Date of Award

12-1-2011

Degree Type

Thesis

University or Center

Clark Atlanta University(CAU)

School

School of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

M.A.

Department

English

First Advisor

Dr.Susan P. Wright

Second Advisor

Dr. Viktor Osinubi

Abstract

This study examines the literary depiction of the black surrogate mother as she is created according to the author’s race, gender, background, experience, biases and goals. Even though she is one of the most successful and popular characters of fiction, she is also controversial. Her reputation is iconic as well as dichotomous. For example, she is credited for the exemplary upbringing of her white charges, while simultaneously blamed for neglecting her own children. Particularly, this paper looks at three black surrogate mothers who conform to the prototypical, often stereotypical, image of the black surrogate mother: Mammy, Aunt Mammy Jane, and Dilsey. The critique substantiates that Mitchell and Faulkner, respectively, were invested in depicting Mammy and Dilsey as representatives of the real black surrogate mothers of their lives. Although, the character of Mammy Jane mirrors Mammy and Dilsey in her commitment and devotion to her white family, Chesnutt employs her as a cautionary warning to the blacks who refuse to accept change and progress after Emancipation. The other three black surrogate mothers, Sofia, Berenice, and Ondine, are antithetical to the stereotypical black surrogate mother. Sofia, an accidental maid, is representative of Walker’s intense efforts to deconstruct the image of the black surrogate mother that plagued her throughout her lifetime. Unlike most white authors, McCullers crafts Berenice as independent, strong, and autonomous, not just as a black surrogate mother of a white child. Morrison provides Ondine with a husband and daughter to be concerned with so that she cannot be cast as the stereotypically loving, nurturing black mother of white children. The conclusion of this study validates that the literary black surrogate mother is most often a creation based upon her author’s specific and personal biases and goals. In conjunction with the above assertion, the critique also contends that the real life black domestic has been and will continue to be significantly influenced by her fictional representative.

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