African Culture Essay

2597 words - 11 pages

When literature is looked up in the dictionary, there are multiple definitions that can be found. Literature can be defined as a body of written works of a language, period, or culture. Literature can also simply be defined as printed material or the profession of a writer or author. However, the most appropriate definition of literature is that of “…writings in which expression and form, in connection with ideas of permanent and universal interest, are characteristics or essential features…” In laments terms, literature can be defined as writings that deal with universal themes or issues. The literature from women of the African diaspora that has been read over the course of this semester has had reoccurring themes to them. One of the reoccurring themes of these novels is the concept of generational continuity. Generational continuity is the idea that the younger generation will inherit the burdens and/or characteristics of the previous generation. Generational continuity also includes the thought that the younger generation will find themselves in similar situations to the previous generations. The idea of generational continuity helps explain some of the problems that women of the African diaspora face. This issue is addressed in many of the novels we have read over the course of this semester: including Sula by Toni Morrison, Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat and Getting Mother’s Body by Suzan-Lori Parks. Although each of these stories have different settings (Sula in Ohio in the early 20th century, Breath, Eyes, Memory alternating between Haiti and New York in the 1980s and 1990s, and Getting Mother’s Body in 1960s rural Texas and Arizona), each story shares the common thread of women trying to deal with the negative traits that can come with generational continuity. Each of these novels shows characters that deal with trying to avoid inheriting the negative traits of their mothers. As the readers saw, as hard as the characters tried, many of them were not successful. This failure in avoiding generational continuity is an issue that women of the African diaspora struggle with. In general, women of the African diaspora have difficulty avoiding the influence of behaviors and negative personality traits as a result of generational continuity.
In Toni Morrison’s Sula, there are multiple examples of the younger generation picking up behaviors from the previous generation that aren’t very desirable. In the Peace family, there are three generations involved that highlight the struggle of avoiding the influence of generational continuity. Towards the beginning of the story, the reader observes that a young Nel Wright is on a train to New Orleans with her mother, Helene. Helene and Nel accidentally enter the “whites only” part of the train. When the conductor angrily confronts her about the mistake, Helene can do nothing but smile and take her seat. Two black soldiers were watching the scene and gave Helene evil, daggering, unforgettable...

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