By Odile Ferly (auth.)
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Extra info for A Poetics of Relation: Caribbean Women Writing at the Millennium
Still, subversive as they may be, some contemporary authors have occasionally drawn on stereotypes that they have questioned elsewhere. For instance, the racial characterization noted by Daryl Cumber Dance is partly reproduced in Maryse Condé’s Traversée de la mangrove (1989): the black Man Sonson is motherly, the mixed-race Mira sensual, and the Indo-Caribbeans Rosa and Vilma are submissive. However, stereotyping is redeemed in the novel through psychological depth and complexity. Rosario Ferré likewise seeks to undermine the image of the sensual mulata in “Cuando las mujeres aman a los hombres” (Papeles de Pandora, 1976) by conflating a white, upper-class widow with her mulatto homonym, a prostitute who was her late husband’s mistress.
This self-inflicted violence may explain why of the works examined here, it is in Breath, Eyes, Memory that the sexual oppression of women seems most acute. Here the abuse does not primarily consist of conventional rape—although Martine was raped at sixteen by a macoute—but of social control of women’s sexuality. Female virginity reaches the proportions of a cult. Hence Sophie is forbidden to have a boyfriend before she is eighteen. As soon as she starts seeing a man, she is subjected to the widespread practice of tests.
The case of Hermancia, a mentally deficient girl raped every Friday at the abattoir by seven men, is emblematic. Her rapists are all of different races; taken together, they make up the ethnic gamut of the island and thus symbolize the Guadeloupean man. Although Pineau may not be claiming that Guadeloupean men are essentially rapists, here she is certainly implying that they are essentially abusers. Even more revolting is the paternal abuse endured by Éliette. The experience traumatizes her for life, in both affective and sexual terms, and drives her mother to madness.
A Poetics of Relation: Caribbean Women Writing at the Millennium by Odile Ferly (auth.)