, Research Paper
In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens – Alice Walker
When the poet Jean Toomer walked through the South in the early twenties, he discovered a curious thing: black women whose spirituality was so intense, so deep, so unconscious, they were themselves unaware of the richness they held. They stumbled blindly through their lives: creatures so abused and mutilated in body, so dimmed and confused by pain, that they considered themselves unworthy even of hope. In the selfless abstractions their bodies became to the men who used them, they became more than sexual objects, more even than mere women: they became Saints. Instead of being perceived as whole persons, their bodies became shrines: what were thought to be their minds became temples suitable for worship. These crazy Saints stared out at the world, wildly, like lunatics or quietly, like suicides; and the God that was in their gaze was as mute as a great stone. This attitude towards women, especially black women, as being a sexual object presents a sensitive subject. We are presented with an image of black women as helpless beings, and
the only form of artistic expression available to them is their daily life. In the ordinary tasks of cooking, sewing, and growing food, tasks on which their survival depended, these women found a way to express the yearnings of the soul for hope and beauty, as well as the desire to be remembered. Unable to read and to write their own stories, these generations of mothers and grandmothers, their own lives became their greatest work of art.
Walker explores the theories and practices of feminists and feminism, incorporating what she calls the “womanist” tradition of black women. She proposes questions that invite the reader to respond with feeling. First, she discusses a touchy subject, being used as a sexual object. The color of our skin, direction of our lives, experiences as a male or female, knowledge of suffering, prejudice and sanity will all affect how we respond to her writing. This response could be confusion, shock, or even outrage.
Second, she presents questions that will affect woman in particular, especially black women. She draws a vivid picture through her words. We must use our imagination to experience her depiction of nineteenth century black women. She extensively uses sentence fragments to drive or empower a theme creating a more casual and intimate style of writing. In a vivid and courageous memoir she tells of a scarring childhood injury and her daughter’s healing words.
She uses a light, informal style of prose and plenty of detail. Describing her mother s temper as being on view and saying that she battled with the landlord, Walker uses common, everyday speech rather than formal diction.
In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens is an essay that deals with race, gender, and the complexities of being human. Walker deals with a variety of situations, which represents her response to the concept of heritage as expressed by the Black political movements of the 60s. This essay brings forth a strong message; regardless of race or gender, it encourages us to continue to live with each other and accept our differences!