The Blues of Corregidora

"Yes, if you understood me, Mama, you'd see I was trying to explain it, in blues, without words, the explanation somewhere behind the words. To explain what will always be there" (Gayl Jones, Corregidora, p 66).

In Gayl Jones' novel Corregidora, the past is presented as a terrifying and dominating force that practically physically infects those who must live with it. Ursa's mother, grandmother and great-grandmother all live with the pain of what was done to them in the past. Their memories, which Ursa must carry and pass on, are deeply disturbing to her--and should be to any of us--and also carry with them the elder women's agony and their resentment and distrust of men. She cannot be free of the tyranny of Corregidora, even as a free woman, as she is instead trapped in relationships with abusive and unfaithful men. The women of Corregidora are free from legal bondage, but the mark left on them by slavery's legacy makes "real" freedom impossible. (Many of these motifs later appear in Toni Morrison's Beloved, where the rage of the past--and forgetting it--is actually manifested in a destructive being.) For Ursa, the past has such a powerful force that it overpowers her individual...

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