Showing 1 - 10 of 44 annotations contributed by Stanford, Ann Folwell
Returned from combat, Tayo, a mixed-blood Laguna, struggles to regain his health and mental equilibrium. Suffering from what his physicians term "battle fatigue" and the lingering effects of malaria, Tayo had become dysfunctional when he was ordered to shoot several of the enemy and sees in them the faces of his own ancestors.
Later, at the VA hospital, Tayo is told by white doctors to avoid "Indian medicine" and to remove himself as far as possible from his community and heritage. He is heavily sedated and experiences himself as "white smoke."
After he leaves the hospital and returns to his aunt and her family, Tayo's illness worsens (including chronic nausea and vomiting, hallucinations, and weeping). Finally his grandmother calls in a traditional healer who starts Tayo on an intense journey of inner healing (and encounters with other Native American healers) and reconnection with his painful but rich past.
Set against the backdrop of the violent post-Duvalier years in Haiti, this novel traces the development of Sophie, the product of a violent rape. Having been raised lovingly by her aunt in a village near Port-au-Prince for 12 years, Sophie is suddenly sent for by her mother (who had immigrated to the United States as an asylum seeker). Living in New York, Sophie discovers that her mother is haunted by violent nightmares, a remnant of the trauma she had suffered before fleeing Haiti.
Part Two opens as Sophie, now 18, falls in love with her neighbor, a musician named Joseph. Her mother, upon finding out about Sophie's love interest, begins the humiliating tradition of her mother, "testing" Sophie's virginity by inserting a finger in her vagina to make sure the hymen was not broken. After several "tests," Sophie painfully breaks her own hymen with a pestle and immediately runs off with Joseph.
Part Three of the novel opens about a year later, when Sophie has left her husband and returns to Haiti with her baby daughter. Here, she begins learning about her mother's past as well as telling her aunt and grandmother about her own current sexual dysfunction and her bulimia. Sophie and her mother reunite and reconcile in Haiti and later return to the States where Sophie returns to Joseph and begins a kind of therapy that includes rituals from Haitian, African, and Chicana traditions.
Meanwhile, Sophie's mother becomes pregnant (by her long time lover and friend) and increasingly agitated, finally committing suicide. At the funeral, in Haiti, Sophie runs into the cane field where her mother had been raped some 20 years earlier. As she is screaming her grief and rage, she tears at the cane stalks. Rather than attempting to stop her, Sophie's aunt and grandmother watch her, finally asking, "are you free?" and then insisting, "You are free!" (p. 233)
In this nine-stanza, sixty-three line poem, the speaker articulates her process of recovery from surgery in terms of the image of "excitable" tulips that interrupt her "winter" sojourn in the hospital where she has "given [her] name and [her] day-clothes up to the nurses / And [her] history to the anesthetist and [her] body to the surgeons." The images in the poem link one stanza to the other (the nurses like "gulls," her body "a pebble," her family "little smiling hooks," herself "a thirty-year-old cargo boat").
The image of the eye appears throughout the poem as well. The speaker is herself the pupil of a huge eye whose lids are the pillow and the sheet; in another stanza she finds herself existing between the "eye of the sun" and the "eyes of the tulips," herself without a face, but beginning to see beyond her own pain.
The speaker has wanted only quiet and emptiness and is agitated by the presence of the tulips, whose "redness talks to [her] wound" and "weigh [her] down" as she is being "watched" and nearly suffocated ("The vivid tulips eat my oxygen") by them. The tulips, dangerous as "some great African cat," remind the speaker of her heart, a "bowl" that blooms red "out of sheer love of me," and realizes that the tulips call her, ultimately, back to "a country far away as health."
This is a prose poem told in the voice of a homeless person who is battling with grief and loneliness ("the houseguest who eats everything and refuses to leave") and hoping for good weather. The speaker of the poem, while dealing with the heaviness of grief and loneliness, also makes "a song for bad weather so we can stand together under our leaking roof, and make a terrible music with our wise and ragged bones."
A Native American who has been destroyed by his participation in the Vietnam war and alcoholism tells the speaker of the poem about his healing. "Whirling Soldier" had seen the apparition of his cousin Ralph in "the gook rattling the bush" nearby and had believed that "each shot [he fired] rigged his spine to hell." The difficulty of reconciling willful killing with the Native American belief in the connectedness of all life drives Whirling Soldier to alcohol and heroin.
The poem tells of his descent into hell and his final drunken episode, after which "a spirit who had never been a stranger but a relative he’d never met" speaks and blesses him. At the end of the poem, the Northern Lights appear, "shimmering relatives returned from the war, dancing in the skies all around us."
In this poem, the speaker’s mother has lupus [systemic lupus erythematosis], a "disease / of self-attack" where, for example, when the police arrive at a mugging, "they beat up on you / instead of on your attackers." The speaker goes on to reflect on the logic of such an illness residing in the body of "A halfbreed woman" who, for historical reasons, "can hardly do anything else / but attack herself." Being Indian and white, the speaker says, "cancel each other out. / Leaving no one in the place," which would be fine except that, being a woman, she must perform caring duties regardless of her circumstance. The speaker describes her mother’s physical pain, her ". . . eyes burn, / they tear themselves apart . . . / her joints swell to the point / of explosion, eruption," concluding with the observation that "when volatile substances are intertwined, / when irreconcilable opposites meet, / the crucible and its contents vaporize."
With some 70 characters and a wide array of events spanning 500 years and several continents, the plot of this novel is less a linear plot than an elaborate web of events. Peopled with addicts, alcoholics, corrupt judges and politicians, unscrupulous and greedy land speculators, and a host of other unsavory characters, the novel also tells the story of resistance to Euro-American oppression and a growing effort of indigenous people and their allies to retake the land and ultimately to become agents of its healing. Woven throughout the novel are folk stories of the past, pronouncements on the present and predictions of a dire future for the offspring of the European conquerors.
Spatially, Tucson, Arizona functions as a focal point, with much of the action radiating away from, or towards, the city. Arizona is about to go belly-up from the effects of a declining economy and devastating drought and growing civil unrest in Mexico. As the prophecies have foretold, the narrator reminds readers, the inexorable movement of the people is North, and while it may take 500 or 5000 years, the indigenous and their allies will reclaim the diseased and corrupted land (and presumably become instruments of its healing).
Into this milieu Silko inserts a host of characters who work as part of the resistance. Among them are twin sisters Lecha (a demerol-addicted psychic who helps police locate the bodies of murder victims and has a lucrative profession as a talk show guest) and Zeta (who has made a fortune running drugs and guns across the North and South American borders with the help of Lecha’s son and his sometime lover Paulie); twin brothers, Tacho (a chauffeur for the wealthy Menardo who also functions as a spy for the indigenous resistance movement), and El Feo (who heads that movement in the far South of Mexico). Both brothers commune with spirit macaws for advice.
There is an "army of the Homeless" who plan to retake "stolen" goods and land from the wealthy. The Barefoot Hopi organizes incarcerated prisoners for an uprising against the U.S. Government. Many of these and other characters converge at novel’s end at the International Holistic Healer’s Convention where "German root doctors" and "Celtic leech handlers" join with "new-age spiritualists" and the Green Vengeance eco-warriors.
A middle class African-American widow, Avey Marshall, has set off on a cruise with two of her friends from work on the "Bianca Pride," and becomes ill shortly after they have set sail. Avey disembarks in Grenada after experiencing disequilibrium, nausea, disturbing nightmares, and a feeling of being "clogged and swollen." Thus begins a journey of reclamation and healing of a past that has been largely forgotten or erased in her efforts to escape the poverty of her younger years and obtain the American dream of financial security and a white-defined respectability.
The novel is divided into four parts: Avey's growing distress on board the cruise ship, the intensification of nightmares and "visits" from her long-dead and very Afro-centric Great Aunt Cuney, and her decision to leave the cruise ship. The second section takes place in her hotel room where Avey confronts her rage and grief, not only over the death of her husband, but the utter waste in his drive for material success and the ensuing loss of their joy in each other and their heritage.
In the third section, Avey, getting lost on a walk, meets Lebert Joseph who convinces her to accompany him on the "Carriacou Excursion," an annual island festival honoring the long-time ancestors. Avey travels by small boat to Carriacou, becoming violently ill, and is cared for by a group of women on the boat, encouraging her in this "cleansing." This journey and her illness prompt Avey to think about the middle passage of slaves and the horrors they endured in countless journeys much worse than hers.
Once on the island, in the fourth section of the book, Avey is bathed and nursed back to health by Lebert Joseph's daughter, Rosalie Parvay. Finally, Avey joins the celebration (the "Big Drum"), witnessing and finally joining the important "Beg Pardon" and nation dances. This section brings the novel full circle as Avey experiences reconciliation with her past, her heritage, and herself.
This is the story of a Chicano family in the little town of Tome, New Mexico: Sofi, her (sometime) husband Domingo, and their four daughters--Esperanza, Fe, Caridad, and the youngest, who is epileptic, "La Loca Santa." So Far From God includes a full cast of characters including the healer, Doña Felicia, Francisco el Penitente (El Franky), a psychic surgeon, and an assortment of others.
The novel tells the story of relatively short lives and (longer) deaths of the four daughters. Esperanza, a journalist, dies as a hostage in the Middle East; Fe dies of cancer as a result of chemical poisoning from her job in the weapons industry; Caridad is miraculously restored after a mysterious mauling, and later dies--or disappears--off a cliff with the woman of her dreams; La Loca, the remaining daughter, dies of what appears to be HIV infection. Sofi, having pronounced herself mayor of Tome, in her grief over Loca's death, goes on to found the worldwide organization, M.O.M.A.S. (Mothers of Martyrs and Saints).
Summary:The Breedlove family has moved from the rural south to urban Lorain, Ohio, and the displacement, in addition to grinding work conditions and poverty, contributes to the family's dysfunction. Told from the perspectives of the adolescent sisters, Claudia and Frieda MacTeer, Morrison's narrative weaves its way through the four seasons and traces the daughter's (Pecola Breedlove) descent into madness. Through flashback and temporal shifts, Morrison provides readers with the context and history behind the Breedloves' misery and Pecola's obsessive desire to have "the bluest eyes."