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Short Paper 1

1247 words - 5 pages

Ana-Mauríne Lara’s Erzulie’s Skirt positions the female body as the scene where lives are interconnected across history and as a dissertation of the human condition. Her protagonists, Micaela and Miriam, tell a story of love, struggle, and survival that echoes the historical significance of slavery and the Caribbean middle passage across time and space. Divided into several sections based on time and location, one particular period in Lara’s novel connects Micaela and Miriam’s experiences most closely with slavery as a whole. After a voyage across the Mona Strait as an attempt to escape from the conditions in the Dominican Republic, they find themselves captured, trapped in a brothel, and ...view middle of the document...

These feelings of terror and hopelessness are directly comparable to the emotions felt by the African Americans as they were taken across the ocean. Both socio-political realities thrive on the ideal that both prostitutes and slaves are considered to be exploitable.
In both the scene of they voyage to Puerto Rico and while in the brothel, Lara writes in similar fashion to a slave narrative. The language and imagery used appeals to the senses and emulates that of the accounts written to describe the hold of the middle passage. Micaela and Miriam’s room in the brothel is described as “smelling of rancid breath and urine,” (175) and they mentioned how they felt “suffocated by its darkness” (184). In Olaudah Equiano’s autobiography, he says that the air in the hold of the slave ship was “unfit for respiration, from a variety of loathsome smells” and similarly depicts the darkness, closeness and climate as suffocating. Miriam awakes one morning to the “sound of flesh grating against the cracked floors” (183) and Micaela’s screams which “sounded like the cries of a seagull lost in the storm” (185). Equiano’s experience is comparable when he says that his senses were inundated with the “the shrieks of women, and the groans of the dying.” Lara purposefully uses parallel language and evokes the same sensual feelings and emotions in order to expand from narrating Miriam and Micaela’s lives to textually recuperating the thousands of lives lost and histories forgotten within these waters.
In order to further link the women’s experience in the brothel, Lara pairs this section in Puerto Rico with an introduction in italics illustrating the horrors of the slave ship. Together the short parts in italics at the beginning of each section compile a separate short story with both symbolic and literal connections to the main story. For example, the ‘She’ in the slave story never receives a name which symbolically may represent the namelessness of slaves forever lost to history and could shed light on the connectedness between ‘She’ and Micaela. In chapter six, the slave story shows a direct literal connection to the main story when Micaela looks toward Miriam when they first awaken in the brothel “hoping to find Ifé in her eyes” (174). Lara’s inclusion of a slave story is a vital reference to the history that shapes Micaela and Miriam’s environment. By personifying Ifé as a protector of those who are forced to endure slavery and slavery like-conditions and pairing of this section with the brothel, the oppressed across time and space are once again connected (Urbistondo).
To further connect the brothel in the novel and the slave...

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