Use of Language in How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez
In her novel How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, Dominican author Julia Alvarez demonstrates how words can become strange and lose their meaning. African American writer Toni Morrison in her novel Sula demonstrates how words can wound in acts of accidental verbal violence when something is overheard by mistake. In each instance, one sees how the writer manipulates language, its pauses and its silences as well as its words, in order to enhance the overall mood of each work.
In Toni Morrison's Sula, the reader meets the protagonist, Sula, and her friend Nel when both girls are roughly twelve years old. Both girls are black, intelligent, and dreaming of their future. Early on in the novel, two events occur which change Sula's worldview. First of all, she overhears a conversation in which her mother says that she loves Sula, but she does not like her (Morrison 57). Sula is deeply wounded by the off hand remark.
Soon afterwards, she and Nel are playing near the river when they encounter another friend-Chicken Little. The children begin to play together. Sula is swinging Chicken Little around when she accidentally knocks him into the river. "The pressure of his hand and tight little fingers were still in Sula's palms as she stood looking at the closed place in the water. They expected him to come back up, laughing" (Morrison 61).
This incident, combined with what feels to Sula like her mother's rejection, cause the child to turn away from the conventions of society and to avoid even the trauma of her own emotional reactions. Morrison writes that Sula was:
As willing to feel pain as to give pain, to feel pleasure as to give pleasure, hers was an experimental life-ever since her mother's remarks sent her flying up those stairs, ever since her one major feeling of responsibility had been exorcised on the bank of a river...The first experience taught her there was no other that you could count on; the second that there was no self to count on either. She had no center, no speck around which to grow" (Morrison 118-119).
For Sula, there is no "other" against which she can then define herself. Having rejected her community and her family, she wanders, trying somehow to define who she is. Sula turns to Shadrack, the local madman, at first because she worries that he saw what happened to Chicken Little, but then because his words truly do comfort her.
Here again, one seems the way that Morrison manipulates language and its meaning in that what Shadrack doesn't say are just as significant as what he does say. Shadrack makes Sula a promise- "Always." Morrison writes, "...he tried to think of something to say to comfort her, something to stop the hurt from spilling out of her eyes. So he had said 'always,' so she would not have to be afraid..." (Morrison 157) This promise, which conveys to Sula a sense of her own permanence, serves to take away from her two...