Maternal Problematic: The Painful Struggle for Individuality in Three Novels

All human beings spend the first nine months of their lives in their motherâs womb. From the moment of birth, we wrestle with the notion of âmother:â? we love this woman and feel intense connections to her, and yet we inevitably need to separate ourselves from her. At some point we must all cut the proverbial umbilical cord, and this is often an extremely painful process for both ourselves and our mothers. In Tar Baby, Lucy and Brown Girl, Brownstones, Toni Morrison, Jamaica Kincaid and Paule Marshall address this issue of the âmaternal problematic;â? the human need to wrench free from the maternal bond and to create a set of values, expectations, and desires for oneself independent of the maternal. Jadine, Lucy and Selina go through very different processes in these novels, but what connects them is their struggle for freedom, and to establish selves beyond the scope of the mother. In this sense then, these are all coming-of-age novels, for they trace the progress of three Black women trying to carve a space for themselves in the world. In the following pages I will discuss how each of these protagonists negotiates this powerful âmaternal problematic,â? their rebellions against it, and the effectiveness of their respective...

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