This paper shall examine Alice Walkers
essay In Search of Our Mothers Gardens.
This examination shall be achieved by first addressing the title and the
biographical information in the book that precedes the essay, and then through
composing a brief imaginative summary and three questions based upon this
information before the essay is actually read.
Then, an additional two questions that were provided by the teacher
shall be examined in order to better clarify the essay.
An Imagined Synopsis
I have some previous experience with Alice
Walker, so I am aware that the majority of her works comes from her perception
of African- American women and their ancestry.
The information presented to me did absolutely nothing to change
this: Indeed, the instant I saw the
title to the piece I assumed that In Search of Our Mothers Gardens would be
written along similar themes. Walker
strongly promotes the concept of personal identity through awareness of ones
past family history, and all evidence indicated that this would be yet another
classic Walker essay.
– How does the image of the garden serve to direct personal identity?
What connection does Walker emphasize between the garden and the figure
of the mother?
– Do any males any at all? show up in the course of Walkers
essay? If so, do they actually serve a
purpose besides providing a character reference to how innately powerful the
female characters are in contrast to him?
Essay Question One
My pre- reading guesses in respect to
Walkers essay were indeed correct, if perhaps not as comprehensive as they
could have been. In Search of Our
Mothers Gardens is a piece that does indeed trace the foundations of the
single African- American woman to a greater whole: Here, the notion that these women are connected to writers and
historians demonstrates that there is a need to preserve the past within the
story. The use of the garden, then, is
not so much a representation of a single garden that was planted by a woman,
but the established tapestry of storytelling that all women have created in
order to promote the history of their families. Traits are mentioned, such as singing, dance, and storytelling,
which draw upon these existing roles and press them forward in a tangible
manifestation. This helps aid future
generations in understanding the role of the past.
In this essay, Walker constantly refers to
the traces that the African- American ancestors left behind them as evidence of
their differences. One example of this
is found in Phillis, a young African woman who was enslaved and brought to
America. Once she arrived in America,
this woman maintained her traditional beliefs this included folk songs and
was eventually killed for her refusal to abandon them. For Walker, this is the greatest sacrifice
that could possibly be made, and it also serves to illustrate her personal
concept of dedication to family and womanhood as Philliss god was a mother
goddess. To sacrifice oneself for the
sake of Africa and the female force well, to Walker this is as close as it
gets to paradise.
It can easily be generalized that males are
most certainly not the focus of this
essay, and show up only as the most bare and off- handed mentions. Males are also noted as being oppressors,
such as slavers.
Essay Question Two
Two of the authors that Alice Walker
mentions in this essay are Virginia Woolf and Zora Neale Hurston. The World Wide Web has many sources of
information on these women. For Virginia
Woolf, author of many classics of literature such as To the Lighthouse
(1927), this woman is presented as an isolationist who did not see that the
public measure of the genders was in any way equal. Woolf believed that the woman was a constant giver while the man
was a constant taker, and the relationship between the genders would only be
equal if this state of affairs was stopped.
Woolf was also one of the pioneers of modernism, where she promoted
methods of thinking in her works such as stream- of- consciousness and
associated thought structures in her characters.
Zora Neale Hurston was more dear to Alice
Walkers heart than Virginia Woolf, but this might have been more by the
default of Hurston also being of African descent while Woolf was strictly
British. Hurston was a woman African-
American writer who wrote several incredibly significant pieces, notably the
novel Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937). Hurston was a progressive woman author who was active in the
earliest days of feminism, and her writing thus contained a compilation of such
themes. For Walker, Hurston can be
considered an influence due mainly to her significance as a female African-
American author at a time when neither the African- American nor the woman were
encouraged to publish. This, combined
with the increasing significance of Hurstons books over time, prove to Walker
that Hurston was ahead of her time.
In conclusion, it can be positively
attested that In Search of Our Mothers Gardens is an essay by Alice Walker
that is remarkably similar to the vast majority of her other writings. The factors that denote these existing
similarities are found in the importance of maintaining history in light of challenges
to the contrary. Walker also
demonstrates her themes of promoting the African- American woman as well as
all her ancestors within this essay.
And, as in many of Walkers other works, there are the existing
comparisons of notable African- American women to their position in history as
a forerunner of preservation.
Facts on Zora Neale Hurston are available online at http://www-hsc.usc.edu/~gallaher/hurston/hurston.html
Facts on Virginia Woolf are available online at http://www.utoronto.ca/IVWS/