Praisesong for the Widow

Praisesong for the widow

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Page 1: Praisesong for the widow

Praisesong for the Widow

Page 2: Praisesong for the widow


• Introduction– Author– Characters– Plot

• Topic: the journey- External journey - Internal journey

-Culture-Loss of identity

• Conclusion

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Paule Marshall-She is an American author. She was born in Brooklyn (New York) in 1929.

Her family belong to the Barbadian culture since they emigrated to the USA. Also, she married a Haitian businessman and they travelled several times from NY to the Caribbean Islands.

-She is also the author of Daughters, Brown Girl, Brownstones, The chosen place, The timless people, Soul clap hands and sing, and Reena and other stories.

-Her major themes are based on travelling, psychic reintegration, and gender relations in a patriarchal, postcolonial, capitalist, and white supremacist world.

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Characters• Avey Johnson (Avatara)• Jerome Johnson • Marion Johnson• Annawilda Johnson• Sis Johnson• Thomasina Moore• Clarise• Lebert Joseph• Rosalie Parvay • Great-aunt Cuney

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MapThe Caribbean Islands

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• The widow Avey Jonhson is doing a Cruise on the Biance Pride with her friends.

• She starts feeling sick and abandons the cruise in Grenade.

• She meets Leberth Joseph and they go to Carriacou Island.

• Joseph helps her to remind her origins.

• She recovers her culture.

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Topic: the journey

• External journey

Page 8: Praisesong for the widow

Topic: the journey

-The internal journeyCulture

- Language: *No communication with out-islanders.“Excuse me, do you know where I might find a taxi?... He turned to her with a polite smile and, pointing toward the empty roadway, spoke rapidly in Patois; seconds later, still smiling at her over his shoulder, he was moving away in the crowds… She realized then with a start that everyone around her was speaking Patois.” (67)

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The internal journey

*Inability to speak Patois (Creole dialect). But, hearing it reminds her origins.

“…She had heard it that first time and it had fleetingly called to mind the way people spoke in Tatem long ago. There had been the same vivid, slightly atonal music underscoring the words. She had heard it and that night from out of nowhere her great-aunt had stood waiting in her sleep…”(67)

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The internal journey

*Avey’s lack of comprehension in Patois emphasizes her cultural ineptness and her isolation from those around her. She feels uncomfortable and confused with their cultural traditions. However, this is the starting point to consider that she had forgotten origins.

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The internal journey

Culture- Dance and Music

*She remembers her aunt dancing the Ring Shout.

“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)

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The internal Journey

*She used to dance with Jay at home.

“Sometimes the most frivolous things from those vanished years on Halsey Street came to mind. One night, she caught herself reliving the ridiculous dances Jay used to stage just for the two of them in the living room whenever the mood struck him.” (123)

“Moreover (and again she only sensed this in the dimmest way), something in those small rites, an ethos they held in common, had reached back beyond her life and beyond Jay’s to join them to the vast unknown lineage that had made their being possible.” (137)

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The internal journey

*Ceremonial dances in Carriacou-The dance rituals derivates from the Sacred West African Circle Dance, function not only as a healing rite but as unique spiritual ties which bind blacks together throughout the diaspora.

“So you know, you remember Juba,” he repeated, giving it the wide meaning. “Come, show me how they dances it where you’s from”.“She went back to shaking her head. “No one dances it anymore. It’s only something you might hear or read about.””“In Carriacou is mainly the women dances the Juba, “…”They does it in pairs, facing each other and holding the long skirt to their dresses up off the ground”- with one handle delicately lifted an imaginary hem off the floor.” (178).

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The internal Journey*Praise song:

”one of the most widely used poetic forms in Africa; a series of laudatory epithets applied to gods, men, animals, plants, and towns that capture the essence of the object being praised. Professional bards, who may be both praise singers to a chief and court historians of their tribe chant praise songs…”Encyclopedia Britannica

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The Internal Journey

Loss of identity-Body: Spiritually and Physically*Dreams-Avey’s dreams are the first signs that show this disconnection

with the past.

“There had been the dream three nights ago, to begin with. As a rule she seldom dreamed. Or if she did, whatever occurred in her sleep was always conveniently forgotten by the time she awoke. It had been like this ever since the mid-sixties. Before then, she had found herself taking all the nightmare images from the evening news into her sleep with her(….)Her dreams were a rerun of it all.” (31)


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The internal journey

*Mirror-The mirror is a sign that reveals her loss of


“She easily recognized them both in the distant mirror. But for a long confused moment Avey Johnson could not place the woman in beige crepe de Chine and pearls seated with them.” (48)

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The internal journey

*Sickness-She starts feeling sick in the boat. "the vaguely bloated feeling she could in no way account for ... the

mysterious clogged and swollen feeling which differed in intensity and came and went at will" (52).

-She feels sick in the hotel in Grenada. “her mind, (…), had been emptied of the contents of the past thirty years

during the night, so that she had awakened with it like a slate that had been wiped clean, a tabula rasa upon which a whole new history could be written.” (151)

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The Internal Journey

*Vomits-She purges herself in order to clean her body and mind. “She vomited in a long loud agonizing gushes…” (204)“The contractions changed directions ... moving down into the well of her

body. All of a sudden, before she could even grasp what was taking place, the powerful spasms were reaching deep into her. She tried clearing her head of the dimness. She started to ask herself some unformed question. But it was already too late. Because with a sudden shift in direction, the bloated mass that couldn't be--whatever was left of it--was being propelled down also. Down past her navel. Down through the maze of her intestines. Down into her bowel ... the clenched muscles easing, relinquishing their hold under the pressure, and then, quickly, the helpless, almost pleasurable giving way. (207)

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The internal journey

*Cleaning-Joseph and Rosalie are the ones who introduce her to the

culture. -They help her in the initiation to the culture by cleaning her. “Slowly, in a manner designed to put Avey Johnson at ease, she washed a hand, an

arm, a shoulder, a breast, bathing only one side of her at a time which made it easier to keep her covered.” (219-220)

-After the cleaning, she feels different and ready for the ceremony

“Meanwhile, Rosalie Parvay had turned her attention to the upper half of her legs which she had left for the last. And her touch, Avey Johnson realized, her body stiffening momentarily, had changed.” (223)

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• The author shows the odyssey of Avey Johnson who needs to find her cultural roots.

• She can reach her culture doing the external and internal journey.-The external journey introduces her to the past memories. Therefore, she begins an internal journey. -The internal journey provokes her an extreme physical discomfort, illness, purging, healing, bathing, and dancing.

• Finally, Avey has been able to make an emotional journey that has restored her awareness of her cultural inheritance.

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The fiction of Paule Marshall: reconstructions of history, culture, and gender. Dorothy Hamer Denniston. (130)


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