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Stories of growth: Caribbean Women Writers (2). Olive Senior & Michelle Cliff. Outline. Caribbean Women Writers : Major Themes Michelle Cliff : Introd. Abeng Chap 15-17 hunting scene and its reasons; bathing scene and what it reveals – gender and race the issue of languages

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Stories of growth: Caribbean Women Writers (2)

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  • Caribbean Women Writers: Major Themes
  • Michelle Cliff: Introd.
  • Abeng Chap 15-17
    • hunting scene and its reasons;
    • bathing scene and what it reveals –gender and race
    • the issue of languages
  • Olive Senior: Introd.
  • “Bright Thursday”
    • color scheme and education;
    • the father’s (lack) of influence
caribbean women writers major themes
Caribbean Women Writers: Major Themes
  • female Bildungsroman:
    • stories of growth and development--national or racial allegory: the personal as the political
    • racial and class issues and the process of socialization
    • Gender stereotypes and inequality
  • “Mother Country” vs mother land (relations to the Caribbean landscape)
  • education and mother-daughter relationship--usually alienation

the grandmother as the positive figure

working miracles women s lives
Working Miracles: Women’s Lives
  • absent father (mother)
    • child-shifting (adoptions –“Bright Thursdays” adopting to fill in an empty space for the grandparents 210)
  • Single mothers as breadwinners (1/2 of the Caribbean households are headed by women)
  • Outside children -- children born out of a father’s stable residential union; legitimacy is not an issue

Olive Senior, Working Miracles: Women’s Lives in the English-Speaking Caribbean (Chapter 1)

michelle cliff introduction
Michelle Cliff--Introduction
  • born in Jamaica, educated in the US and UK and now resides in the USA
  • works:
    • Abeng (1984) –our excerpt
    • No Telephone to Heaven (1987)
  • “White Creole” Identity:
    • “My family was called red. A term which signified a degree of whiteness. . . . In the hierarchy of shades I was considered among the lightest. The countrywomen who visited my grandmother commented on my 'tall' hair - meaning long. Wavy, not curly (Cliff, 1985: 59).
michelle cliff major themes
Michelle Cliff--Major Themes
  • Interaction of gender, sexual, class, racial identities
  • the issue of language
  • the importance of history and oral culture
  • “colourism” or color prejudice in Jamaica
  • the issue of passing (129)
  • “Passing demands a desire to become invisible. A ghost-life. An ignorance of connections…. Passing demands quiet. And from that quiet--silence.” --“Passing”
cliff on clare savage
Cliff on Clare Savage
  • Clare Savage "is an amalgam of myself and others, who eventually becomes herself alone. Bertha Rochester is her ancestor.Her name, obviously, is significant and is intended to represent her as a crossroads character, with her feet (and head) in (at least) two worlds.
  • Clare: a light-skinned female who has been removed from her homeland in a variety of ways and whose life is a movement back, ragged, interrupted, uncertain, to that homeland. She is fragmented, damaged, incomplete.“ (e.g. her missing her mother)
cliff on clare savage8
Cliff on Clare Savage
  • Savage: “Her surname is self-explanatory. It meant to evoke the wilderness that has been bleached from her skin, understanding that my use of the word wilderness is ironic, mocking the master’s meaning, turning instead to a sense of non-Western values which are empowering and essential to survival, her survival, and wholeness. ("Clare Savage as a Crossroads Character" 264-5)
the meaning of abeng
The Meaning of Abeng
  • “Abeng is an African word meaning conch shell. The blowing of the conch called the slaves to the canefields in the West Indies. The abeng has another use: it was the instrument used by the Maroon armies to pass their messages and reach one another.” --Abeng
characters in abeng
Characters in Abeng
  • (colonists; planters) Samuel & Judith;
  • Judge Savage
  • (landed, red) Albert & Mattie Freeman;
  • Kitty Freeman

Boy Savage

  • Clare Savage; Jennie Savage
  • Ben (C’s cousin) & Joshua (half cousin)
  • Miss Ruthie (squatter, black) Zoe
  • the cane-cutter
  • Mass Cudjoe (the pig)
  • Old Joe (the bull)
abeng our excerpt
Chap 15: hunting episode

The natural world outside the plantation;

Clare and hunting pp. 114 (Clare’s memory) –

Zoe’s persuasion: against hunting. Pp. 116

Bathing pp. 119 (Clare’s reflection);

Cane-cutter’s interruption

Chap 16: implication and causes of Clare’s acts

Why shoot?



Boy vs. Kitty

Chap 17: consequences:

Zoe’s thinking

Clare’s facing the grandmother

Abeng: our excerpt
abeng starting questions
Abeng: Starting Questions
  • Why do you think Clare wants to go hunting?
  • Why is the cane-cutter’s sudden presence so embarrassing?
the hunting episode in context
The Hunting Episode in Context
    • The history of natural lives//colonialism pp. 112
    • the origin of the pig--the native of the island
    • the Maroon ritual and gender differences
    • the mongoose
      • from India (112)
      • “the true survivor” (113)
      • symbolic meaning—about hunting and survival; how the natural habitat has been changed by colonial practices
  • Does Clare enjoy killing wild animals? What is the symbolic meaning of this hunt for Clare?pp. 114, 115,
clare s motivation
Clare’s motivation
  • She does not enjoy hunting (e.g. experience of eating goat and roasted birds);
  • Wanting to eat the pig’s testicles and penis;
  • Kitty, Kitty Hart, Anne Frank, Doreen Paxton
  • Joshua and Ben’s hunting for a pig.
clare and zoe
Clare and Zoe
  • What are the differences between Zoe and Clare? How are they similar to or different from Antoinette and Tia?
  • Zoe:
    • calls Clare “town gal” class difference
    • is afraid of being thought of as “Guinea warrior, not gal pickney.” (117-118)  gender limitation
  • Clare
    • split; “limited” (119);
    • recognize her “selfishness”; her lack of understanding of property and ownership (121)—Clare’s alienation from the native code; unconscious of her own class privilege
zoe clare 2 bathing scene
Zoe & Clare (2):bathing scene
  • What is the significance of the bathing scene (119-120, 124) in the episode? Is the relation between the two girls lesbian?
  • Why is Clare so afraid of being seen by the cane-cutter?
  • Why does Cliff follows it with a narration of “battyman” in Ch. 16?
  • How does the family describe the “battyman” Robert (125-126)? What has happened to him? What is the connection of Robert’s story with the relationship between Clare and Zoe?
  • What divides Clare and Zoe?
zoe clare 2 bathing scene17
Zoe & Clare (2):bathing scene
  • Communication & Self-definition p. 120; 124
  • Robert and the American negro //

Clare and Zoe  transgression of racial boundaries p. 127

clare s split racial identities
Clare’s Split Racial Identities
  • Boy’s teaching of “race and color and lightening” (127)
  • Kitty’s influences:
    • Kitty’s cherish of darkness (127-128)—”keep darkness locked inside” (129)—melancholic
    • Kitty’s dream of setting up a local school (129-130)--her distrust of British education and love of black culture--“Daffodils” vs the Maroon Girl (129)
    • Kitty’s preference for the darker daughter Jennie (129) and Clare’s sense of alienation from the mother (128) Clare’s love for Zoe (131)
    • Thinks Clare likes passing (129)
languages english and patois
Languages--English and Patois
  • What kind of language does Zoe use? What is the significance of different languages in the novel? (e.g. Clare to Zoe, to the cane-cutter, and to Ms. Mattie) (122, 134).
olive senior an embodiment of conflicts
The daughter of peasant farmers, she grew up, after four, with well-off relatives whose lifestyle was the opposite of what she had known as a child.  tension between two different households, between rural and urban settings

 “two Jamaicas”;(source: )

Olive Senior: an Embodiment of Conflicts
bright thursdays genealogy
“Bright Thursdays”--Genealogy
  • Dolphie Watson Miss Christie
  • Mina Bertram Myrtle Johnstone

(white U.S.) (brown) (dark)

Laura 2 sons (2 fathers)

(Bertram’s Mistake; Bertram’s stray shot)

  • A child’s perspective—a gradual process of alienation
bright thursdays questions
“Bright Thursdays”--Questions
  • Why is Laura’s story not like ours visits of our grandparents?
  • If we divide up the story into the beginning, middle and end, where is the “middle” part in which the action starts?
  • Why does the story have a long introduction? What does the intro. show about Laura? Why does she feel alienated from her siblings? What is she afraid of?
  • What is the significance of the photographs, mirror, the mountains vs. the wide open space, and the clouds?
  • What does the ending mean?
color system in the caribbean society
Color System in the Caribbean Society
  • Ms. Christie: “Dying to raise their color all of them” (199)
  • The color triangle: white



bright thursday intro
“Bright Thursday”: intro.
  • Intro. Pp. 194 - 207
  • Myrtle as a single mother
    • Myrtle’s view of Laura’s father (p)
    • Myrtle’s dream (197-98; 200)
    • Myrtle vs. Ms. Christie (pp. 198-99;)
  • Laura in the two households
    • at her mother’s: p. 200
    • at Ms. Christie’s: p. 195; 196;
contrasts between the two households
Contrasts between the two households
  • Mountains vs. hills pp. 203 – 204

 sense of insecurity

space and its symbolic meanings
Space and its Symbolic Meanings
  • Spatial imagery
    • Laura’s sense of displacement
      • transported from mother’s house to father’s
      • out of place or no space (photos on the bureau195)
    • Laura’s sense of inferiority
      • enclosed and protected(mother’s house in the mountains, hemmed in 203);
      • empty space (the dinning table 196; father’s house 204-05)
      • fear of open space ( blue bowl 204-205)
      • Fear of bright Thursday 206-207 (the bus)
      • Need protection and safety from the earth (digging potatoes 207)
middle part
Middle part
  • The father –present only as a photo 208; few fathers around
  • dreaming about being rescued by her father;
  • will bring nothing but bright Thursdays (208)
ending final revelation and initiation
Ending: final revelation and initiation
  • Color hierarchy p. 210
  • A story of disillusionment—the breaking up of her hope and dreams—“bloody bastard” (211)
  • Turned into an orphan
  • Cliff, Michelle. "Clare Savage as a Corssroads Character." Caribbean Women Writers: Essays from the First International Conference. Ed. Selwyn R. Cudjoe. Wellesley, MA: Calaloux, 1990. 263-68.
  • Michelle Cliff