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Marco Santo Danesi & Matteo Brotto American Literature – Spring 2009 University of Padua Praisesong for the Widow by Paule Marshall • The author "I realise that it is fashionable now to dismiss the traditional novel as something of an anachronism, but to me it is still a vital form. Not only does it allow for the kind of full-blown, richly detailed writing that I love… but it permits me to operate on many levels and to explore both the inner state of my characters as well as the worlds beyond them." • Works 1 • New York City – Tatem Island South of Washington DC black passengers had to move to the back of the bus (!!!) 2 • Avey’s moves A HARLEM B Halsey St. (BROOKLYN) C North White Plains 3 • The Cruise 4 • Praisesong by images 5 • The (inside) journey • A journey of rebirth • A white mask to remove • A cultural identity to recover • The “Middle Passage” 6 Minor Characters MARION ANNAWILDA Main Characters SIS THOMASINA MOORE CLARICE ROSALIE PARVAY AVEY (AVATARA) JOHNSON - “The determined look on her face had brought her underlip jutting forward, exposing the spillover of raw pink across the top which she always kept hidden” (10) - “With the fur stole like her hard-won life of the past thirty years being trampled into the dirt underfoot” (45) - “The problem was, she decided, none of them seemed aware of the fact that she was a stranger, a visitor, a tourist” (69) - “Once, teasing her: «I hope you don’t mind my saying it, Miss Williams, but when the white folks came up with the theory about all us darkies having rhythm, they must have had you in mind. Girl, you can out-jangle Bojangles and out-snake Snake Hips» [Jay]” (123) - “While her body remained anchored between the old women […] her other self floated down” (197) - “She was alone in the deck-house. That much she was certain of. Yet she had the impression as her mind flickered on briefly of other bodies lying crowed in with her in the hot, airless dark” (209) - «And look, she’s doing the ‘Carriacou Tramp’ good as somebody been doing it all their life» (248) - “And for the first time since she was a girl, she felt the threads, that myriad of shiny, silken, brightly colored threads […] which were thin to the point of invisibility yet as strong as the ropes at Coney Island. Looking on outside the church in Tatem, standing waiting for the Robert Fulton on the crowded pier at 125th Street, she used to feel them streaming out of everyone there to enter her, making her part of what seemed a far-reaching, wide-ranging confraternity” (249) - «And who you is?» «Avey, short for Avatara» (251) JAY (JEROME) JOHNSON - “He wasn’t at all the way a colored guy was supposed to be!” (92) - “«You can’t keep a good man down» Mamie Smith sang on the oldest and most priceless of the 78s” (95) - “He had been taught the poets in the small segregated school in Leona, Kansas, which he had attended as a boy. The schools up north didn’t teach colored children anything about the race, about themselves, he used to complain” (125) - “Not long after the move to North White Plains, Jay shaved off his mustache […] With the mustache no longer there it seemed that the last trace of everything that was distinctive and special about him had vanished also” (130) - «That’s the trouble with half these Negroes you see out here. Always looking for the white man to give them something instead of getting out and doing for themselves…» (131) - «Instead of marching and protesting and running around burning down everything in the hope of a handout, we need to work to built our own, to have our own. Our own! Our own!» (135) - “His life: that it had ended with a stranger’s cold face laughing in Mephistophelian glee behind his in the coffin […] Jay’s death had taken place long before Jerome Johnson’s” (135) AUNT CUNEY - “The old woman (she had been young then) had been caught ‘crossing her feet’ in a Ring Shout being held there and had been ordered out of the circle” (33) - “After a time she even stopped attending regular church service as well. People in Tatem said she had made the Landing her religion after that” (34) - «Did it say Jesus drowned when he went walking on the water in that Sunday School book your momma always sends with you?» (40) - «Come/Won’t you come…?» LEBERT JOSEPH - “A stoop-shouldered old man with one leg shorter than the other” (160) - «Just because we live over this side don’ mean we’s from this place, you know. Even when we’s born here we remain Carriacou people» (163) - «I’s a Chamba! From my father’s side of the family […] And what you is?» (166) - “The man had not only made her [his daughter Rosalie] in his image physically: the small sinewy frame, the walk, the gestures, he had also passed on to her his special powers seeing and knowing. Li gain connaissance” (218) - “Yet for a moment Avey Johnson failed to recognize him [Lebert Joseph]. Her eyes must be playing tricks on her again she told herself […] because the man suddenly appeared older” (233) 7