By Ana Nunes (auth.)
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Extra resources for African American Women Writers’ Historical Fiction
Jake’s feelings can hardly be articulated in words, as the short clauses linked by the copulative conjunction, conferring syncopated and fragmented rhythm to his thoughts, demonstrate: “Jake hated Marster and despised himself and looked at Hetta and got mad and evil. But that was the end of it. ”69 Jake knew that if he attempted to protect his wife by word or deed, he would put his life at risk. The pressure on the rhythm of the language is but one sign of the repression Jake and his community suffered.
The reader moves from song, to spiritual, to saying, to symbol, and to omen (evident in folklore) to grasp the significance of the episode. This black community is set within the rigid parameters of the white plantation, so SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT 37 opportunities for expression are specially constructed to reflect the experiences and limitations of the slaves. In this first chapter, Walker draws the social map of the Dutton plantation: the Big House, headed by Marse John and Mistress Salina, and the slave quarters, where the field hands and the domestic servants wait for Hetta’s death.
The resentful mistress, powerless in relation to her husband, SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT 41 would also make the enslaved woman feel her anger. Many slave women, as Harriet Jacobs’s narrative illustrates, had to confront what Minrose C. ”85 When John Dutton walks away from Hetta’s deathbed, his memories of her are consistent with the image of the black woman as an oversexualized being within easy reach to satisfy all his needs. The figure of a pregnant woman heavy with his children does not emerge in Dutton’s recollections.