story). Through the book we see them meet, fall in love, and go through excitement and hardship; all that love is. There is also the love story of Mama Day, Abigail, and Cocoa. Even though Abigail is Cocoa?s grandmother and Mama Day is her great-aunt, they both take on the role of mother through their mutual love for her. There is also the love story between Bernice, Ambush and Little Caesar. Despite their squabbles, they love each other. Love is one of the major themes in this book.
Gloria Naylor steps aside and lets the characters do her work for her. Love has the unfortunate nature of being objective and the best way to tell love stories is from every point of view. How else can one understand from the outside? On page one she starts with Cocoa telling her side of things and on twenty-two; here comes George?s side. And it continues on like this, back and forth, telling both sides of certain events through the fog that is each character?s own perception of things. This is a brilliant manipulation of point of views and one of the saving features of the book. The reader?s attention is caught when they have to re-associate themselves to a new point of view. In the ultimate representation of what love is this point of view switch is used to show likeness of thought between Ophelia and George toward the end of the novel. The words "OUR WORST FIGHT EVER" appear twice in the novel. Once at the beginning of Cocoa?s account of the event and again at the beginning of George?s (Naylor 230-232). Even in their most disagreeable moment, when it all boils down they both see it the same, the blowout to end all blowouts. Argue as they did, argue as they may, in the end they were one person of one mind, just what a marriage should be. A slightly different form of this same technique is used to give example of the mother-daughter love relationship between Mama Day and Cocoa. First the blowout between the two of them is given in third-person point of view. In this manner we get an objective view of the event in which Mama Day disallows Cocoa to go out with the rest of the gang (Naylor 156). Something I believe she had no right to do. Then, after four years, the smoke has cleared and Cocoa takes over. Through her eyes we get to see why she forgave Mama Day, and though she doesn?t say it in so many words, the reason is obvious: She loves her like a mother, and for most nothing short of attempted murder can kill the love between mother and child (Naylor 163-165).
The language the people in the book use towards each other is yet another indication of the love felt between the central characters. And when I say language I don?t mean Spanish versus English. I mean Mama Day speaks to the average person in a manner Cocoa would never here. Though she uses a sharp tongue on Ruby, the one that she uses to slice deep into Cocoa has a tinge of "lookey here, kiddo" only a mother can hit a child with. And only love will let a woman call a man nigger and live to see another sunrise. "Nigger ? please," were the exact words (Naylor 145). So when Cocoa treads that thin line between life and death, she makes herself living proof of George?s love for her. A kind of extreme representation of language, but effective none the less.
Deep and rich is the characterization for everyone, doesn?t matter how insignificant the character may seem. Naylor gives you it all. And that?s because in a loving family like Willow Springs, no one character is insignificant. They all matter whether they want to or not. And so Naylor gives you a clear picture of Little Caesar in his short time in the book. The characterization is perfect and I think we can all relate to the child she shows us, alive with new life and devoid of the common sense and politeness of an adult, evident in his rude "Gimme some Juice" (Naylor 238). Just what a child should be. We also get a great sense of Bernice?s character when we see what lengths she goes through to get little Caesar in the first place. She knew the fertility pills she took were harmful to her and this was indicated by the quote, "Dr. Smithfield never gave her no fertility pills ? he told her long ago her system couldn?t handle ?em," (Naylor 72-88). But her love of Ambush and the ideal of them being a family was that strong. And when Little Caesar dies you feel the pain of the love lost there. This was shown by the quote, "The woman had gone out of her mind when that child died (Naylor 269)." This is when Gloria?s deep characterization pays off.
The structure, though odd, succeeds in putting in everyone?s love life and tribulations. Never before, to my knowledge, has an author used a third person point of view and almost every character?s first person point of view in a rather chapterless, continuous, and some would argue monotonous way. This odd structure allows love to become a universal theme in this book. An easy one to understand because we have all experienced it to some extent, but a hard one to display. How does one explain to others what they feel inside when the strength of the feeling chokes all common sense and logic? How do you even begin? Well I believe the novel began "YOU WERE PICKING your teeth with a plastic straw-" (Naylor 13).