Search for Freedom in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Song of Solomon, and Push
Many minority authors write about an individual's search for self which culminates in the realization of personal freedom. This has been an important theme in African-American literature beginning with the slave narratives to modern poetry and prose. The concept of freedom has a myriad of meanings which encompasses national political liberty to an individual's own personal freedom. Personal freedom is the ability to ignore societal and familial influences to find the true sense of self. Individuals are truly liberated when they are physically, mentally, and spiritually free. Sense of self is the enlightenment we possess when we psychologically realize and accept our true qualities and limitations. Attaining personal freedom is not a simple affair. It is a lifelong journey which is tedious and demanding with obstacles and setbacks which must be conquered. The search for personal freedom is exemplified in the following three novels, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs, Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, and Push by Sapphire. The main protagonists, Linda Brent, Milkman and Precious, respectively, achieve personal freedom through attainment of knowledge, by confronting their families, and by overcoming the prejudices of society. Moreover, although the search for personal freedom is an individual journey, it cannot be achieved without assistance.
Knowledge is a primary factor in the attainment of personal freedom. This includes not only scholarly education but also awareness of historical heritage and familial legacy. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., in his introduction to The Classic Slave Narratives, states that "[t]he narratives of ex-slaves are, for the literary critic, the very foundation upon which most subsequent Afro-American fictional and nonfictional narrative forms are based" (Gates xii). Through their fiction, Morrison and Sapphire build upon this foundation. Moreover, to discover one's true self, a person has to understand his or her past. Morrison believes that the search for personal freedom begins with healing and rebirth which she defines as "rememory." Linden Peach in Toni Morrison refers to rememory as "the basic concept...is that memories have a physical existence beyond the minds of the individuals in whom they originate: it is possible to bump into and have another person's memory" (Peach 101). The fact that African-Americans were held in human bondage cannot be forgotten; it has to be remembered and passed on through rememory. Moreover, literacy gives minority cultures a voice to reach out to others with encouragement and hope.
Literacy was important to Linda Brent because, before she could procure mental and spiritual freedom, she had to escape her cruel master. As Gates states, "the slave who learned to read and write was the first to run away" and that "[i]n...